Sherlock rebooted online as well as on screen

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 30 July 2010

At the risk of sounding obsessed with the BBC this week, it seems that like most of the people I follow on Twitter, last weekend I very much enjoyed Sherlock. There is some interesting stuff going on with the new media support for the programme.

Science Of Deduction

Two websites referenced on screen, Sherlock's "Science of deduction", and the blog that Dr. Watson's therapist is encouraging him to write, both exist. There are some nice touches on the latter, notably comments left in the name of Watson's sibling Harry, who was also referenced in the show's dialogue.

John Watsons Blog

This isn't a new thing for BBC dramas, they've been doing it for at least 5 years. The archives of this blog are littered with posts from 2005 as the revival of Doctor Who was supported by websites for Geocomtex, U.N.I.T., Bad Wolf and pseudo-companion Mickey.

Geocomtex website screenshot from 2005 The BBC's spoof U.N.I.T. site

It is worth bearing in mind that these off-bbc.co.uk domains are the type of things that add numbers into the long list of domain names the Corporation owns which occasionally vexes the press. And also worth remembering that they don't seem to fit in Erik Hugger's fabled 'definitive' list of BBC websites.

They also illustrate the increasingly complex issue of new media rights around television shows. The fictional blog belonging to fictional character Dr. John Watson bears actor Martin Freeman's image on something being operated by the BBC. Mary Portas, by contrast, uses her own website & Twitter to provide a live chat back channel when her Queen of Shops show is being transmitted by the BBC. Presumably both had to be negotiated up front.

I'm looking forward to the next episode - even more so since spotting the theory on the Feeling Listless blog that the title role is actually "the later cantankerous version of the Eighth Doctor finally getting a tv series albeit called something else and not played by Paul McGann but you can't have everything".

1 Comment

We've a series on books that peaked around a century ago rehashed by the BBC. Having read Conan Doyle I have to agree with the renowned essayist/journalist George Orwell that he was simply a purveyor of 'good bad books' - whilst he successfully established an an archetypal character, the deep and profound which characterizes other crime fiction such as Dostoyevsky's is absent.

I mean look at Flaubert's 'Salaambo' - a 19th century novel that is so ambitious as to set itself in ancient times to a pivotal portion of history for the Carthaginians. It isn't much referred to today; but it has intrigue, drama, violence, and sex that would be all too applicable to an ambitious TV drama.

That there's been dozens of Sherlock Holmes adaptations only bespeaks TV's conservative attitude that will keep to tried-and-tested stuff like Conan Doyle but shy away from valued fiction like the underappreciated Flaubert. If you're going to go back to a century or more ago, you should adapt something worthwhile from the era. Even something comedic Helen's Babies would merit an adaptation to bring it to the attention of a modern audience.

But the undaring BBC will neglect all that to favour boring old Sherlock Holmes who has been adapted and re-adapted for 80 and more years.

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