Elementary creator – The idea of a female Dr Watson came from the original Sherlock Holmes stories

And the show's star Jonny Lee Miller says Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch has been "very supportive" of Elementary

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The man behind Elementary, the modern US adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes stories, says returning to Arthur Conan Doyle’s source material inspired him to come up with a female Dr Watson.

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The announcement earlier this year that the CBS series would pair Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock Holmes with a Dr Joan, rather than a Dr John, Watson got a mixed reception from Holmes purists.

But Rob Doherty, the show’s creator, says the decision to make Watson a woman was more than just a whim.

“When this opportunity arose, I did a lot of research – psychological assessments of the original characters by actual doctors – and Holmes struggled a bit with women… there are moments when he doesn’t quite get the fairer sex,” Doherty told an audience at the Comic-Con convention in San Diego yesterday, following a screening of the pilot episode of Elementary.

“It made me laugh – the idea of ‘What would be more trying than Sherlock Holmes living with a Watson who’s also a woman?’” he said.

And while Lucy Liu, who plays Watson, admitted “It gives [the relationship] a little bit of a tingle,” Doherty suggested the sex of Holmes’s companion would not change the tone or the significance of their relationship.

“It really shouldn’t make a difference; it’s a challenge of the series to not turn it into a will-they-or-won’t-they,” said Doherty. “It’s not about that, it’s about honouring the source material and the bond.” 

The panel of cast and crew from the show also addressed the inevitable comparisons between Elementary and the BBC’s Holmes update Sherlock, with Jonny Lee Miller revealing that his compatriot and Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch had been “very supportive” of the project.

Earlier in the year, Cumberbatch told Sherlock fans in New York “There’s sroom enough for two Sherlocks [including the Robert Downey Jr film franchise], so why not three?”

Elementary premieres on US network CBS on Thursday 27 September, coming to the UK on Sky Living soon afterwards.

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