Measuring intellect is a tricky thing, as someone will surely explain to you when the subject of "I.Q. tests" comes up. Gauging the brainpower of another human being, just from our own perceptions is even harder. What can one use as objective criteria? How much does their similarities to our own style of thinking enter in? Despite all of these roadblocks, I foolishly decided to do a couple of little Twitter polls this week, just to see what those with enough interest and energy to click a radio button thought on the matter.
The results, from forty-nine such voters, were Jeremy Brett taking the lead at 49%, followed by Benedict Cumberbatch at 31%, Jonny Lee Miller at 12%, and Basil Rathbone at 8%. Since Twitter only seems to allow polls with four options, I dumped Robert Downey Junior into a much less popular poll, where he beat our Matt Frewer, Michael Caine, and Will Ferrell by the sort of margin one would expect in such an unbalanced poll. (The Matt Frewer fans were a bit of a surprise, pulling him 15%, while Caine got a single vote and Ferrell, not a one.)
My initial reaction was to put the results down to just plain popularity, as the thought that Jeremy Brett could be perceived as that much smarter than the infallible Rathbone did not seem at all right. And, I have to admit a personal prejudice -- Cumberbatch had to be the greatest genius as far as I was concerned, factoring in his age alone. By the time his Sherlock was the age of Brett or Rathbone's Sherlocks? That guy would blow either of them out of the water.
There was also the Eurus factor. Cumberbatch's Sherlock had a sister that was insanely more brilliant than any character in anyone else's video canon. By association alone, baby brother had to gain brainy points. And if that wasn't enough, a later poll I ran for brightest Mycroft gave his other sibling a boost: Mark Gatiss's Mycroft at 37% over Charles Gray's at 27%, with Stephen Fry at 19% and Christopher Lee at 17%. Admittedly, the Gatiss Mycroft got more screen time, more fanfic, and is generally more beloved than any other Mycroft. (We shan't speak of Rhys Ifans's incarnation, the Baker-Street-exploding, Watson-bedding, not-so-genius of Elementary.) But having a larger family of great intellects, could be seen as a fairly objective support for the Cumberbatch case. (And, other than Rhys Ifans's Mycroft, the Baker-Street-exploding, Watson-bedding, not-so-genius of Elementary, helpful to Miller's as well. Papa Morland and girlfriend Jamie give the non-Moore Sherlock of New York some credits there as well.)
Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes is harder for me to rate in intellect, I suspect, for the same reason others might rate him higher: He's just SO Canonical. The familiar lines, the familiar deductions, are bits of genius that a well-travelled Canonical fan might be more numb to than a more fresh viewer. And I had already read those tales a whole lot by the time Brett came along, creating pet peeves with his delivery of certain favorite lines.
But did I miss a truly brilliant Sherlock in my hitting those Sherlockian high point incarnations? Is there any possibility of coming up with an objective rational for rating one Sherlock above the others, or is that an impossible quest?
Maybe we'll have to find the greatest genius among Sherlockians first to get an answer to that, and I don't think that person is creating or taking Twitter polls, but I definitely could be wrong. If that's the case, let me know. I have many more questions for you.