The best non-Sherlock Sherlocks in TV and film

As Arthur & George shows the detective's creator doing some sleuthing of his own, we take a look at some other Sherlock substitutes

You might think you recognize a certain detective on ITV tonight – a somewhat arrogant, tenacious investigator with a faithful sidekick utilizing his powers of deduction to solve a dastardly crime and clear an innocent man’s name, with the very reputation of Baker Street’s finest at stake if he fails.


But sadly, as Martin Clunes informed us this week there’s no Benedict Cumberbatch in Arthur & George – rather, ITV’s new drama concerns itself with Sherlock Holmes’ creator Arthur Conan Doyle as he solved a real-life mystery, while trying to escape the shadow of his most famous creation.

Maybe you feel a little cheated, but you shouldn’t be – this isn’t the first time TV and film have used Sherlock-like figures to save the day…

The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It (1977)

This comedy/parody TV movie saw John Cleese portray Arthur, the grandson of Sherlock Holmes who had his very own Dr Watson (Arthur Lowe) who was likewise the grandson of the original. Unfortunately, the pair weren’t quite as successful as their illustrious forebears in actually solving any crimes, causing a lot of gruesome (and hilarious) deaths with their poor planning.

The adventures of Shirley Holmes (1997-2000)

The “relative of Sherlock Holmes” spin-off route was given a twist in this Canadian TV series by making Shirley a distant descendant – and a girl.  Like her great grand-uncle, Shirley spent most of her time solving cases in interesting hats, but unlike him had to fit it around schoolwork and chores. Oh and she had her very own tween nemesis – Molly Hardy. Like Mori-arty, geddit?

Without a Clue (1988)

In this classic interpretation of the Conan Doyle canon, there is no Sherlock Holmes at all – merely a drunken actor called Reginald Kincaid (Michael Caine) hired to impersonate the sleuth after talented crime-fighter John Watson (Ben Kingsley) needs a front man to hide his own investigations. Like Conan Doyle, however, Watson tires of his creation and tries to retire Holmes – to little success…

Star Trek – Elementary, Dear Data (1988)

Considering Holmes’ lack of emotional intelligence, it’s no surprise that android Mr Data (Brent Spiner) was able to take up his mantle for a while in Star Trek: Enterprise. While originally Data’s sojourns into the seedy underbelly of Victorian London were confined to the holodeck, the simulation of Moriarty soon gained a mind of his own – and a plan to escape. 

House (2004-2012)

Hugh Laurie’s irascible medic was actually based fairly explicitly on Sherlock Holmes, from his name (House=Home) and his address (221b Baker st) to his choice of sidekick (a Dr Wilson in place of Dr Watson) and drug habit. Oh, and the man who shoots House in series 2? Listed in the credits as “Moriarty”.

Even House’s medical ability has a Sherlock connection – according to the showrunners, his knack for instantly diagnosing the sick from a single glance was based on real-life Sherlock inspiration Joseph Bell, who taught Arthur Conan Doyle at Edinburgh University.

Still don’t believe us? Hugh Laurie himself will confirm it for you…


Arthur & George is on ITV tonight (Monday 2nd March) at 9.00pm