CBS’ “Elementary” is adding another update to the Sherlock Holmes mythos, casting a female in the role of his sleuthing partner Watson. Deadline reports that “Kill Bill”/”Ally McBeal” actress Lucy Liu will play Joan Watson, who lives with recovering addict Holmes (Johnny Lee Miller) in New York as his “sober companion.”
Of course, “Elementary” will not be the only modern-day Holmes TV series vying for viewers -- BBC’s “Sherlock,” now into its second season, also features a present-day version of the classic characters. Some controversy erupted online among “Sherlock” fans regarding the announcement of the “Elementary” pilot, the idea being that there might not be room for two sets of the mystery-solving adventurers.
But the addition of Liu as Watson makes everything a bit more interesting. Will the gender-swap of a classic character work? It should be noted that there have been female “Watsons” before. In the 1987 television movie/pilot “The Return of Sherlock Holmes” Jane Watson (Margaret Colin) is the descendant of the original Dr. Watson. 1994’s “Sherlock Holmes Returns” TV-movie sees the title character waking up from suspended animation after an earthquake (!) to be assisted by Watson analogue Amy Winslow (played by Debrah Farentino).
Opinions on the Internet regarding this gender-swap for Watson have been mixed. Some flat-out insist that there is absolutely no room for a female version of the character, and some worry that this might lead to an “X-Files” type Mulder/Scully sexual tension between Holmes and Watson. My answers to both objections are a) in a fan world where gender-swapping in cosplay (Female Doctor Who, male Companion), and “official” stories (“Adventure Time’s” Fionna and Prince Gumball) are so normalized, I don’t see what the big deal is here and b) Holmes/Watson flirtation might be kind of cool (certainly it was in the Robert Downey Jr./Jude Law movies).
Though it might have been even more awesome if Liu played Sherlock.