17 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About Sherlock

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Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the unaired “Sherlock” pilot. (Photo: BBC)

“A Study in Pink” isn’t the Only Sherlock Pilot

As series openers go, Sherlock pilot “A Study in Pink” is pretty fantastic. After three seasons and a Christmas special, it’s still probably the single best installment the show has produced. But it’s also not the actual first episode of Sherlock.

Back in 2009, the BBC made a pilot for a new series based on the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story A Study in Scarlet. The original plan was that this show would have a first season of six 60-minute episodes. After it was put together, that first pilot was ultimately scrapped, and Sherlock was re-worked into the three feature-length episodes per season format we know now.  That unaired pilot still exists though, and you can watch it. (It’s on the Season 1 DVD extras.)

While the unaired pilot shares some of the same bones as “A Study in Pink”, it’s also quite a bit different. The episode feels much less like a feature film, and more like an episode of Law & Order: SVU. It’s missing many of those beautiful establishment shots and haunting, atmospheric feel. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is more vulnerable, less cerebral, and possibly a bit more human. He makes a couple key mistakes that may have you doubting whether he’s actually as clever as advertised. The mystery of the murderous cabbie also plays out slightly differently, with Sherlock the only person in real danger.

“A Study in Pink” is a much stronger episode than the unaired pilot, but for Sherlock purists, it’s worth a look. Though their story is slightly different, the relationship between Sherlock and John remains incredibly compelling, no matter the particulars of their first case together. Also, Sherlock wears jeans. That by itself is kind of worth an hour of your time.