Over the last decade there have been many Sherlock Holmes adaptations. From the BBC’s iconic ‘Sherlock’ starring Benedict Cumberbatch and the Jonny Lee Miller fronted ‘Elementary’ to other versions such as the Russian Sherlok Kholms from 2013 and the Japanese Miss Sherlock. This writer believes that it’s time to see a version of the great detective who is more in line with his canon portrayal. My reasoning behind this is that the Sherlock of the original stories was a kind-hearted man who wanted to help the people who came to him this is the kind of hero I think Britain needs in the 2020s.
A recent Dispatches program on Channel 4 mentioned that 1 in 3 British people believe that the disabled are a drain on society the canon Sherlock fought tooth and nail for all of his clients no matter who they were. I think canon Sherlock’s positive, optimistic worldview would be great to show on TV to perhaps counter some of the nastier narratives that have sprung up over the last two decades. Keeping in mind that the original Holmes lived during a time where there was no NHS and people’s quality of life was much worse than it is now.
The only issue is that canon Sherlock could be seen as a Mary Sue by today’s audience. Being a friendly, fun-loving, caring person who possesses deductive skills that no other human does. This I believe is the reason for the “highly functioning sociopath” trope that Cumberbatch and to a lesser extent Miller’s portrayals leaned into. Maybe we could see flashbacks of Holmes as a Riddler-like savant. Friendless and fascinated by mysteries until he meets Watson who instills an appreciation for humanity and kindness into Sherlock. Only for the big bad (Moriarty?) to brutally murder Holmes’s best friend.
5 Actors who could play Sherlock in the 2020s
Maybe I’m biased as this actor was my first Doctor I just couldn’t help but hear canon Sherlock’s voice as McGann’s when I read some of the original stories. The 8th Doctor performer could juggle all aspects of Holmes; from the friendly, affable side to the darker, vengeful aspect that wants revenge for Watson’s death. One thing that always struck me about Cumberbatch’s Sherlock was that he seemed to lean too far towards the great detective’s dark side. I think a McGann Holmes would sidestep this problem.
This actor has himself said that he wants to play Sherlock Holmes. I can see Dyer inhabiting a grittier, darker world than even Cumberbatch. But retaining the character’s basic goodness and decency much like Christopher Eccleston‘s 9th Doctor casting. A working-class Sherlock would get the audience on his side and make us identify with him. Maybe Dyer’s Holmes has a neurodivergent son or daughter? Who he fights to protect from London’s criminals? Although this might lean into the autistic people are children trope. Which needs to be subverted in my view.
Wilson’s Mrs. Coulter role. On His Dark Materials. (which we reviewed) Makes her a good candidate for a female Sherlock. It could be argued that this actor, like Danny Dyer, would lean too much towards the darker aspect of Holmes I feel this is necessary for a female Sherlock to be able to deliver a kind of intellectual intensity with a hint of darkness. It’s possible that a Wilson Holmes could be revealed as autistic during her run. Thus representing women on the autistic spectrum who are expert maskers. I believe there is a great deal of potential for a storyline of this kind.
In contrast to my previous two picks, a Sherlock played by this actor could put across the optimism and hopefulness Inherent to Arthur Conan Doyle‘s original idea of the character. Additionally, Salmon could handle the darker and more intense scenes that a 2020s Sherlock would doubtless contain. In similarity to Paul McGann regrettably, there would be a backlash if this actor was cast as Holmes. Personally, I think a Colin Salmon Sherlock would be great for representation as well as giving this actor the leading man role that he clearly deserves.
Melling I feel would be good at portraying a younger Sherlock. Indeed, Sherlock and Watson are canonically in their 20s at the start of the first Conan Doyle story. This actor has the intensity and the weirdness, not to mention the talent, to be the Matt Smith of Sherlocks. Maybe we could see a Melling Holmes trying to navigate the dual worlds of detective work and socializing in your 20s and 30s without leaning too far into the “Sherlock is autistic” trope. We could see a Holmes who represents outsiders who don’t fit in anywhere.
Which version of Sherlock is your favourite? Do you agree with my casting choices? Please leave a comment and remember; I was bitten by a radioactive detective.