Release Date(s)2016 (January 12, 2016)
Studio(s)BBC Worldwide/Hartswood Films (BBC Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B-
Those of you who are fans of the BBC’s Sherlock already know how great this series is. It’s an incredibly smart and savvy updating of the classic Arthur Conan Doyle stories, set in present day London and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as the inestimable Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. The former is best known for this series and for his roles in The Imitation Game, Star Trek into Darkness, and the forthcoming Dr. Strange, while the latter will be familiar from The Hobbit, The Office (the original U.K. version), and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Created by Steven Moffat (showrunner of the BBC’s Doctor Who since 2010) and Mark Gatiss (also of Doctor Who fame, who additionally plays Sherlock’s brother Mycroft here), the series manages the neat trick of feeling fresh and original while at the same time staying surprisingly true to the spirit of the original source material. It’s also become a worldwide television phenomenon.
Unfortunately, there’s typically a long wait between seasons of the show, particularly now that Cumberbatch and Freeman’s acting careers have blown up. Season Four isn’t set to debut until 2017, so the producers and cast decided not to leave fans hanging and created this single episode, The Abominable Bride, as a kind of holiday special. What’s interesting about it, is that it takes these characters, who we’ve grown to love in a modern setting, and transports them back to Doyle’s original Victorian England. It sees the pair investigating the murder of a man by his own wife… after she reportedly shot and killed herself. All of the show’s cast members, both key and supporting, make an appearance in this new context, including some of the best guest stars. (Yes, that includes Andrew Scott’s Moriarty.) It’s also fascinating to see iconic moments we’ve already seen depicted in previous episodes of the series re-staged in their original context, often with new twists. And because it’s Sherlock, of course there’s a much bigger twist. I’ll let you find out what that means for yourselves.
The BBC Home Entertainment’s Blu-ray delivers typically solid A/V quality. The video is presented in 1080p in its original broadcast 1.78:1 aspect ratio, with very good color, contrast, and detail. The color palette is muted by design, and has been carefully timed to give the footage a kind of vintage look. Surprisingly, English audio is available on disc in Dolby Atmos format, which of course is compatible with older Dolby Digital and Dolby TrueHD equipment. It sounds fantastic, though keep in mind this is television sound mixing, so don’t expect Hollywood feature film-level dynamism. Optional subtitles are provided in English SDH.
As for extras, this disc includes more than you’d expect. You get A Study in Sherlock (29:54), which features Gatiss and Moffat discussing what makes the show and these iconic characters so good, with each other and with the cast. There’s a short Production Diary piece (5:06) on a typical day of filming on this special. There’s another short piece called Writer’s Interview (3:50) in which Gatiss and Moffat reveal why they think the original Doyle stories hold up so well. You get an 8-part Creating the Look documentary (30:34 in all – including Afghanistan, Window Smash, Maze, Food Props, Locations, Victorian London, Costumes, and Epiphany). And finally, there’s a piece called Sherlockology Q&A (20:23) in which the show’s creators and cast answer questions from fans. I would say that A Study in Sherlock is definitely the best of this material, but all of it is well worth watching and welcome to have.
Sherlock is, without question, my favorite thing on TV at the moment. If you’re new to the series, I certainly recommend that you go back and start with Season One before watching this. Its easy – all three previous seasons are out on Blu-ray (they’re available in a box set here) and you can find them on Netflix as well. There’s just nine episodes (three per season), each essentially a 90-minute movie. (My favorite is Season Two’s A Scandal in Belgravia.) I guarantee you’ll enjoy them, and you might even find yourself watching them more than once. Sherlock comes with my highest recommendation.
- Bill Hunt