It is refreshing to watch a Doyle adaptation that was created by people who truly love Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and are not just using the names to cash in on a well-known franchise.
Moffat, Gatiss and Thompson not only know canon, but also seem familiar with a lot of the Sherlockian mythos that has built up around it in the past 135 years.
BBC Sherlock is Holmes written by geeks, for geeks.
Take, for example, the opening scenes of The Reichenbach Fall.
Here we see Sherlock being lauded for the safe return of Turner’s painting of the Reichenbach Falls. For this service, he is rewarded with a pair of diamond cufflinks.
“All of my shirts have buttons,” he mutters.
“He means ‘Thank you,’” John says.
I have searched Conan Doyle’s stories and can’t find a reference to diamond cuff-links.
However, there IS a reference to them in the work of John Innes Mackintosh Stewart (pen name Michael Innes), the Scottish novelist, academic and rabid Sherlockian.
Innes writes mysteries that are Holmes homage, perhaps his best-known character being Sir John Appleby. In an Appleby tale titled “A Family Affair,” he references Sherlock Holmes and diamond cuff-links.
His friend Oswyn, in comparing Appleby to Holmes, says:
“You remember how, every now and then, he’d receive an emissary from an Exalted Personage, who would ask him to save the Empire, or preserve the reputation of a Personage more Exalted still.
“And finally Watson would ask him where he’d been one day. And he’d produce a pair of diamond cufflinks and murmur modestly that he’d been to Windsor and received them from the hand of a Very Gracious Lady. That sort of thing.”
I think this was a mis-recollection on Innes’ part. What “The Very Gracious Lady” gave Holmes in Doyle’s story “The Bruce-Partington Plans” was not diamond cufflinks, but an emerald tie pin:
Watson tells us that Holmes:
“…spent a day at Windsor, whence he returned with a remarkably fine emerald tie-pin.
“When I asked him if he had bought it, he answered that it was a present from a Certain Gracious Lady in whose interests he had once been fortunate enough to carry out a small commission. He said no more, but I fancy that I could guess at that lady’s august name.”
And of course the next gift bestowed upon Sherlock in the BBC version is a tie pin!
After restoring a banker to his family, the banker’s son slips him a gift, which he guesses is a tie pin.
“I don’t wear ties,” he mutters.
In one stroke Thompson, Moffgatt and Co. not only reference these two stories, but point out that a modern Sherlock would have no use for either gift!
Nor does the modern Sherlock have any use for the appallingly ridiculous piece of headwear that is presented to him next: The infamous deerstalker hat.
Apart from wearing one in an illustration by Sydney Paget in Doyle’s story “Silver Blaze,” the original Holmes didn’t routinely wear one.
Rather, the deerstalker became the trademark of actor William Gillette, who wrote the famous play “Sherlock Holmes” and starred in it for 36 years.
Forever after, Sherlock Holmes would never be pictured without the deerstalker, the Invernesse cape and the pipe.
Of course no modern man would wear such a getup except, perhaps, as part of a Steampunk co-splay and Sherlock BBC hilariously expresses his disgust in the third scene of The Reichenbach Fall.
“Why is it always the hat photograph!” He explodes, pounding his fist into the “death Frisbee” and then flinging it at John.
“This isn’t a deerstalker now,” replies John, picking it up. “It’s a Sherlock Holmes hat.”
Again, the team of Sherlock writers overlay their knowledge of Holmes lore onto how the modern versions of the characters would behave.
So my “ear-hat” is off to you, Thompson, Moffat and Gatiss, for weaving your inside humor deftly into your show and giving it such a clever, modern spin.