Sunday, January 5, 2014

Documentary Review: How Sherlock Changed the World

Someone on twitter pointed out this little documentary to me and, since I'm waiting for the PBS broadcast of Sherlock which won't start for another few weeks, it seemed like a fun little diversion in the meantime. And I was curious, considering that the science Sherlock Holmes used, based on what I remembered from reading the books, seemed so similar to modern day forensics there's no way Arthur Conan Doyle made up all of that, right?

How Sherlock Changed the World

It turns out that no, through Holmes, Doyle helped create many different aspects of modern day forensics which I found immensely fascinating and this short documentary, it's a little under two hours, goes over areas from fingerprints to blood splatter on walls. I've never had a huge interest in forensics myself, crime dramas generally aren't my thing but as a fan of Sherlock Holmes this was rather cool. As I already mentioned, I had no idea that Doyle/Holmes had pioneered so many different areas of crime scene investigation and amazingly there's footage of Doyle himself talking about the man who inspired him, his old medical teacher (which I had known about but it was still neat to here him talking about how his teacher could deduce so many things from a man sitting in front of him).

As people might have guessed from the DVD cover above, the show does recreate some scenes from the books (as far as I can tell, I'm familiar with a number of recent takes on the books and that didn't look like any I remember) to illustrate a point and they also mentioned Sherlock quite a bit. That's not surprising, considering this was done by PBS who broadcasts Sherlock in the US, and that Sherlock really is great at showing, not telling, the viewer how our titular detective's mind works, but it did get a bit tiresome to hear them praise the show so much without a whisper of the other recent incarnations*. Part of that is personal preference but they really did mention it a lot. Everything flowed nicely and the real world cases they used to illustrated where Sherlockian principals were used to solve the case were interesting (and also slightly terrifying, I would give this a 16+ or M rating since they show the photos of the crime scenes and some of them are gory), and their recreations of the stories went well. As a documentary it succeeds in being both interesting and informative and if you have a chance to watch it (and are interested either in the science, CSI style dramas, or Sherlock Holmes in general) I recommend it. Unfortunately it appears that the video has already expired on PBS's website, I only found out about it a few days before it vanished, but it has been released on DVD and it might end up streaming on other sites in the future as well.

*well okay, I don't blame them for not bringing up the recent movies, I'd be surprised if there was more than 15 minutes of science in each film.

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