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Over the years since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first wrote them, the characters and stories of Sherlock Holmes have remained very popular, both in their original form and in the form of various adaptations. Sherlock Holmes has also had an influence on various stories, TV shows and other works.

Role in the history of the detective story

A popular misconception is that the Sherlock Holmes stories gave rise to the entire genre of detective fiction. In fact, the Holmes character and his modus operandi were inspired by two predecessors, C. Auguste Dupin and Monsieur Lecoq and their technique for solving crime. Created by Edgar Allan Poe and Émile Gaboriau respectively, they were both investigators to whom even Holmes himself alluded. Many fictional sleuths have imitated Holmes' logical methods and followed in his footsteps, in various ways.

Some of the more popular to continue Holmes' legacy include Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, Ellery Queen, Robert Goren, Philip Marlowe, Gil Grisom, Sam Spade, Patrick Jane, Perry Mason, Jonathan Creek, Shawn Spencer, Columbo, Dick Tracy, Adrian Monk, Gregory House, Dr Edward Fitzgerald, the children's book series Encyclopedia Brown, and even the comic book hero Batman. Teddy Valiant (Brother of Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit) even sported Sherlock's traditional tobacco pipe and magnifying glass among the paraphernalia on his untouched side of the desk.

The long running Japanese manga and anime Detective Conan, known as Meitantei Conan in Japan and released as Case Closed in English due to copyright issues, was also heavily influenced by Sherlock Holmes, with the main character himself taking after Holmes' and giving himself a nickname based on Sir Arthur's middle name. He uses it as a pseudonym to cover up his true identity.

Other pop culture references

Writers have produced many pop culture references to Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle, or characters from the stories in homage, to a greater or lesser degree. Such allusions can form a plot development, raise the intellectual level of the piece or act as easter eggs for an observant audience.

Some have been overt, introducing Holmes as a character in a new setting, or a more subtle allusion, such as making a logical character live in an apartment at number 221B. Often the simplest reference is to dress anybody who does some kind of detective work in a deerstalker and cloak. Another rich field of pop culture references is Holmes' ancestry and descendants (as discussed here) but really the only limit is the writer's imagination. A third major reference is the supposed quote, "Elementary, my dear Watson." However Holmes is never recorded to have said this. The fame of Sherlock Holmes ensures that he will in many forms during the coming century, probably because Holmes embodies so many of the qualities that modern society feels are good, combined with the flashes of a darker personality (see especially "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton") that give him depth as a character.

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
―Spock
  • Spock also quoted the above in the 2009 adaptation of Star Trek.
  • Arthur Conan Doyle appears in three episodes of the Canadian television series, Murdoch Mysteries. In the episode "A Study in Sherlock" a mentally ill man believes he is Sherlock Holmes.
  • The main character of Gregory House, in House M.D is inspired by Sherlock Holmes, particularly with regard to drug use and his desire (and capacity) to solve the insolvable. House uses Holmesian deductive techniques to diagnose his patients' problems. References to the sleuth range from the obvious (House's apartment number being 221B) to the subtle (his friendship with fellow doctor James Wilson and the similarities between the names House and Holmes, and Wilson and Watson). In the very first (pilot) episode the patient's last name is Adler, a reference to Irene Adler, and in the last episode of season two, the last name of the man who shots House is Moriarty, a reference to Homes's enemy Professor James Moriarty. House's act of faking cancer in the episode "Half-Wit" is similar to the Holmes story, "The Adventure of the Dying Detective" in which Holmes fakes a deadly eastern disease to catch a criminal.
  • A commercial for the mystery board game Clue features Holmes and Watson as players. (Watson wins.)
  • A character from the English dubbed version of Jikuu Tantei Genshi-kun, also known as Flint the Time Detective, was renamed from the original Japanese name of Kyoichiro Narugami (鳴神京一郎 Narugami Kyōichirō) to Merlock Holmes, in an obvious allusion to Holmes.
  • In the television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI Gil Grissom, and later his replacement CSI D.B. Russell both have more than passing similarity to Sherlock Holmes. Like Holmes, Grissom is dispassionate with a fierce devotion to logic and little regard for societal norms of behavior; Grissom once smashed mustard jars in a grocery store to illustrate a theory ("I-15 Murders"), much as Holmes once practiced spearing a pig in a butchers to determine how strong a man would have to be to transfix a man with a harpoon. Grissom also possess a Moriarty-like nemesis, Paul Millander, whom he pursues in several episodes ("Pilot", "Anonymous" and "Identity Crisis"). Coincidentally, "Paul Millander" has the same initials as "Professor Moriarty." There's also a woman, Lady Heather Kessler, in whom he takes an unusual interest. Their relationship is similar to that of Irene Adler and Holmes. Both Irene and Lady Heather enchant Holmes and Grissom with their beauty, their wit and their resolution. Lady Heather often wears Victorian-style dresses, referencing Holmes's era ("Slaves of Las Vegas", "Lady Heather's Box," "Pirates of the Third Reich," and "The Good, the Bad, and the Dominatrix"). Whilst D.B Russell's official character sheet was described as "A west coast Sherlock Holmes who devours crime novels and looks at every crime scene as if it were a story waiting to be told". Both Grissom and Russell work with there CSI Partners Catherine Willows and Julie Finlay, respectively (both the equivalent of John Watson) whilst both working under the Las Vegas Police Department Homicide Captain Jim Brass (the equivlant of Inspector Lestrade).
  • The character of Detective Robert "Bobby" Goren from Law & Order: Criminal Intent, is based on Sherlock Holmes, but instead of relying upon physical evidence like Holmes, Goren focuses on psychology to identify the perpetrators, whom he often draws into confessing or yielding condemning evidence. Goren works with a John Watson like partner in Detective Alexandra Eames and for a Inspector Lestrade type commanding officers Captain James Deakins and Captain Danny Ross. The character of Nicole Wallace is a direct attempt to play on the part of Sherlock Holmes' female antagonist Irene Adler, also known as "The Woman." Wallace is employed as a 'Professor of Literature' during her first appearance, which could be a parallel to Holmes's nemesis Professor Moriarty.
  • Although never directly stated, the television series Psych is said to be based on, or at least a parody of, Sherlock Holmes, with Shawn Spencer being Sherlock Holmes, Burton "Gus" Guster being John Watson, Henry Spencer being Mycroft Holmes, Police Chief Karen Vick being Inspector Lestrade, and "Mr Yang" being Moriarty.  When BBC's Sherlock premiered, parallels were also drawn between Detective Juliet O'Hara and Molly Hooper, and between Detective Carlton Lassiter and Phillip Anderson and Sally Donovan.
  • The characters and basic structure of the series Monk were inspired by the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. The character name "Adrian Monk" was intended to be unusual like that of Sherlock Holmes. Other characters correspond to Holmes characters: Sharona Fleming (a nurse) and Dr. John Watson; Captain Leland Stottlemeyer and Inspector Lestrade; and Monk's brother Ambrose Monk and Mycroft Holmes (Sherlock's brother). Also Monk's dad mentions reading Sherlock Holmes stories to Adrian, who eventually learned to solve the mysteries before hearing the stories' endings.
  • The creator of the TV series Luther, Neil Cross has said that Luther is influenced by both Sherlock Holmes and Columbo; the nature of Luther's intellect and its application to solving crimes is comparable to Holmes', whereas the show's use of the inverted detective format was inspired by Columbo.