'Sherlock' is solving crimes on Netflix

The premise of “Sherlock,” a series that ran on the BBC across the pond and on PBS in the United States, which is now livestreaming on Netflix, was absurdly simple.  The series snatched Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson out of the Victorian London of gaslights, fog, and hansom cabs and dropped them straight into the 21st century, with Internet, jet air travel, and modern psychology.  Then it turned them loose on simple malefactors and over-the-top crazy criminals.

As with the original, Watson, played by Martin Freeman, returns home from service in Afghanistan (some things never change) and soon finds himself partnered and living with Sherlock Holmes, a consulting detective played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who describes himself as a “high-functioning sociopath.” Instead of recounting his and Holmes’ adventures in the magazine “The Strand,” Watson runs a highly trafficked blog. Mycroft, Moriarty (creepily insane), Irene Adler, and Mary Morstan (in a role that her Victorian counterpart would not have thought of) also make their appearances.

Most of the episodes are very loosely based on the Conan Doyle stories, but with modern twists. “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” for instance, takes place on a British military base. Some of the titles were altered. Instead of the “Six Napoleons” we have the “Six Thatchers.”The Adventure of the Empty House” became “The Empty Hearse.”

Besides a change in technology that involves more forensics and internet searchers to go along with Holmes’ deductive reasoning, 21st century mores altered the dynamic between the crime fighting gentlemen and those around them. Instead of addressing one another as “Holmes” and “Watson” it was the more familiar “Sherlock” and “John.” When people assumed that Holmes and Watson, two unmarried men living together, were a gay couple, the speculation was always followed by “Not that there is anything wrong with that.”

The roles of women make a pronounced difference in how the characters behave and how the stories progressed. Mary, for instance, turns out to be a member of Her Majesty’s Secret Service and has as much if not more ruthless abilities as Holmes and Watson. Irene Adler is still the super-intelligent adventuress who wins what passes for Holmes’ affections. She also gets into big trouble with Islamic terrorists and thus affords an opportunity for Holmes to display his own ruthless killing skills.

It should be noted that one special episode, originally running in 2016 and entitled “The Abominable Bride,” takes our intrepid heroes back to their Victorian roots.

So “Sherlock,” which achieved both critical and popular acclaim, can be enjoyed again or for the first time by Netflix subscribers, featuring the first of the drawing room detectives, now with a bit of modern, hard-boiled spice.