In the new CBS drama “Elementary,” eccentric detective Sherlock Holmes surfaces in New York City after a stint in rehab. He is forced to accept the aid of a sober companion, Dr. Joan Watson, to help in his recovery, though he believes his best shot at redemption is through helping his pal in the NYPD solve the city’s toughest cases. Meet the modern incarnations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s crime solvers.
Played by Jonny Lee Miller
“Oh, yeah — he’s definitely got mental issues,” Miller says. “I wouldn’t say a mental illness or anything like that, but he’s got issues, personal issues.”
Series creator Rob Doherty teases that “something terrible happened to [Sherlock] in London. He spiraled out of control. Our Sherlock has emerged with what I think is at his core just a tiny kernel of self doubt where one previously never existed.”
Miller — whose own tattoos are visible in character — says that inner turmoil is what makes the brilliant, yet socially inept Sherlock relatable.
“He struggles with his own sense of self,” Miller says. “People can identify with that.”
Whereas some incarnations of Sherlock may have been considered sociopathic, the detective in “Elementary” isn’t simply seeking the thrill of the chase when he takes on a new case.
“Our Sherlock is a puzzle solver,” says Doherty. “I see him as someone who is driven … to do the right thing, to help people. At the end of the day, he believes in justice. It’s not just about putting bad guys behind bars. Helping people and doing the right thing are factors that play into it as well.”
If there is one foe that defines Sherlock, it’s Moriarty. Doherty promises the detective’s nemesis will factor into the series, but is reluctant to give away too many details.
“He was such a shadowy figure,” Doherty says. “I think he was described as the spider at the center of the web of crime in London. He’s the man behind the man behind the man. In other words, there are a few dominos we knock over before we ultimately get to him.”
Dr. Joan Watson
Played by Lucy Liu
Though Watson may not act out like the abrasive, dysfunctional Sherlock, the doctor may be just as damaged as her charge.
“She was a surgeon and lost her license, which gives her sort of a dark past that we … may not discover for a little while,” Liu says. “What we want to do is introduce the audience to the characters, and then sort of slowly unravel a little bit about her personal history.”
Watson’s obligations to Sherlock are professional — keep him sober and safe — until she realizes she’s not such a bad private investigator herself.
“[Watson] is on the sideline [in the pilot], observing him, because she’s his sober companion,” Liu says. “So she’s not engaged in the mystery. She’s engaged in him, and from that point on, then you get to see how that sort of blossoms out.”
With a female Watson as Sherlock’s sidekick, is a hookup imminent?
Going back to the source material, Liu notes Sherlock’s “awkward relationship with the other gender.” Making his trusted companion a woman, she says, “is a constant reminder of that awkwardness and that division between being a friend” or something more.
Miller insists the friendship is core to “Elementary,” just as it has been in all other takes on crime fighting duo. But sexual tension, he admits, is inevitable.
“There is that element, and people are going to wonder,” he says. “But then wondering and asking questions is something that you really want your audience to do, isn’t it?”
“Elementary” premieres Sept. 27 at 10 p.m. on CBS.