Unlocking Sherlock

Unlocking Sherlock premiered January 12, 2014.

Unlocking Sherlock
Find out how Conan Doyle’s Victorian super-sleuth became the hit MASTERPIECE series.

About the Program

How did writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss turn the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Victorian super-sleuth in the 21st century television phenomenon that is Sherlock?

They take us on a personal voyage through the versions of Holmes that have served as inspirations for the new series – including the original stories, their factual origins, and hundreds of film adaptations – to arrive at their thoroughly modern Sherlock. He's the most-portrayed character in the history of cinema. What were the problems they had to overcome in order to create something new? And how did Doyle's original Sherlock Holmes help solve them?

Behind the scenes of filming Sherlock.Behind the scenes of filming Sherlock.Colin Hutton © Hartswood Films

And we go on set to see behind-the-scenes of the filming of the new series of Sherlock. We talk to the producers and the cast about the characters they play and how the different actors have work towards bringing the characters from Conan Doyle’s world into the modern day.

For a start, Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock is an unlikely sex symbol – a big brain with unappealing habits. Mark and Steven created such an unusual hero by going back to the character's origins. They take us on a journey from his early appearances in "The Strand Magazine" in 1891 to his most successful film depictions, explaining what they've taken from each to make up the modern Sherlock Holmes.
 Martin Freeman's Dr Watson is an intelligent foil to Sherlock. But Watson was always a buffoon, wasn't he? Steven and Mark explain that, in the original stories Watson's an accomplished everyman, who, through a century of cinema gradually became a bumbling, good-natured idiot. Martin Freeman, Steven, and Mark tell how they finally banished that spectre.

Inspector Lestrade has always been there to make the police seem duller and Sherlock cleverer. In Sherlock, however, Rupert Graves (the current Lestrade) is a cooler character than his predecessors at Scotland Yard — Steven and Mark take us on a brief tour.

Sherlock Holmes's brother Mycroft is another remarkable creation of Conan Doyle, running the British Empire from his armchair. Steven and Mark talk about how they translated Mycroft into the 21st Century — a man who controls things from behind-the-scenes.

How did Moriarty become such a major character? Only mentioned in two stories, Steven and Mark explain that he was the man who originally killed Sherlock Holmes. The myth was added to by several cinema incarnations. Steven and Mark show how they transformed Conan Doyle's decrepit vulture into Andrew Scott's remarkable Jim Moriarty.

The original Irene Adler was a thoroughly modern adventuress. Steven, Mark and Lara Pulver talk about how reinvented Irene Adler for the modern day.

Finally, the most important people to Sherlock Holmes are the Audience. Conan Doyle actually invented "fans." They queued round the block for "The Strand Magazine." Modern Sherlock fans — with their tweeting and stalking of filming are just the same. The difference is that Steven and Mark are even more playful with them than Doyle was — they know how important they are... if Sherlock is to remain immortal.


Unlocking Sherlock was produced by Midnight Oil.


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