Friends or colleagues? Elementary and Sherlock show different sides of the Holmes-Watson relationship.

As you probably know from my previous blogs, I’m not exactly a fan of Elementary. I have been quite dismissive at times but still continue to watch every week. One of its strengths however, in my opinion, is the way it portrays the growing friendship between Miller’s Holmes and Liu’s Watson.

Watson, starting out as Holmes’ sober companion, gave the relationship a fresh dynamic and the writers have done a good job of slowly growing this into a friendship – and keeping it platonic. Now that Watson’s time as a paid companion has come to an end, something interesting has happened.

Holmes and Watson have basically gone into business together, a sort of master and apprentice relationship in which both live off the proceeds from their joint business. We see this happen in the original stories too. Watson goes from being described by Holmes as a friend, to being referred to as ‘my partner’. After the Great Hiatus, Watson returns to live at Baker Street and sells his medical practice. At this point they are living and working together, both using the consultancy business as a source of revenue to pay the bills. Though friendship remains the glue holding the partnership together, I have always felt that they do operate as colleagues too, particularly during this period.

Holmes enjoys explaining his method to Watson, enjoys teaching him and giving him challenges to go off and do on his own. Though usually very scathing of Watson’s efforts, Holmes clearly takes pride in his development. So far in BBC Sherlock, I don’t feel that we have seen this side of the relationship – at least not to the same extent it is shown in Elementary.

We’ve certainly seen the friendship element, and this has been brilliantly done, but I wouldn’t say that they are functioning as business partners. John is still a doctor, trying to get medical work to pay the bills – he hasn’t completely thrown his lot in with Sherlock just yet. Whereas Liu’s Watson has given up her career as a sober companion in order to be a full-time detective’s assistant and learn the trade. Holmes keeps saying to her ‘you’re a detective now’ and is very focused on developing her skills.

Elementary is still a police procedural running along the same lines as a load of other US cop shows, and doesn’t bare much resemblance to the adventure and quirkiness captured so brilliantly by Conan Doyle in the original stories. But it does have some strengths, does bring a few fresh ideas to the party. This is what keeps me watching.

About barefootonbakerstreet

Author from Shropshire
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3 Responses to Friends or colleagues? Elementary and Sherlock show different sides of the Holmes-Watson relationship.

  1. Actually, there’s zero indication John still works at the clinic in season two of Sherlock. But yes, Elementary is rocking the colleagues aspect.

    • There is no evidence that he doesn’t either – except that he clearly gets plenty of time off work to go for adventures! I just feel that John is poised to go off and find his own life in Sherlock – wife, job etc, but Watson in Elementary is slowly giving up her life to work with Holmes. Sherlock might reach this point eventually but it doesn’t feel that way just yet. Just my opinion though, all these things are open to interpretation.

  2. It seems that we really don’t know if John is working or not. BBC Sherlock didn’t address it those episodes and neither does Canon, if I recall. Scandal, Hound, and Problem make no mention of Watson’s work as he joins Holmes on these adventures. If this is the case, I am not surprised no mention is made by the BBC series.

    It is possible they may take this into consideration in the next series. We do know that Watson continued to work with the police after Reichenbach as well. I, personally, would like to see John continue working with Lestrade on the side in the upcoming series as in Canon.

    Elementary and Sherlock are two different adaptations. They will take different routes. I am partial to BBC’s route for several reasons. One of those being that BBC’s adaptation is truer to the Canon than Elementary, therefore, if their friendship becomes that partnership post-Fall then we may see later in the series. With any luck, the next series 🙂

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