The first trailer for Enola Holmes, the Millie Bobby Brown-starring film that focuses on Sherlock Holmes’ brilliant teenage sister, has arrived despite Netflix being in the middle of a lawsuit over the project.
Enola Holmes is based on a series of books by Nancy Springer that re-imagines Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s world by putting Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister at the heart of a series. Despite the focus of the film being on Enola, the lawsuit filed by Doyle’s estate has to do with Sherlock (played by Henry Cavill) specifically. Doyle’s estate is suing Netflix (alongside Springer, Penguin Random House, and the film production company associated with the movie) because of how Sherlock is portrayed; in essence, he’s far too kind. I suppose that comes through in the trailer. There’s one scene where Sherlock defends his spirited sister against his older brother, Mycroft, who’s upset that she’s… a human being, basically.
The lawsuit in general is pretty wild. Some court rulings in the early 2010s found that many Doyle stories are in the public domain, so Springer has the right to borrow from them without falling afoul of copyright rules. There are a series of 10 stories, however, that are still protected by copyright. The estate is suing because they allege that Enola Holmes lifts from some of those 10 stories, and therefore infringes on their copyright. If Netflix wants to use a version of Sherlock Holmes who cares about people, they have to license that version of the character as he’s different from the version available through public domain.
Here’s a section of the lawsuit that explains how Doyle got his two different versions of Sherlock Holmes.
After the stories that are now in the public domain, and before the Copyrighted Stories, the Great War happened. In World War I Conan Doyle lost his eldest son, Arthur Alleyne Kingsley. Four months later he lost his brother, Brigadier-general Innes Doyle. When Conan Doyle came back to Holmes in the Copyrighted Stories between 1923 and 1927, it was no longer enough that the Holmes character was the most brilliant rational and analytical mind. Holmes needed to be human. The character needed to develop human connection and empathy.
Conan Doyle made the surprising artistic decision to have his most famous character—known around the world as a brain without a heart—develop into a character with a heart. Holmes became warmer. He became capable of friendship. He could express emotion. He began to respect women.
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