The thing that made the BBC’s Sherlock most intriguing when it came to TV was the idea of taking Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous Victorian detective, and dropping him right into the middle of our modern era. Now that we’ve gotten used to modern Sherlock Holmes, showrunner Steven Moffat is taking him back to Victorian London. While modern Sherlock is very much a character of his time, it turns out Victorian Sherlock will be too.
While speaking at the Television Critics Association press tour Moffat said that Sherlock will be a bit of a different character in the special. The Hollywood Reporter quotes him:
Sherlock is a little more polished, he operates like a Victorian gentlemen instead of like a posh, rude man. He's a lot less brattish when he's back then...
This description fits with what little we’ve seen of the upcoming special, which they’re no longer calling a Christmas Special, as there is no official premiere date. In the trailer, Holmes, while not necessarily friendly, is certainly less cold to Mrs. Hudson than he usually would be in the modern setting. Heck, he even makes a joke. Something modern Holmes would never do. Watson is also described as being a "bit more upright." Fitting, since Victorian era military life was more regimental.
It looks like they’re going for at least one, fairly traditional, Sherlock Holmes tale. In Conan Doyle’s original stories Holmes is very much a Victorian gentleman. While the emotionlessness and blunt speech that make up Benedict Cumberbatch’s Holmes certainly find their bases in the original canon, the original Holmes usually only insults the people he’s dealing with after they’ve insulted him first. If Holmes thinks somebody is an idiot, the only person who ever usually knows it is Watson.
While Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed countless times, and each has had their own unique take on the character, this will be an interesting experiment. To see the same actor portray the character in two different ways promises to be entertaining if nothing else.
Fans of Sherlock Holmes will be happy to see a more traditional take on the character, although this will put Cumberbatch directly into some stiff competition. Cumberbatch has always stood alone with his more modern Holmes, only Jonny Lee Miller’s Elementary character can really be directly compared. Some of the greatest actors ever have played the Victorian Holmes including Christopher Lee, Basil Rathbone, and most recently Ian McKellen.
The special episode of Sherlock is tentatively set for sometime near the end of this year, or early next so we still have some time to wait. It seems Sherlock fans do nothing but wait these days. Wait for a release date, wait for the special, wait for the next full series. Thank god all the old episodes are on Netflix.