Although Sherlock Holmes ranks as one of the most frequently adapted fictional characters of all time, the producers of BBC’s Emmy-nominated Sherlock have managed to make the detective seem as fresh as when his print adventures first began appearing in 1887. Just ahead of tonight’s fourth season premiere, check out some facts about the Benedict Cumberbatch-starring production, an unlikely Watson, and why the original pilot episode never made it on the air.
1. A SHERLOCK LANDMARK HELPED MAKE THE SHOW HAPPEN.
For years, writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss took a train to and from Cardiff while working on Doctor Who, and discussed various projects they were interested in doing; one that kept coming up repeatedly was a modern-day adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. This reportedly went on for some time, with neither man making any particular effort to get it off the ground, until Moffat’s wife, Sue, decided to invite both men for lunch. Her selection: the Criterion, a watering hole and eatery in London’s Piccadilly Circus. It’s the same place where the fictional John Watson, Holmes’s best friend, first hears of the famed detective. The two got the hint and began working on the series.
2. THE ORIGINAL PILOT NEVER AIRED.
When Moffat and Gatiss conceived of a modern-day take on Holmes for the BBC in 2008, the expectation was that their hour-long adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet would lead to a series. When they finished filming, however, those chances seemed slim: The pilot was more of a stodgy production than the cinematic, inventive style Gatiss and Moffat were hoping for. The BBC agreed to reshoot it with new director Paul McGuigan adding touches like having text messages appear onscreen. The less-polished prototype is available on the DVD release.
3. IT WAS INTENDED TO BE AN HOUR-LONG SERIES.
Although the original pilot was 60 minutes, the reshot episode was 90 minutes, leading Gatiss and Moffat to believe the best format for the show would be as a small season of movie-length episodes. The pair initially intended all episodes to run an hour, with more of them—up to six—per season. “That [pilot] was going to be the format of the series,” Gatiss said in 2014. “I think if we’d done that everything would be very different. We would do one where it was mostly Doctor Watson, or [landlady] Mrs. Hudson investigates or something like that.”
4. MATT SMITH AUDITIONED FOR WATSON.
While Benedict Cumberbatch was the first and only choice for Holmes, Matt Smith was among a number of actors considered for his counterpart, John Watson.The role eventually went to Martin Freeman (The Office, Fargo) because Moffat believed his chemistry with Cumberbatch was the best. Smith wound up auditioning for Doctor Who just a week later, and became the Eleventh Doctor.
5. HARRISON FORD GEEKED OUT OVER IT.
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