"We have resisted every temptation to modernize the scene in Baker Street, or give a super-duper streamlining to its characters and characterizations," Edgar Smith wrote in a 1946 opening bit for The Baker Street Journal. But I have to wonder, when I look at the puny little thing that is my daily newspaper these days, if old Edgar might not change his mind a bit in current times.
We live in a different age, and although my friends in the press might argue otherwise, print journalism of the level we see today would not be nearly enough to feed the data requirements of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. So I started wondering: What would Sherlock Holmes do as a substitute for his multiple newspapers?
Well, for starters, he would be on Facebook. And on Facebook. And on Facebook.
At first that might seem a bit silly. But consider this description of Facebook:
"What a chorus of groans, cries, and bleatings! What a rag-bag of singular happenings! But surely the most valuable hunting-ground that ever was given to a student of the unusual!"
Of course, that wasn't a description of Facebook, but Sherlock Holmes referring to the newspaper agony columns, which he carefully kept clippings from. Still, you can see the parallel, can't you?
Sherlock Holmes, in the modern metropolis, would not simply go on to a social network and start "friending" people as Sherlock Holmes. No, he would maintain a series of identities at different levels of society, friending the most wordy, Facebook-crazed people in just the right places. Captain Basil, the plumber Escott, an Irish-American activist named Altamont . . . keeping his feeds well-trimmed and prodded along as needed, Sherlock Holmes could have on hell of a time with something that seems like so much chatty nonsense to so many.
And that would hardly be his only internet outlet. Twitter, Craigslist, Yelp . . . maybe not Tumblr (Kidding! Just kidding! Or not.) . . . but who knows what Sherlock would be able to re-purpose to his own uses, as he did so many scientific disciplines we don't normally associate with criminal investigation? I'd be very curious to see the settings on his Google newsfeed.
As much as we enjoy Sherlock Holmes in Victorian England, a modern period adaptation that wandered in and out of the Canon would still have a hard time catching up to all of the thought that Sherlockians have put into Holmes and Watson's lives over the years. And by that same token, our two modern Sherlock-y television bits have yet to work out all the ways Sherlock Holmes would adapt to our very different modern world.
Edgar Smith resisted the temptation to think of a modern Sherlock, simply because he didn't have to. There was still a lot of uncharted territory to wander in Sherlockian fandom of 1946. These days, however, with things like telegrams gone and newspapers dwindling before our eyes, pondering the possibilities of modern Sherlock might be well within our realm.