It is estimated that there are more than 250 screen adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, with him being dubbed the most portrayed literary character in film and television history. So why do we need yet another version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s renowned consulting detective? Well, we don’t. Which is good news because Tom Bidwell’s new Netflix series The Irregulars isn’t really about Holmes at all.
Well, maybe it is a little.
Set in a Victorian London synthesised with 20th Century elements, The Irregulars is a genre hybrid, fusing the supernatural with horror; mystery with adventure. At the centre of this world are the titular gang of street-smart teenagers – think Oliver! meets The Goonies – recruited by the mysterious and moody Dr Watson to help save the city; random folk are acquiring special powers that they’re using for nefarious reasons and someone needs to stop them.
Fundamentally, this is all terrific fun. The ensemble cast blend together like an experienced theatre troupe, exchanging knowing lines and looks that hint at genuine history and affection, or not in some cases. Each episode, while fulfilling a need to advance the central plot, carries enough individual story to avoid any sense of padding, and the whole thing just looks fantastic, with real locations adding depth to Bidwell’s re-imagining of this world.
But there is more to The Irregulars than what you see at first glance. Strong themes of love and belonging, of grief and loneliness are handled with deft reverence, and timely topics such as mental health and suffering are broached head on; this is skilful writing and credit must go to the cast and production team for fully embracing the show’s ambition.
Do not be put off by the obvious connection. The Irregulars is a wholly original, entertaining, and adventurous ‘spin-off’ in the Holmes-iverse and one worth exploring.
Where to watch: Netflix