The Irregulars is a loose Sherlock Holmes adaptation, but it’s pure Arthur Conan Doyle
Series creator Tom Bidwell reveals how he drew from across the author’s works to tell his new supernatural Sherlock story.
New Netflix drama The Irregulars is quite a different sort of Sherlock Holmes story, with the great detective himself (played by Henry Lloyd-Hughes) relegated to a background role while his usual cases of murder and theft are replaced by supernatural monsters and occult threats, all investigated by a crew of homeless teenagers played by Thaddea Graham, Darci Shaw, Jojo Macari and Mckell David.
After watching an episode, viewers would be forgiven for thinking that the series had little to do with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works at all – but that actually isn’t true according to series creator Tom Bidwell.
“I was reading the Sherlock Holmes novels 10 years ago, and I read the chapter on the Baker Street Irregulars in The Sign of the Four. And I thought, ‘That is a series,’” says series creator Tom Bidwell, speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com.
“Years later, I was reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s supernatural short stories, which have fallen out of popularity a bit. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if I brought these two sides of Conan Doyle together – his fascination with the spiritual and the rational world of Sherlock Holmes?’ I added that to my old Irregulars idea, and that was that.”
In other words, The Irregulars combines two different worlds of Arthur Conan Doyle – the fantastical, supernatural world of some of his short stories (and his infamous fascination with fairies in real life) and the eminently rational persona he created in Sherlock Holmes, alongside the “street kids solve crimes” sideplots in certain Holmes novels.
“Conan Doyle in real life was a very spiritual guy,” Bidwell explained. “He believed in fairies and ghosts or certainly had an interest in them, whether he believed in them or not. He's a member of [historical supernatural society] the Golden Dawn. And he had a real keen interest in mediumship, and things like that.
He added: “Conan Doyle’s supernatural stories, they're not very popular really. I mean they were at the time. But I think they've kind of fallen out of popularity a little bit. But they are really great.”
If readers were to turn to Conan Doyle’s supernatural short stories, they might recognise some themes of The Irregulars – occult magic combining with Victorian society for a new twist on the supernatural, mediumship, demonic possession – even if no story is directly adapted to the series itself.
In fact, it’s a similar approach that Bidwell took to his inclusion of the Sherlock Holmes stories themselves. According to him, the idea of the series is that Sherlock Holmes and John Watson (played by Royce Pierreson in the series) met largely as they did on the pages of A Study in Scarlet, Conan Doyle’s first Holmes novel, but their adventures diverged as new paranormal threats began to take up their attentions.
“The Holmes and Watson in my series were always different from the Holmes and Watson in the books, but I think they became increasingly so as events progress,” Bidwell tells RadioTimes.com.
“In one episode Sherlock mentions the case of Jefferson Hope, which is the first case that Sherlock and Watson worked on after Watson moved into 221b within the canon of the books.
“But I wanted to tell a story where it was from that point onwards that this timeline just started to drift so further and further away from the books as it went on. So they were much closer at the start.”
Altogther then, The Irregulars is a series that draws from across the canon of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, even if it doesn’t adapt any one part of it too closely. And Bidwell says that he hopes fans of the original material aren't too upset by any liberties he might have taken with the story.
“I love Sherlock in the books, and I'm a huge fan,” he said. “So my intention was not to destroy or be an iconoclast, or whatever you call it.
"My dream was to add to the worlds of Sherlock Holmes in a new way."
The Irregulars is streaming on Netflix now. If you want more show content, you can read The Irregulars review or a breakdown of The Irregulars ending here. Want something else to watch? Check out our Sci-Fi page or our full TV Guide.