With modern-day Holmes actor Benedict Cumberbatch set to play the villain in the upcoming Star Trek movie, we thought it’d be fun to look at some of the many and varied ways the fictional detective has been shoehorned into science fiction and fantasy stories over the decades.
The Martians are attacking Victorian London, as laid-out in HG Wells’s War of the Worlds. What would the city’s finest detective do?
Why, our genre-hopping sleuth would team up with Conan Doyle’s other famous creation, Professor Challenger, to outwit, outfox and generally harry the belligerent aliens until our tiny microbes can kill them all off. He also finds time to have a romantic dalliance with housekeeper Mrs Hudson, apparently. This is definitely non-canonical.
Written by tongue-twisty author Manly Wade Wellman and his son Wade Wellman nearly 40 years ago, and still available on Amazon.
Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994)
Approximately every episode of Star Trek: TNG involved the holodeck going bad, trapping the crew in a dangerous virtual reality where holographic bullets could kill and Commander Data looked stupid. Perhaps the most memorable two episodes featured the po-faced droid as Sherlock Holmes, on the trail of an increasingly self-aware Moriarty. It’s remarkable that Conan Doyle’s famous characters can be so readily adapted to suit an emotionless machine and some artfully woven beams of light on a 24th Century starship. Then again, the Original Series featured an episode in which Scotty gets possessed by Jack the Ripper, so these temporal switcheroos aren’t exactly unusual. Speaking of which…
Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century (1999-2001)
A descendent of Inspector Lestrade finds the corpse of Sherlock Holmes embalmed in honey (fans will get the reference). The cadaver is brought back to life using some kind of futuristic cellular rejuvenation trick. Meanwhile a clone of Moriarty is terrorising 22nd Century New London. Can the reanimated Holmes help Lestrade and her robotic Watson solve the case? Frankenstein meets Futurama in this animated adaptation.
This straight-to-DVD effort form ‘Mockbuster’ peddlers The Assylum purports to be “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s” Sherlock Holmes. Having read all the original stories at least twice, we’re scratching our noggin in an attempt to place this story within the Conan Doyle canon. A T-Rex in Westminster? A fire-breathing dragon swooping on Whitehall? A teuthic menace emerging from the Thames?
The eagle-eyed detective might solve this one by noting that the Palace of Westminster is on the wrong side of the bridge approach, suggesting a mirror image. We all know — thanks to the DVLA and Meatloaf — that objects in the rear-view mirror appear closer than they are. In the case of these Cretaceous objects, closer by 67 million years.
Never fear, for Dr Watson is played by Ianto out of Torchwood, where implausibility is the norm. Also features the British guy from Enterprise.
In truth, the case-book of pastiche Sherlock stories is thicker than a deerstalker sandwich, and we’ve only touched on a few of the more outre examples here. A long and not even comprehensive list can be found on Wikipedia, and we invite your own favoured suggestions in the comments.