Sherlock Holmes

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					Sherlock Holmes: The Science of Deduction
SHAILYN COTTEN (host): In Beeton’s Christmas Annual for 1887, a fictional character would
emerge that until this day remains one of the most iconic English figures in written history, next
to that of the King and Queen themselves.

(Soundbite of film Sherlock Holmes)

JUDE LAW (as Dr. Watson): Holmes!

MARK STRONG (as Lord Blackwood): Sherlock Holmes.

COTTEN: This character was Sherlock Holmes.

(Soundbite of film Sherlock Holmes)

KELLY REILLY (as Mary Morstan): It really is a thrill to meet you Mr. Holmes.

COTTEN: Over the years, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original works concerning the great
detective have been speculated and hypothesized, interpreted and derived, and - occasionally -
marred. Let us then first examine the roots of Sherlock Holmes’s brilliant legacy, and why it is
still remembered today.

CHARLES MCGRATH: “Holmes is so memorable because, like later superheroes, he is less a
fully developed character than a collection of fascinating traits.” (3)

COTTEN: Said Charles McGrath of the New York Times, author of the 2010 article “Sherlock
Holmes, Amorphous Sleuth for Any Era”. He also remarked that:

MCGRATH: “Raymond Chandler once complained that Holmes was little more than a few lines
of unforgettable dialogue and an attitude: the drug habit, the boredom, the violin playing, the
show-offy logical deductions, which Conan Doyle freely admitted were based on one of his
medical school professors.” (3)

(Soundbite of film Sherlock Holmes)

ROBERT DOWNEY JR. (as Sherlock Holmes): It is a huge mistake to theorize before one has
data. Inevitably, one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.

COTTEN: Today, Sherlock Holmes has come to be generally known as the English fellow with
the deerstalker cap and large magnifying glass, with a habit of stooping down low to the ground
to search out clues and saying “Elementary, my dear Watson”. As Holmes first emerged in A
Study in Scarlet, he was remarked as being “very desultory and eccentric” and having “amassed
a lot of out of the way knowledge which would astonish his professors.” His fellow lodger and
biographer, Dr. John Watson, summed up this assortment of knowledge of Holmes’s in a list
which he titled “Sherlock Holmes – his limits”. It ran in this way:
     Knowledge of Literature – Nil
     Knowledge of Philosophy – Nil
     Knowledge of Chemistry – Profound
And so on. Sherlock was also listed as an expert singlestick player – a singlestick being a
wooden stick or cudgel – boxer, and swordsman. On the other hand, despite the broad
accumulation of knowledge it would be revealed Holmes possessed, it was also discovered by
Dr. Watson in the same story that Sherlock was unaware that the Earth revolved around the sun –
something which was widely known to all civilized humans at that time, and which Holmes
quickly endeavored to forget.

(Soundbite of film Sherlock Holmes)

ROBERT DOWNEY JR. (as Sherlock Holmes): Data data data, I cannot make bricks without

COTTEN: Sherlock’s creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, seemed to have been limited in some
respects of knowledge too. (5)

JULIA KELLER: …Doyle was just a regular fellow, too, in lots of ways: bad at math and
humble about his employment prospects.

COTTEN: Said Julia Keller of the Chicago Tribune.

KELLER: "Classics I like, and I shall always keep up my knowledge of them," the young Doyle
wrote to a friend in 1876, "but mathematics of every sort I detest and abhor." (5)

COTTEN: Holmes’s methods, above all other interesting traits, have created an entire genre of
detection, dubbed “Holmesian deduction”.

CONAN DOYLE: “From a drop of water", [Sherlock] wrote, "a logician could infer the
possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other.” (2)

COTTEN: Holmes’s attention to minute details and ability to reconfigure events from these
details is mind boggling, to say the least. In one instance, for example, Sherlock deduces in A
Scandal in Bohemia from the observation that "the sides of Watson's shoes are scored by several
parallel cuts" that Watson’s servant girl is clumsy and careless, and that Watson had been very
wet and out in “vile” weather. As impossible as the deduction seems, Sherlock explains how he
came to it in four simple points:

   1. If leather on the side of a shoe is scored by several parallel cuts, it was caused by
      someone who scraped around the edges of the sole in order to remove crusted mud.
   2. If a London doctor's shoes are scraped to remove crusted mud, the person who so scraped
      them is the doctor's servant girl.
   3. If someone cuts a shoe while scraping it to remove encrusted mud, that person is clumsy
      and careless.
   4. If someone's shoes had encrusted mud on them, then they are likely to have been worn by
      him in the rain, when it is likely he became very wet. (2)

(Soundbite of Indy Mogul, Grace Randolph clip) (A)

MCGRATH: A lot of what we know, or think we know, about [Sherlock] — the deerstalker hat,
the cloaks, the catchphrase “Elementary, my dear Watson” — comes not from the texts at all but
from subsequent imaginings of him, the movies especially.

COTTEN: McGrath had commented.

MCGRATH: By now there have been more than 200 film or TV versions of Holmes, and the
actors who have played him on screen or stage include John Barrymore, Raymond Massey, Ian
Richardson, Jeremy Brett, George C. Scott, Stewart Granger, Charlton Heston, Roger Moore
and, improbably, Larry Hagman and Leonard Nimoy. (3)

COTTEN: The most current of these actors being, of course, Robert Downey Jr. But film and
stage adaptations of the stories are plentiful and diverse.

JEREMY PAUL: When the American actor William Gillette wrote the first stage play about
Holmes, he sent a telegram to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, asking: ‘May I marry Holmes?’ Conan
Doyle wired back: ‘Marry him or murder him or do what you like with him.’ (1)

COTTEN: Said Jeremy Paul on his website page, “The Secret of Sherlock Holmes”. Despite the
author’s tone of indifference in this quote, it is remarked upon by many a Holmesian purist that
Conan Doyle would not be too pleased with the stories’ most recent adaptation.

MCGRATH: Would Conan Doyle have disapproved of the Ritchie movie? Of course. (3)

COTTEN: Said McGrath in his article.

MCGRATH: And not just because Mr. Downey’s character, antic and mugging, even wearing
shades at one point, and happier to solve a crime with a punch-up than with his brain, so
frequently bears little resemblance to the one Conan Doyle wrote about. By the end of his life
Conan Doyle had become an odd combination of fuddy-duddy and ardent believer in
spiritualism, forever going to séances and table-rappings, and he would have been troubled by
the new movie’s plot, which involves exposing some secret occultists who are in fact charlatans.

COTTEN: Overall, it seems to be these “punch-up” scenes from the new Guy Ritchie film that
many Sherlock Holmes fans were appalled by.

(Soundbite of film Sherlock Holmes)
DOWNEY JR. (as Sherlock Holmes): First, distract target...Then block his blind jab, counter
with cross to left cheek. Discombobulate. Dazed, will attempt wild haymaker. Employ elbow
block, and body shot. Block feral left, weaken right jaw. Now fracture. Break cracked ribs,
traumatize solar plexus, dislocate jaw entirely. Heel kick to diaphragm... In summary: ears
ringing, jaw fractured, three ribs cracked, four broken, diaphragm hemorrhaging. Physical
recovery: six weeks. Full psychological recovery: six months. Capacity to spit at back of head:

JOHN J. MILLER: Judging from a movie trailer full of fisticuffs, explosions and sexual
innuendo… (4)

COTTEN: John J. Miller wrote in his article, “The Burden of Holmes”.

 MILLER: The big-budget action film will thrill fanboys who don't realize that the Baker Street
Irregulars appeared on the printed page before the silver screen. Anguished purists, meanwhile,
may choose to cover their faces with deerstalker hats. (4)

COTTEN: Other Sherlock Holmes film critics praised the new movie’s line of direction.

(Soundbite of Jeremy Jahns review)

JEREMY JAHNS: Because in short, he kills people with mathematics. How is that not
awesome! (B)

COTTEN: Declared movie critic Jeremy Jahns in his review.

(Soundbite of film Sherlock Holmes)

DOWNEY JR. (as Sherlock Holmes): Head cocked to the left, partial deafness in ear: first point
of attack. Two: throat; paralyze vocal chords, stop scream. Three: got to be a heavy drinker,
floating rib to the liver. Four: finally, drag in left leg, fist to patella. Summary prognosis:
unconscious in ninety seconds, martial efficacy quarter of an hour at best. Full faculty recovery:

COTTEN: On the whole, the new film directed by Guy Ritchie did fairly well with critical
response, receiving a report from Rotten Tomatoes that 70% of critics gave the movie a positive
review, based on 216 reviews. It goes to show, however, that from one generation of Sherlock
fans to the next, the famous detective takes more than just one brilliant shape.







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