Is anyone out there not getting enough Sherlock Holmes? With the pending third film in the Robert Downey Jr. franchise, a BBC series(Sherlock) that just began its long-awaited 3rd season and an American adaptation (Elementary) in its second, the market is pretty well saturated with stories of the detective. According to IMDB 252 movies and television series have been based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short stories and books since the character first appeared 125 years ago.
A federal judge has ruled that the Deerstalker (Holmes’ signature headwear), 221 b Baker street, Watson and Moriarity along with all elements of stories written before 1923 are now in the public domain. This means that the first 50 tales involving the character and any character development or events within can be used without paying the writer’s estate. Chief Judge Rubén Castillo of the United States District Court of the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, stated that elements introduced in Holmes stories published after 1923 — such as the fact that Watson played rugby for Blackheath, or had a second wife — remain under copyright in the United States. (All of the Holmes stories are already in the public domain in Britain.)
This means some pretty great things for Holmes as a literary character. The new volume of short stories from various writers that touched off the original suit will go into publication in March and we can expect plenty of affordable reprintings of the classic stories.
As for television and film I have to ask: What hasn’t already been done?
Comedy ? Done
Younger Sherlock? Done
Older Sherlock? Done
Female Watson? Done
Sherlock as a doctor, a lawyer? an action hero? Done! Done! Done!
I adore Sherlock and find the RJD films to be fun. I loved House (a slightly different take) and thought Michael Cain, Roger Moore, and Jeremy Irons were all excellent as Holmes in their respective films. While I haven’t seen Elementary, I am sure it is a fine take on a tried and true property.
Anyone who remembers The Raven knows that an attempt to give Sherlock the Castle or Murder She Wrote treatment (think about it they’re the same show) will fall flatter than the notes Holmes squeaks out on his violin.
I fear however the public domain ruling will give rise to even more adaptations and interpretations of an already overused character. Below are 3 Sherlock Holmes concepts you will see in the next year:
1. Watson is the killer
2. Sherlock as a woman
3. Sherlock Holmes played by The Rock, Zach Efron or Channing Tatum
Seeing the master sleuth done to death is more than I can bear. It is nothing new, but at least it used to have a price tag.