The More You Holmes

From: 2.1, Elementary 6.19

Title: “The Geek Interpreter”

Reference: in BBC Sherlock, The Geek Interpreter is one of a quick chain of plays on words from canon mysteries that we see breeze by in an illustration of Sherlock’s busy-ness. In this case, it’s a group of young comic book fans that notice the comics are coming true.

In Elementary’s most recent ep of this same title, we watch a brilliant mathematician interpret some data under duress, and her lovelorn PhD advisor hire Holmes & Watson to find her and her kidnappers.

Both shows use this title as a nod to original canon story “The Greek Interpreter,” one of the most chilling and (in my educated and well-read opinion) underrated stories in the canon. Though the ending is pretty anticlimactic–good on the Grenada series for making that right.


The More You Holmes

From: ep. 2.1, Elementary 6.11

Line/mention: in Sherlock, when Watson expresses excitement at his blog getting hits, Sherlock scoffs. Watson retorts, “this is your living, Sherlock, not 240 types of tobacco ash.” To which Sherlock replies, “243.”

In Elementary, Irregular member The Nose mentions reading Sherlock’s “monograph on the 140 varieties of ash,” and pointing out that his differences in Trichinopoly and Birdseye ash are wrong.

Reference: we first hear of Holmes’ monograph on the 243 types of tobacco ash in the very first story, novel-length A Study in Scarlet. It is mentioned more throughout the canon, including in The Sign of Four, where he declares,

“To the trained eye there is as much difference between the black ash of a Trichinopoly and the white fluff of bird’s-eye as there is between a cabbage and a potato.”

The More You Holmes

From: Elementary 6.2

Line: SHERLOCK: It was easier to know it than to explain how I knew it. If you were asked to prove that two and two made four, you might find some difficulty. And yet you are quite sure of the fact.

Reference: this quote in the Elementary ep is Sherlock’s response to an incredulous FBI agent (no spoilers–this ep aired recently), and this exact same quote, verbatim, was uttered by Holmes to an incredulous Watson, in one of the earliest moments in the duo’s relationship of detective and record-keeper. This exchange took place in the very first Sherlock Holmes story, the novel-length A Study in Scarlet, after Watson couldn’t quite believe how Holmes saw the commissionaire’s situation just by glancing at him out a window.

The More You Holmes

From: Elementary ep. 5.18

Character Name/s: Black Peter, John Neligan

Reference: “The Adventure of Black Peter” (canon original) shares a few components with this ep: 1) there’s a pirate called Black Peter;  2) some of the evidence in the central murder case involves blade strikes strong enough to go through the body, implying a very strong arm. In the story, the body is pinned to the wall with a harpoon. In the ep, it’s deep sword stabs. (Also: remember the scene in Sherlock ep. 2.2, with Holmes coming home, blood-covered, harpoon in hand? That’s nearly directly from the original);  3) a subplot involving a log book and someone named John Neligan, intertwined w the murder scene but not a cause nor an effect.

The More You Holmes

From: Elementary ep. 5.17

Character name: Lady Frances (Carfax)

Reference: “The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax” is one of the most underrated, underplayed mysteries of the whole canon, and on of my personal favorites. It involves a kidnapped lady and has one of the most chilling “gotcha” moments at the end, of any of the canon stories.

Though there are twists and turns in this ep, the Lady Frances is not a woman, but a Carfax Desperado guitar, described as the “Stradivarius of guitars.” Which of course is another reference to Sherlock Holmes’ musical instrument of choice.

The More You Holmes

From: Elementary ep. 5.8

Event: Mr. Holder delivers a Beryl Coronet to Joan, to be delivered to Sherlock as a payment or memento of sorts from an earlier case.

Reference: From the adventure of the same name, we have a Mr. Holder and a mysterious Beryl Coronet. The circumstances of the canon piece are rather different than its appearance in this episode, but I and I’m sure all Sherlockians knew exactly what would be in the box when we saw Holder’s name. When Joan Watson commented on it being a crown, I have no doubt that all of us shouted at our TV screens: “It’s the Beryl Coronet!!”

The More You Holmes

From: Elementary 1.19

Event: A man, feeling as though threatened, wields an Xacto knife against his would-be assailants.

Reference: This is admittedly a stretch, but bear with me here: 

In “Silver Blaze,” John Straker’s body is found with a peculiar knife stained with blood. It’s not a pocketknife or anything that would fold up in a pocket, but a “very delicate blade, meant for very delicate work.” It’s what Watson calls a “cataract knife” with a long handle and a small triangular blade. The investigators think it odd that Straker may have used it to defend himself, but he had kept it on his bedside table for awhile. Apparently it was the closest weapon to hand. Or was it?

I mean, is it too long a stretch? I don’t think so–I think the Elementary writers are savvy enough Sherlockians to have done this on purpose.

The More You Holmes

From: Elementary, ep. 4.24

Object: a beautiful old ring with a large blue stone set at its center

Reference: well, duh, obviously this has to be The Blue Carbuncle, though in this ep it isn’t actually named as such (though we hear the name of the Duchess of Morcar in connection with it, which is in the original).  Here, it’s not a loose stone but a ring, not hidden in a goose but in Sherlock’s fireplace, and is an heirloom of Sherlock’s mother’s, which Morland Holmes is looking for (Sherlock thinks) to use as a bribe. As in Doyle, however, Sherlock does not give it up, but keeps it. No, really, he keeps it in the canon too–read it. He keeps the black pearl of the Borgias and the Mazarin stone, too, you know.

Holmes v. Holmes v. Holmes

The lovely and talented folks at Sherlock’s Home wanted my Holmes v. Holmes article to focus on Cumberbatch vs. Miller, but I did have a section on Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in my original draft. So. Here it is. And, for the record: I like them all.



Honorable Mention: Robert Downey Jr.

I…think I’ve seen both movies. I’m pretty sure I have, because as a stage combat artist and stunt coordinator, I remember looking at the way they did the fight scenes in particular. The movies themselves, however, are so forgettable, I have actually Netflixed them both twice and still don’t remember much about plot. (Please don’t explain the plots to me in the comments; you know what I mean…)

What I will say that Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock brings to the mix is an explosive energy– a Trickster-like danger (think Willy Wonka, or Han Solo in ep. 4) that makes a character wonder if they’re at all safe following this madman around, but also wouldn’t miss the journey for the world. The fact that this Sherlock lives in Victorian London (albeit a rather advanced, steampunky version) makes his turpentine-guzzling, bare-knuckle boxing antics that much wilder. Jude Law’s Watson is as though he stepped out of Doyle: a good solid Victorian gentleman, who is still up for any insane shenanigans Holmes may put him through next. And though he’s there by his side, he will still attempt a modicum of sanity, or at least of legality, as he tries to lead a “normal” life while in the company of this eccentric.

Downey Jr. has a solid English accent, even if his wildness is a bit too modern American superhero for his role, but the action-hero-ness of this portrayal is something that most contemporary Sherlock adapters forget to add: they all are focused on Sherlock’s remarkable powers of the mind, and forget that a mere year before the second novel, Holmes beat a professional prize-fighter in three rounds of bare-knuckle boxing at Alison’s rooms, that he has a sword in his cane, and is an expert single-stick player (actually Miller’s Sherlock had a couple moments mentioning the single stick in particular, but still not an emphasis). Sherlock Holmes is in fact a badass, and Downey Jr.’s Holmes is a reminder of that.

Now ask me what I think of each series’ Irene Adler, or Moriarty. And don’t get me started on the Grenada series (or heck, why not? Do).


The More You Holmes

From: Elementary ep. 4.17

Event: (also character names, etc.) Charles Baskerville runs for his life (and dies) from something witnesses call a four-legged dog-like creature that glows.

Reference: Actually there are several Doyle references in this ep, as well as a few other nods to other Doyle stories and to the BBC series Sherlock. Here they are in list form:

  • Selden: the escaped convict wandering the moor, in this ep he’s an anti-GMO activist who online-rages at the Baskervilles and Stapleton’s company.
  • Stapleton: the naturalist and owner of the killer dog, in this ep he’s an engineer who works with the robotics that were stolen to create this story’s version of the Hound.
  • Charles, Henry, and Hugo Baskerville: like in the original, they’re all relatives in line for a large inheritance (large enough to kill for). There’s no mention of ancestor Hugo being a kidnapper and roysterer, however, beyond him being a railway baron. The Hall in which Henry takes over is also called Baskerville Hall, and there’s a terrifying scene where he sees a mysterious creature outside his vast home that echoes the security lights scene in BBC Sherlock‘s version of this story.
  • Barrymore isn’t a butler in this ep, but he does supply inside information, here about Stapleton. Apparently Stapleton has been seeing prostitutes at a fancy hotel named Undershaw (another reference: this one to the name of Conan Doyle’s house).
  • References to a genetically modified “superdog” and inserting jellyfish genes into an animal to make it glow are echoes again of BBC Sherlock‘s “The Hounds of Baskerville.”
  • Laura Lyons: a pivotal minor character in the original, here she’s the remote murderer, owner of the robotic “hound” and attempting to claim the inheritance much like Holmes imagined Stapleton would have in the original.
  • “The woman”: when Sherlock talks about Irene Adler to his morgue-Doctor friend, he refers to her not by name, but as “the woman,” just as Holmes does in the original.