|Benedict Cumberbatch in the episode's climax|
"Sherlock" was the brainchild of Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, who taking inspiration from the Universal Sherlock Holmes movies of the '40's with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce decided that Sherlock Holmes could work just as well in the modern world as he could in the Victorian or WWII world. When the concept was taken to the BBC, it was originally going to feature six episodes, each an hour in length. This shortly changed and what emerged was a series of three episodes, each an hour-and-a-half. However, much of "The Great Game" would be inspired by the hour-long episodes. The plot concerning the fake Vermeer painting would have originally been an hour-long episode on its own.
"The Great Game" is unlike some other episodes of "Sherlock" in that it is not merely and updated retelling of one of Doyle's stories. This script takes Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and sets them off on an adventure, not entirely based on Doyle's work. The adventure of The Bruce-Partington Plans is woven into the plot, however the main idea that a mad bomber is taunting Sherlock with a series of mysteries is entirely original and works great. This manages to make the entire episode very suspenseful, and hardly a moment passes without some nail-biting scene. The mysteries themselves are good, the best of the lot being the fake Vermeer, however the murder of a famed television personality, a disappearing husband and the strange death of a young athlete all have their good points.
Even with its rip-roaring plot, "The Great Game" manages to have some fine character moments. Benedict Cumberbatch continues to be excellent as Sherlock. This episode provides him with some dialogue lifted straight from Doyle's "The Sign of Four." The greatest character scenes come towards the end when John offers to kill himself to save Sherlock, and the ensuing scene of awkward happiness with Sherlock and John share is both funny and touching. The script also weaves in some nice references to the canon or to other Sherlock Holmes films. At one point, Sherlock tells John: "He'd be lost without his blogger." If you got that reference, give yourself a pat on the back. The assailant, The Golem, is a nice reference to The Creeper, played by Rondo Hatton in Universal's "The Pearl of Death." The scene where Sherlock discovers that The Golem is responsible for one of the murders is fantastic and surely one of the best bits of deduction in the series' entirety.
I think that "The Great Game" is one of the finest scripts ever written for a television show. If the praise I have given it above doesn't seem to do the show justice, then I highly advise watching it again and seeing just how good it is. So, stop reading "Sherlock Holmes: War of the Worlds," and go watch this episode. I don't think you'll regret it.