Apologies if this blog sounds very outdated to my American readers, but here in the UK we are a bit behind with viewings of Elementary. I’m especially behind because I don’t watch them straight away; I use the wonders of Sky-Plus and watch at my leisure. And I’ve just witnessed their take on Charles Augustus Milverton – one of my favourite canon stories. The episode does rather typify my issue with the series as a whole.
It is, as I recall, the only episode of Elementary which has been hung on the coat-hanger of an original Conan Doyle story – but it was hung so very loosely that it slipped off and joined the pile of other creased clothes lurking at the bottom of the wardrobe. In fact, all they did was take the name Charles Augustus Milverton and the idea of blackmail, then went off and did something completely different. Something which missed the point of the original completely.
In the original story, Holmes couldn’t defeat Milverton. He resorted to breaking into his house and burning the salacious materials from his safe, all after witnessing his murder at the hands of his blackmail victim. Milverton is such a great baddie – eccentric in appearance, completely without conscience, repugnant and unbeatable. It took a bullet to finish him off, and hearing of how Holmes jumped through hoops trying to stop him, getting increasingly frustrated and losing his cool in an uncharacteristic manner, made for a great short story.
In Elementary, Milverton dies within the first ten minutes. We don’t even get a proper look at him. He is shot by one of his victims, which Holmes witnesses, but we are then expected to believe that this victim goes on to take over his blackmail business and bumps off Milverton’s accomplice. It just didn’t work for me – neither the updating of a great story or the actual new plot they conceived.
We also got to meet the updated Mrs Hudson. No longer an aged landlady/housekeeper, now we have a young-ish transvestite – Miss Hudson – who Holmes goes on to hire as a cleaner. That doesn’t work for me either. It’s as if the creators have sat down and thought – “What can we do with Mrs Hudson to make her as different to the Una Stubbs character in BBC Sherlock as possible?”, then some bright spark jumps up and shouts, “I know, let’s make her a transvestite!” And there she is, glamorous, immaculate hair, make-up etc and we are supposed to believe she is happy to work as a cleaner? I don’t think so.
Perhaps Miss Hudson goes on to be a great character; I guess I should give her a chance. Just like how I keep giving Elementary a chance. Only problem is that I keep feeling let down.