Picture

SHERLOCK HOLMES

AN INTRODUCTION
Sherlock Holmes is a fictional detective character, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The character, first appearing in publication in 1887, has been featured in several written works by Doyle and has since became one of the most distinguished fictional figures and a household name in firstly Britain and now all over the world. The Sherlock Holmes franchise has seen through all kinds of media platforms and works over the years and continues to be hugely popular today.

LONG LIVING
Sherlock Holmes has proved to be one of, if not, the world’s longest lasting narrative stories. Ever since his first appearance almost 125 years ago, the Sherlock Holmes narrative has built itself a strong and solid base that has thrived in the ever-changing world of transmedia storytelling. Despite this, there is no doubt that the Sherlock Holmes plot has altered greatly from the original text and will continue to evolve in the future. 

EXPANDABILITY
  • Films
The Sherlock Holmes franchise on the big screen has seen its namesake character appear in at least 40 different major motion pictures as well as several other comedies and parodies since the original book’s release. It has been estimated that Holmes is the most prolific character in the history of screen cinema, having “appeared in more films, and been represented by more actors, than any other character” (Redmond, pg. 232). There is no doubt that the film platform has been a major transmedial success for the Sherlock Holmes narrative since his appearance in “Sherlock Holmes Baffled”, produced in 1900 in a film lasting less than a minute long. Film was the first trasmedia platform the narrative exploited outside the written text, therefore for the first time audiences got the opportunity to see a real, physical Holmes and thus bringing an “imaginary character”, initially limited by text, to come alive before the audiences’ eyes. To be more precise, the Guinness Book of Records has listed Holmes as “‘the most portrayed movie character’, with more than 70 actors having played the part in at least 200 films”.    

  • Radio
While the medium is not quite as popular today, radio was the mainstream form of news and entertainment during the days when Sherlock Holmes made his first appearance on radio. While many believe that William Gillette, an actor and playwright who made Sherlock Holmes popular figure on both stage and radio, was the first man to re-enact the Holmes character on air. However, we wasn't. "Holmes first hit the airwaves in 1922 over radio station WGY" whereby a man named Edward H. Smith was the first to be heard on radio as Sherlock Holmes. Gilette was only first heard through the radio when he played Holmes "over (at) WEAF-NBC in 1930". Prior to its popularity on radio, Sherlock Holmes proved to be a great narrative and success for stage and theatre plays. With this in mind, it is not surprising to see radio being a successful platform to build on; what the medium lacked in visuals meant each listener was given the opportunity to imagine and create their own interpretation of Sherlock Holmes’ personality and image based solely on his voice. This gives audiences the space and freedom to build on and extend those ideas further as an imaginative form of storytelling. Since 1922, Sherlock Holmes has been re-adapted several times into various forms of episodes and series, particularly by the BBC, and has been played by various voice actors in different radio plays or dramatizations over time.

  • TV Shows
Television saw the concept of Sherlock Holmes experience a massive expansion in regards to storytelling, with extra plots, events, characters and other elements added extend the narrative beyond the original Holmes text. Despite new additions of content, Holmes’ narrative structure have remained very similar over the years; Holmes encounters a problem, he investigates it and last but not least solves the problem. The format of the TV shows have been logical, suspenseful, easy to current viewers to understand and new viewers to follow. Ultimately it is a format that can be continuously repeated for different episodes with varying degrees of content and storylines. This meant that the traditional Holmes look, the 'calabash pipe, deerstalker hat and Inverness cape', was not longer necessarily kept or maintained as producers became more open to expand the narrative of the Sherlock Holmes storyworld. Such creative variations has seen Holmes presented in all sorts of content, from an animated and futuristic look (Sherlock Holmes in the 22th Century), a modern day and contemporary Holmes reality (BBC's latest adaptation "Sherlock") to even attempts at a visual re-creation of Doyle's original work (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, famously played by Alan Wheatley). 

  • Video Games
In comparison to other platforms, Sherlock Holmes-based video games have not enjoyed as much attention or reviews as its media counterparts. Despite this, the Sherlock Holmes concept has been successfully adapted and transmediated into the gaming world. The most well known example of these games is the “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” game series created by independent adventure game developer Frogwares. Even in the video game, the same narrative structure that was present in the films and TV shows were maintained while the Holmes character in the series was portrayed without his trademark cap and pipe. The game series' inspiration came from a 1984’s “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” TV series starring Jeremy Brett, with the audio coming “straight out of the BBC (TV series)” and the plot or narrative remaining “entirely believable” in reference to the 1984 TV adaptation.

SELF-CONTAINED
Sherlock Holmes is one of the greatest and longest living examples which prove that with “solid transmedia works, (a narrative can) continue for a surprisingly long time” (Schell, pg.303). True, the storyline, characters, even Holmes himself has been altered greatly from text to drama to radio to gaming and to another. However, it is for this very reason that Sherlock Holmes has been able to maintain its longevity due to its ability to “make sense through any of their gateways” as well as “facilitate the telling of many stories” (Schell, pg.306). Sherlock Holmes probably has one of the most sophisticated varieties of plots and storylines, in terms of both content and quantity, and for all the transmedial successes it has received, it has been down to each platform using this concept to generate their own respective audience and the results truly speak for themselves.

AUDIENCE RECEPTION
Sherlock Holmes has been around for almost 125 years; it simply still would not be in existence today without a phenomenal amount of interest and support generated by audiences through various transmedia platforms. Sherlock Holmes has experienced major successes in every single platform its narrative has been adapted into and that in itself speaks incredible volume. Its continuous and ever growing popularity over the past two centuries show how highly regarded the narrative is considered in relation to transmedia strategies, techniques and correct implementation, demonstrating that "successful transmedia worlds (can) exert a powerful effect over fans" (Schell, pg.303). 

ECONOMICS
The latest Sherlock Holmes film, a Hollywood blockbuster directed by Guy Ritchie in 2009 and starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law, ranked 9th in the list of the highest grossing films of 2009. The film grossed at almost 525 million US dollars with an estimated budget of 90 million

CONCLUSION
There is no arguing that the Sherlock Holmes brand has done incredibly well to survive the ever changing nature or landscape of transmedia technologies and platforms to remain one of the longest surviving examples of transmedia and crossmedia success. What made Holmes such a one of a kind success is due to its ability to recognize that transmedia worlds “do not remain static over time – they evolve”. Thus, Sherlock Holmes has managed to capture the world with its vast range of storytelling and ability to adapt to its new transmedia environment, showing if transmedia is handled and managed well, “it can be profitable for a very long time”