The Many Faces of Sherlock

Through the process of translation, the world has seen many variations and adaptations of TV drama across all cultures and nations. The globally recognized television drama ‘Sherlock Holmes’ has undergone many reconstructions as a result of it’s popularity in order to appeal to a diverse range of audiences with all adaptations reflecting the culture from which they emerged.


The British adaptation of the iconic tale, ‘Sherlock’,  first aired in 2010. In production, it succeeded in maintaining all elements of the original story from the cab description to Holmes’s original pipe in order to preserve it’s narrative as much as possible. Britain’s Sherlock is unashamedly strange. He is described as a ‘high-functioning’ sociopath, who withstands from sexual relations and limits himself to whom he displays his vulnerability. He is stubborn in the fact that he believes that he doesn’t need ‘fixing’ and does not allow anyone in his life to perform this function. Typical English characteristics are also displayed through the locations, characters and mannerisms, reflecting the culture and environment of it’s creators. As the ‘Englishness’ of the characters are taken for granted (such as intelligence, charm and sinister intentions) the narrative has to work to represent these characteristics. Nonetheless, Sherlock remains in it’s traditional form.

The American adaptation of Sherlock Holmes is one that has been drastically reconstructed into the program they title ‘Elementary’. The show first aired in 2012 introducing Holmes living in New York City after suffering a severe breakdown. He is a recovering addict who meets the acquaintance of a female Watson, played by Lucy Lui, who is sent to ensure his rehabilitation. One extreme change to the original storyline is having Nathalie Dormer play both Irene Adler – the lover who broke Holmes’ heart causing his drug use and breakdown when she ‘died’ only to re-emerge as the criminal mastermind Moriarty. This adds a certain degree of sexual tension between the two characters that was previously non-existent. The ‘Englishness’ used in this adaptation represents Holmes’ authority and Moriarty’s sinister and cunning temperament which parallels with many other English villains that appear in American drama

In summary, both adaptations source material from the original text – but use varied intensities. The idea of ‘Englishness’ is also played around with in both texts, used in each narrative to serve different dramatic purposes to benefit the culture they are addressing.

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