Not Quite So Elementary, My Dear Watson

by Intern Kerishma


Sherlock Holmes was only half right when he fondly proclaimed, “Good old Watson. You are the one fixed point in a changing age.” We are indeed in a changing age, Holmes, but “good old Watson” is changing right along with it.

From Basil Rathbone’s iconic 14-film series and the Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law blockbusters to popular television shows House and BBC’s Sherlock, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s chronicles of the mystery-solving duo Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson have been brought to life countless times – but never quite like this. CBS has cast Taiwanese-American actress Lucy Liu as Watson – Dr. Joan Watson – in its upcoming modern take on the Sherlock saga (set in current-day New York City), Elementary.

My first reaction: Hallelujah! Finally, a woman of color will be a kickass protagonist on a television show for a major network! Finally, television will begin to reflect actual reality!

Of course, it dawned on me that there are a few traps– horrible traps– that Joan Watson could fall into. The most horrible of all would be the pigeonholing of her character into the role of “love interest.” While the extent (or existence) of a queer relationship between the original Holmes and Watson has been debated for decades, it doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to predict that Watson may simply be presented as an exotic sex kitten, and the possibility of her and Holmes hooking up is a definite prospect. At the very least, I don’t think I’m wrong in getting prepared for a (gag) will-they-or-won’t-they dynamic between Holmes and Watson.

I would love to see Joan Watson as developed and complex a character as all the previous incarnations of Watson: a distinguished former military surgeon, physically and emotionally supportive of Holmes, an intellectual equal to Holmes, and with a fleshed out personal life independent of Holmes. And just because I would cringe at the relegation of her as a love interest, it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want her to have a love life. I think it would be fantastic for her to have a fiancé or spouse (am I completely crazy in hoping that they’ll write her as having a girlfriend/wife? Or am I getting my hopes too high, wishing for a queer WoC protagonist?), just as the original Watson did.

I definitely want to see how this twist on a classic series will play out. Who’s with me? 

(Photo via

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