Benedict Cumberbatch reflects on the legacy of ‘Sherlock’

Image via BBC One

It may seem like a long time since BBC’s Sherlock bewildered and amazed audiences worldwide with its originality, flair and charisma, but the iconic British crime drama lives on – even years after its original run from 2010 to 2017.

After Sherlock ended, both Cumberbatch and co-star Martin Freeman moved on to bigger and better things, but talks about a potential return are never too far away. However, whenever the project is mentioned, he humbly reflects on the success that Sherlock gave him, and the many doors that opened as a result of his involvement.

Although Cumberbatch had a reputable presence in the media industry before Sherlock, it was his role as Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary icon that helped the British star rise to prominence within the public eye.

Now, flash-forward five years after the final season of Sherlock aired, and Cumberbatch has made quite the name for himself. In 2021, he starred in The Power of the Dog, a western drama that received 12 Oscar nominations ahead of the 94th Academy Awards.

Image via BBC

Before that, he embodied Dr. Stephen Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, portraying the Sorcerer Supreme in Doctor Strange and Spider-Man: No Way Home, and he reprises the role once again in May’s solo sequel Multiverse of Madness.

Speaking to Collider, Cumberbatch took a lingering look back at his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. He mentions that the renewal of Doyle’s fictional sleuth needed to feel organic and relevant. Additionally, Cumberbatch strains that the refreshing take on the source material from the modernized the content but, stayed loyal to its roots.

“It didn’t feel like you were just resurrecting that character for the hell of it. It felt like a very reverent re-examination of him through the 21st century, but with such adoration of the original material, loads of Easter eggs for fans of the Conan Doyle novels, and two fanboys writing it, in the form of the brilliant Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. It was a winning formula. And when Martin [Freeman] came in to audition and just raised my game massively, I thought, “That’s a great piece of chemistry. This is a really great combination.” And the rest took off from there.”

In Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes shares the screen with Martin Freeman’s Doctor Watson. Taking after the perfect pairings in previous adaptations, such as Jeremy Brett (Holmes) and David Burke (Watson) in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984), or Robert Downey Jr. (Holmes) and Jude Law (Watson) in Guy Ritchie’s blockbuster duology, Cumberbatch and Freeman committed themselves to imbuing their onscreen partnership with raw chemistry that would evoke a sense of nostalgia among aficionados.

When taking on the mantle of such a beloved cultural icon, Cumberbatch had some serious responsibility to deliver. When Sherlock first aired in 2010, Twitter was just finding its feet and gathering daily users. As expected, the series immediately earned itself a dedicated fanbase, all of which flocked to Twitter to share their excitement. Cumberbatch details how the cast and crew felt mixed emotions when the reactions came flooding in.

“At the same time, none of us really knew quite how stupendously successful it would be. It was at the birth of Twitter. It was the first time that I can remember sitting around with the producers and the directors when it aired on the BBC that night and going, “Jesus Christ, it’s trending. Your name is trending worldwide.” I didn’t even know what that meant. By the end of the evening, I thought I was gonna exit Sue Vertue’s house and be assaulted, with reporters helicoptering down and photographers and people running out of their houses going, “Oh my God!”

BBC's Sherlock

Closing out with some parting words, Cumberbatch reminds fans to stay hopeful that Sherlock Holmes will return. “Never say never,” he says. Although the ship may have sailed, Cumberbatch’s takee on the character will forever live on as one of the greatest television characters of the 21st Century.

“It was such a fun ride. I say that in the past tense. We never say never. For now, anyway. But in that moment, it was extraordinary. Even Steven is not arrogant enough to presume it would be as big of a hit as it was. It was phenomenal. Television’s reach is extraordinary, really extraordinary. Pre-streaming, it blew my mind.”

Sherlock ended its impressive seven year run in 2017, producing four seasons and 13 episodes overall. Although the story reached a conclusion, the ambiguous, open-ended finale still leaves much to be desired, and Sherlock fans can only pray that Gatiss and Moffat choose to revive the BBC hit in coming years.