The public’s appetite for all things Sherlock Holmes—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed fictional detective—appears to be limitless, with film, TV adaptations, and/or reinventions being released almost every year. The latest offering is The Irregulars, a new supernatural drama from Netflix, that focuses on the ragtag group of street urchins the Baker Street sleuth often relied upon to gather useful information.
Netflix also ventured into Holmesian lore last year with the film Enola Holmes, starring Millie Bobby Brown as the young (and equally brilliant) teenaged sister of Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill). It garnered generally positive reviews, and vague plans are circulating for a sequel, despite a lawsuit filed by the Conan Doyle estate over the portrayal of an overly “emotional” Holmes. (The lawsuit was dismissed last December.)
Netflix greenlighted The Irregulars in 2018, created by Tom Bidwell (who also produced an adaptation of Watership Down for the streaming platform). Bidwell had long had the idea for a series centered on the Baker Street Irregulars, led in the original fiction by a boy named Wiggins. The group is first mentioned in the 1887 story “A Study in Scarlet,” in which Holmes pays them each a shilling to track down a particular cabbie. They also feature in a chapter of the 1890 novel The Sign of the Four, and one member of the group briefly pops up in the 1893 short story “The Adventure of the Crooked Man.” Holmes described the Irregulars as being “sharp as needles… all they want is organization.”
This isn’t the first modern incarnation of the Baker Street Irregulars. They appear as a loose network of homeless people in the BBC’s Sherlock series starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and in the TV series Elementary, they are a group of outside experts in various arcane subjects that offer Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes occasional insight. Bidwell’s The Irregulars takes a modernizing page from the Netflix monster hit Bridgerton by featuring a diverse cast of young teenagers in a period setting.
Instead of Wiggins, the street kids are led by a feisty young woman named Bea (Thaddea Graham). Bidwell also opted to play up the supernatural elements in his series, drawing inspiration from Conan Doyle’s supernatural stories. Unlike the fictional Holmes, Conan Doyle was deeply interested in spiritualism and the supernatural, and the clash of those two different worlds appealed to Bidwell. “I thought, what a weird thing, this spiritualist, this guy who really believed in phenomena, wrote about this detective who really did not believe in phenomena and followed a logical explanation for everything,” he told Entertainment Weekly last month.
Per the official premise:
Set in Victorian London, the series follows a gang of troubled street teens who are manipulated into solving crimes for the sinister Doctor Watson and his mysterious business partner, the elusive Sherlock Holmes. As the crimes take on a horrifying supernatural edge and a dark power emerges, it’ll be up to the Irregulars to come together to save not only London but the entire world.
The trailer opens with a voiceover from Watson (Royce Pierreson), presumably addressing the group of teens, telling them he and his “business partner” have been watching the teens from their apartment at 221B Baker Street. In addition to Bea, the group includes her younger sister Jessie (Darci Shaw), who apparently is able to “see things normal people cannot.” Then there is Billy (Jojo Macari), Spike (McKell David), and Leopold (Harrison Osterfield). Watson hires them to help investigate strange occurrences around London.
We only catch brief glimpses of Holmes in the trailer. As played by Henry Lloyd-Hughes, he was once a dashing, young, brilliant detective who has now degenerated into an opium addict. The Irregulars soon suspect that Watson “knows much more than what he’s telling us.” People are acquiring unusual supernatural powers, and there is mention of a “rip” in the “barrier between our world and the next,” as images of Ouija boards and ritualistic circles flash by. “If we don’t find the rip and close it, we’re doomed,” someone says. And Jesse, with her unique gift, just might be the key to all of it.
The Irregulars debuts on Netflix on March 26, 2021.
Listing image by YouTube/Netflix