Do We Really Need Another Sherlock?

My affection for the thespian work of Sir Ian McKellen is well-documented. As is my affection for Sherlock Holmes. So you can just imagine how this makes me feel.

“The Fifth Estate” helmer Bill Condon is reuniting with Brit thesp Ian McKellen for a feature adaptation of “A Slight Trick of the Mind,” based on the tome by Mitch Cullin.

With his legendary mental powers on the wane and minus his sidekick Watson, Holmes becomes haunted by an unsolved case from 50 years ago where he remembers only fragments: a confrontation with an angry husband and a secret bond with his beautiful but unstable wife.

Sherlock seems to be all the rage of late, and I find myself vacillating wildly between geekin’ happily out over his seeming omnipresence and grumbling in irritation that not every interpretation is to my liking. Still, in this case, the answer to my titular question is a resounding yes.

I know nothing about Cullin’s literary effort (other than the tidbit that his Holmes is 93), but the idea of an older, retired and Watson-less Holmes has long intrigued me (as it did Doyle himself, apparently). And the idea of an older, retired and Watson-less Holmes played by Ian McKellen? I’m in. (I’m also amused, since impending director Bill Condon’s current film — The Fifth Estate – stars Benedict Cumberbatch, easily most famous for playing…right. You got it.)

Credit for that fantastic image of the Sherlock statue is due to The Awl.

About Joseph Susanka

Joseph has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. A grateful resident of Wyoming, he spends his free time exploring the beautiful Wind River Mountains, keeping track of his (currently) seven sons, being amazed by his (currently) lone daughter, and thanking his lucky stars for Netflix.

  • Jen

    You had me at “Ian McKellan.” I’m in!

    …and I agree about the show “Elementary.” Holmes seems to have bursts of appropriately-Holmesy brilliance, but he doesn’t seem to be able to use it to solve crimes any faster/better/more efficiently than your average CSI crime team.

    • Joseph Susanka

      Agreed, Jen. “Ian McKellan’s” pretty much all I needed, as well. But the idea of an older Holmes is fascinating…because it will be dealing with him at a time when he’s losing some of the gifts that make him most distinctively Holmesian.

      (Also agreed on “Elementary.” If I want a police procedural, I’ll watch one of the seemingly thousands available every night. I don’t want Holmes to be in a police procedural. That robs him of his uniqueness. …which is why I prefer the BBC/Cumberbatch stuff. It FEELS like Holmes to me.)

      • GodsGadfly

        _Elementary_ strikes me as more based upon _House_ (which was set up as ‘Sherlock Holmes as a medical doctor’) than upon the original source material, which is partly due to the efforts of CBS and the show’s producers to avoid being sued by the producers of _Sherlock_.

        • Joseph Susanka

          Ah, interesting, GodsGadfly. I don’t know that I’d considered the Holmes/”House” connection before, but I can see what you’re getting at. Perhaps the fact that Hugh Laurie reminds me so much of my dad — looks-wise, only — makes it difficult for me to think of that show in the abstract.

          I will admit that I struggle with the attempts to put Holmes’ character in different environments than those of the original setting. …which is partially why my enjoyment of “Sherlock” surprised me so.

          • enness

            I can be a bit of a purist and mightily skeptical of attempts to remove him from the gaslight era, too. To me, Jeremy Brett is the creme de la creme and I am instantly in geek heaven when I hear the opening theme music, but I admit to not really having followed the Cumberbatch series despite hearing good things. I think it’s more because I don’t have a TV now and I have to be motivated enough to look a show up online if I want to see it. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a few print and film interpretations.

            I didn’t make the ‘House’ connection at first, but it made sense after the fact. Pretty clever.

          • Joseph Susanka

            Jeremy Brett IS the crème de la crème, Enness. It’s hard for me to imagine a more perfect match of performer and material. (And Patrick Gowers’ theme is most beloved.) You should give Cumberbatch’s “Sherlock” a try, though. There is much there to enjoy, especially (thought not exclusively) Martin’s Freeman’s spectacular Watson.

          • enness

            It comes recommended by my dad. I need another addiction like I need a hole in the head, but I think I’ll have to start it.

          • Joseph Susanka

            Just give it to it, Enness. Give in, I say.

            Happily/sadly, there are only two seasons of three episodes so far (with a third to air soon-ish). So it’s a moderate addiction. (Whatever that means.)

          • Nerinab

            Yes, Enness, give in! My family is hopelessly addicted to the BBC/Cumberbatch “Sherlock” (we are all very impatient about its return). And these are kids who have read the original source material and have seen Jeremy Brett too! Martin Freeman’s Watson is superb.

          • Nerinab

            P.S. Great theme music, too! I hope you enjoy it.

          • David_Naas

            Brett is not bad at all, but as there can be only One True Bond (Connery), so there can be only One True Holmes (Rathbone, since I never saw Gillette.) IMHO, anyway.

          • Joseph Susanka

            You are certainly not alone on that score, David_Nass.

            But I myself have long struggled with Rathbone as Holmes. Not with his look, of course. He’s pretty much Straight-Up Strand. But he always seemed too predictable for the part. I prefer Brett’s unpredictability/explosiveness. (And don’t even get me started on Nigel Bruce…who was probably a perfectly nice human being, but whose Watson I cannot stand!)

            For me, Rathbone will always be Sir Guy of Gisbourne. (And I LOVE that portrayal.)

            As for Gillette, I weep openly at the fact that his 1916 silent film is “presumed lost.” Would have loved to see that.

          • David_Naas

            In their first outing together, “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, Nigel wasn’t quite the hard-core buffoon he became later. Alas, Holmes killed Rathbone’s acting, parts in the last 20 years were parodies of his former self.
            Guy of Gisbourne is good, so was Don Esteban in “Mark of Zorro”, and Lesseur (?) in “Captain Blood.”
            But, this thread is supposed to be for Baker Street, Irregularly, perhaps. :)

          • Joseph Susanka

            Somehow, Rathbone’s Levasseur had dropped off my radar, David_Nass. Unforgivable. Here’s a little something in atonement.

          • GodsGadfly

            Yep. It’s very intentional on the part of the creators. “House” = “Holmes” (phonetic)
            “James Wilson” = “John Watson.”
            In the second season finale, he’s shot by a guy named Moriarty. His condo is at 221B Baker Street.
            Wilson, like Watson, is married a couple times, and occasionally roommates with House.
            House/Holmes are both addicts (Vicodin/Cocaine and Heroin); both are musicians (piano/guitar and violin).
            _House_ has both a “Rebecca Adler” and an “Irene Adler”.

          • Joseph Susanka

            That’s awesome, GodsGadfly.

            Now that you mention the “Moriarity” bit, it stirs a faint recollection in me. And I think the addictive aspects might have triggered something, as well, though very faint. (I’d completely missed the condo address, though. Love that.)

  • enness


    “Need” has nothing to do with it…you know this. :)

    Just traced the link back to your post of about a year ago. ‘Watson’ and ‘Incarnation’ in the same sentence = my brain tingling with joy. Nerdiness squared. I might implode.

    • Joseph Susanka

      I’m not sure whether to feel grateful or guilty about this, Enness…

      • enness

        Haha. Well there is such a problem as too much of a good thing, but I’ll sort that out, not to worry. There’s also a bit of “How did this exist for a full year without my seeing it?”