A female Dr Watson? Perhaps it’s a step too far

Doctor Watson a woman?  I have so many mixed feelings kicking around in my head right now.

I’ve just picked up the paper on my way to work and seen that CBS have cast Lucy Liu to play the role of Doctor Watson alongside Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes in their pilot television series Elementary.

In the series, Holmes will be an ex-consultant to Scotland Yard who is now living in Brooklyn after a spell in rehab for addition problems.  He lives with Watson, his ‘sober companion’ who is a former surgeon – and FEMALE.

How do I feel about this, well I can’t really decide and I need to start work any second now.  Why shouldn’t a doctor, a surgeon, be female in this modern age?  In some ways it makes sense, creates an interesting new dynamic and adds a strong female character lacking in the original stories.  Sometimes creative genius can come from keeping a character essentially the same but changing something like their gender or race.  Will this work?

My gut feeling is that it won’t – it’s just a leap too far.  It’s turning Holmes and Watson into a shiny, slick, Americanised, glamorous CSI-type series.  Too commercial, too mainstream, and unlikely to ever make someone want to read the original.  It’s more likely to make them forget that Holmes even existed in print before CBS got their teeth into him.  It feels more like they are trying to eclipse the original than pay tribute to it.

Disagree with me? Post your comments using the form below.

About barefootonbakerstreet

Author from Shropshire
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8 Responses to A female Dr Watson? Perhaps it’s a step too far

  1. Ship's Cook says:

    It’s all sounding a bit to puritanical and sanitised to me. She’s sober, he’s just been in rehab!, Holmes’s cocaine use was always a reaction to the boredom of not having a case to work upon. He didn’t need rehab, Oh dear it’s going to be rubbish.

    • Yes, you’re right – people do tend to forget that Holmes wasn’t a drug addict as such, he just turned to drugs in the early days to alleviate boredom between cases. They are making him into a sort of tortured lost soul, riddled with demons but still good looking with nice teeth and a sexy flat-mate – oh dear, it’s never going to work!

      • Number36 says:

        It’s an addictive drug, of course addicts are going to predicate and come up with reasons that excuse it such as ‘I just take to alleviate boredom’, it wasn’t presented as inconsequential in canon as you suggest, plus in the era of the original stories it wasn’t illegal and the full effects were unknown, a completely different context, that’s part of why examining what the character would be like in response to the modern world, rather than transposing the plots and characters wholesale, with the time and place superficial piece set dressing and nothing more, is an interesting place to begin imo.
        And your worry of how they would write the characters is not how they’ve made him in Elementary at all as it has eventuated…

  2. zi kid says:

    Producers might target a new public patch with this. It got my interest, especially with Lucy Liu (quite famous in pop culture films) as Watson. I’m curious to see if she’s going on the same pattern that I’m used to. In all the films I’ve seen her she seemed rather stern or not that emphatic -she gets a viewer’s attention by saying her lines adding hardly any motion or mimic ; if I was to associate her acting with a word I would say “seriousness”, which is probably what they had in mind when choosing her for this in the first place.. I think it’s not that much about how Watson looks likes, but rather about how his character completes and compliments Holmes, because one can’t think at any of them separated from the other. Their characters make sense only “in combination”, at least to me. Same as with Quijote and Panza.

    • But for me, Holmes is the serious one. Watson is softer, more human – a sort of Mr Average who everyone can associate with. It’s through Watson’s ‘normality’ that we really see Holmes’ eccentricities. Will the serious and often stern acting style of Lucy Liu really suit this role? Perhaps, as you say, she will capture a new audience for Holmes but I really have my doubts – it may be at the risk of alienating existing Holmes fans.

  3. allen hagan says:

    At first i wasn’t thrilled about it but maybe it will get people interested in the original stories.
    to much sherlock is better then none. i personely think it will fail but who knows.

  4. S. says:

    My biggest fear is that they made her female only to have them, well… as they say: more than friends. One of the most important things in SH is the relationship between Holmes and Watson, and I fear that they may turn the really complicated friendship into a romantic and/or sexual relationship.

    I also think it’s sad that they removed Watson’s military status because I’ve always found that an important part of the character. Granted, it’s been a while since I’ve read the original stories, but to me the military background kind of helps explain who he is as a character.

    If she’d been an ex-military surgeon, but still a woman (and NO sex!) then I might be more on board with the idea. But right now I’ll fear the worst and hope for the best.

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