Sherlock Holmes in Public Domain: What More Can Be Done With the Character?

Sherlock Holmes in Public Domain: What More Can Be Done With the Character?

As if we haven’t seen enough Sherlock Holmes movies and other media, a court ruling saying all pre-1923 Holmes stories are in the public domain means a massive in-tide of new stories will soon be here. But even Sherlock Holmes himself might be bowled over by the popularity he has to a point where it almost ruins the purpose of existing. There’s such a thing as being superior at something and having so much demand for it that you almost become bored. And Sherlock never wanted to become boring…or be bored, for that matter.

What more can really be said about Sherlock Holmes without going into territory where he’s hardly recognizable anymore? There’s already been a considerable disturbance in the Sherlock Holmes fan club, with recent adaptations deviating from the classic way it was presented in the books and in numerous faithful movie adaptations. Then again, with PBS’s “Sherlock,” we see reinvention in a way that still fulfills the intellect by taking on 21st-century themes and new graphical ways to depict Holmes’s deductive mind.

The Best “Sherlock Holmes” Adaptations

No matter what people say, the Robert Downey Jr. “Sherlock Holmes” movie franchise is still top-notch writing. And Downey is arguably just as if not more entertaining in the role than Benedict Cumberbatch is in PBS’ “Sherlock.” Coincidentally, both of them use graphical detail to depict Sherlock’s mind and how it operates. They also play with your mind about what’s real and what isn’t. In both of the “Sherlock Holmes” movies, we see amazing demonstrations of Sherlock calling out fakery and showing how it can be done with tricks rather than claims of real magic.

Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes

On PBS’ “Sherlock,” we’re never sure what’s real and what isn’t, especially after last season’s explanation of how today’s Sherlock managed to escape death after jumping off a building. The twists and turns (complete with graphic imagery of his mental calculations), was some of the greatest writing on TV. When taking on more mature 21st century themes like sexual identity and who’s really loyal, you expand way beyond even what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ever considered.

Will future adaptations use the above two media properties as inspiration, or will there be throwbacks to the past and perhaps the future?

With so many of the classic Sherlock Holmes fans in a dither recently from the new properties going so far away from the original settings and feel of the Holmes stories, you have to expect someone will be going back to basics. We may find out that Sherlock Holmes has been the most adapted character in history, at least with millions of stories locked away due to prior copyright restrictions. Once those go to publish, there may be a glut of them, which means many will cancel one another out. No doubt, some of those stories are going to take us back to the time and place of the original Sherlock Holmes stories and attempt to fill them with tales not told by Conan Doyle.

This back-to-basics type of movement will likely lead to a new movie that’s done in the traditional style again, even if it may have to be indie rather than backed by a major studio. The vision of the major studios and TV has already been too impactful not to set the launching pad for something even more sophisticated than what’s been given us. Perhaps the only way forward is to set a Sherlock in the future and place him into sci-fi territory.

The above place hasn’t been tried before, and deductive reasoning could be interesting, especially in a society where such reasoning skills have died out. There have to be hundreds of stories out there, placing Sherlock in a future time and waiting for it to be published. In that regard, Sherlock may end up a little like Dr. Who, who is stuck out of time and probably the smartest person around to solve a problem, just like it was in Victorian England.

If it turns out to be a future offspring of Holmes, we’d also have the chance to explore whether intellect like Sherlock’s can be passed on to a blood relative. With the mysterious way genetics work, it may have to be a cousin rather than a direct great-grandson, hence showing future Sherlock works may not be so elementary.

Author Gwen

Gwen is a freelance artist and writer for film, advertising, corporate projects, and web media. She feels his expertise in the entertainment industry provides a unique opportunity to engage the public through real-life stories and over a decade of experience and knowledge.