Back from the war in Afghanistan, Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman) confronts the acute challenges of London with a limp that may or may not have been caused by a serious battlefield wound and a deeply scarred psyche. But his mental health takes second place to a more urgent need - he has to find a place to live. By chance he meets Sherlock Holmes (Cumberbatch), a "consulting detective" called in by the cops - notably Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves) when a case is utterly beyond the capability of the police, which he acidly observes is "always."
A self-described "high-functioning sociopath," Holmes sees connections the average mortal does not - but you already knew that. Holmes needs a roommate, and Watson will do. A friendship (of sorts) is struck. On Sunday's "A Study in Pink," four people mysteriously die. . . . The game is on.
MY SAY Some 75 actors - many of them giants - have played Holmes since the turn of the last century on screen, TV and radio, and there have been nearly 250 movie/TV versions alone. With the possible exception of Hamlet, no character in popular or classic literature is more iconic, none more firmly fixed in our imagination, than Holmes. And now along comes this young chap with the strange name and the audacity to burden us with one more adaptation.
Who, Cumberbatch, do you think you are? Tall, shaggy-haired, sallow and eyes the color of a London puddle, Cumberbatch's Holmes is brittle and brilliant - a walking, talking Wikipedia who mentally Googles his way through cases while endearing himself to no one. He would be a human laptop - or "The Social Network's" Mark Zuckerberg - except that Cumberbatch has also deftly located a human heart beneath the circuitry. And most pleasingly, he's located the humor. This Holmes could be a standup.
BOTTOM LINE Cumberbatch and star British producers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss ("Dr. Who") have performed quite a remarkable feat here - they've created something unique and pleasurable where so many have trod before.