Television in Translation: Drama Focus

Distributed and received worldwide, Sherlock Holmes is one name everybody knows. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original character has been adopted by millions worldwide and is used in multiple books, television shows and well acclaimed films. Most fans of Sherlock Holmes ask for one thing, and that is for his characterisation to remain the same. All they wish is that Sherlock remains as the idealised Englishman. Cultural differences are often apparent and variations have to be made for the story to make sense. This idea is displayed in the Sherlock Holmes inspired television series Elementary. This contemporary version of Holmes, set in New York City, follows the tale of Sherlock Holmes (Johnny Lee Miller) and Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Lui).

Lui and Miller in Elementary
Lui and Miller in Elementary

One of the most obvious changes from the BBC’s Sherlock is Elementary’s introduction of a female Watson. Typically portrayed as a male in most adaptations, Elementary’s Watson continues to play the role of a companion/ apprentice. By casting Lui, instead of the regular male counterpart, an Americanised element of political correctness is added to the narrative. Continuing on with the female lead roles, another difference that has been made by the American adaptation is having Natalie Dormer play both Irene Adler and Moriarty. Adler, Holmes’ former lover who broke his heart, sending him into drug abuse and addiction, when she died later returns in the series as the criminal mastermind that is Moriarty. The female characterisation of Moriarty also adds the Americanised element of unresolved sexual tension.

Dr Joan Watson (left) and Irene Adler/ Moriarty (right)
Dr Joan Watson (left) and Irene Adler/ Moriarty (right)

A lot like comedy adaptations, drama adaptations can either sink or swim. Although it seems to me that drama is easier to adapt into different cultures. Unlike comedy, they aren’t relying on a large group of people to understand a particular joke or instance.


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