Thursday, November 1, 2012

No Skit, Sherlock!

© 2012 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

Come late October and early November, my thoughts turn to a good murder mystery and a few of my other favorite Scorpio things. This year I found myself exploring the question: What does an actor draw from in his own chart to enable him to play a convincing Scorpionic character? Turns out, it’s not just a skit for some of these guys. I’m not sure they’re completely “acting.” I suspect they siphon from their own energetic pool of fixed water and their placement of Pluto and its aspects.

Here’s how it started. I’ve been enjoying the newest incarnation of one of my favorite Scorpionic characters, Sherlock Holmes, in the new TV show, Elementary. This time, a still very British Sherlock, played by Jonny Lee Miller, finds his way to New York after a fall from grace in London that involved a stint in rehab. [1] In the Big Apple, Sherlock consults with the NYPD on its toughest cases, but not without a “babysitter” in the persona of Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu), hired by Sherlock’s rich father as a companion to keep him sober. Watson is dealing with her own fall from grace. She lost a patient and her medical license, so there’s no small dollop of Plutonian redemption built into her job of keeping Sherlock from another round of self-destruction. 

I have to admit: the recent trend toward modernizing Sherlock Holmes was not something that struck me as either a good idea or doable with any degree of quality. 

I was prepared to dislike Sherlock, [3] the PBS offering starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson. Set in modern-day London, Sherlock gets to obsess and work with all kinds of modern gadgetry and situations. In the end, he not only ties in my mind with Jeremy Brett as giving the best portrayal of Sherlock ever; in some ways, he supersedes him. This is tantamount to saying someone could play Poirot as good or better than David Suchet. (Unimaginable.)

To me the real key to playing Sherlock is nailing his brilliance and Scorpionic obsession with getting to the bottom of things, especially his fixations that make him quirksome, irksome and often antisocial. I love Jonny Lee Miller’s portrayal, but he’s a bit nice for the classic Sherlock. (I have a love/hate relationship with this quality. It’s a pleasant change, opens his character to growth, but it’s not Sherlock as I knew him. I love the freshness of it but miss the fully snarky old detective.)

Cumberbatch is anything but nice—or when he is, it’s more accidental or a rare expression of affection that breaks through his addiction to his current case. The late, great Brett played Sherlock with such a delicious laser focus; he was as obsessed as his nemesis Moriarty was evil and devious.

Chart and Soul

I just had to look at the charts of these three actors, my favorite Sherlocks, to see what they drew from in their own characters to portray the sleuth so well, each in their own way. I should mention that I have no birth times on any of these actors and am beginning to wonder if it’s some sort of English gentleman (or Sherlock) thing to make one’s birth time the ultimate mystery. Since this means none of the houses you’ll see in their charts are likely to be accurate, perhaps we need to send them to their compatriot, Dr. House (Hugh Laurie) for chart surgery. He certainly played the character with the right name for the job.

Jeremy Brett

Click each chart to enlarge
Starting with perhaps the best remembered and most classic Sherlock, Brett has Sun in Scorpio making a very close square to Saturn in Aquarius. That double fixity and Saturn's obsession with work only enhance the intensity of his portrayal of Sherlock. Other Plutonian signatures (and I’m sticking with major aspects and not getting too fancy): Pluto sextile Moon, square Uranus (tight), and quincunx North Node. He also has yod to Pluto involving Venus and the North Node on the sextile. If Jeremy Brett had to send an astrological résumé for playing Sherlock, I’d say he’d more than make the first—and final—cut.

Benedict Cumberbatch

The Sherlock I didn’t want to like, much less love, is actually a Sun Cancer. He has a Cardinal T-Square involving Sun at the apex and the Moon and Uranus on the squares. He’s got lots of Leo fire, too—certainly a non-transferable asset for any actor. But what seems give him a lot to draw from in portraying Sherlock is, like Brett, a yod that involves Pluto. South Node is at the apex of his yod with Pluto and Neptune on the sextile. With the South Node in Taurus, there’s more fixity (maybe even a past life) to draw from, and Pluto’s friendly sextile to Neptune helps him intuit Plutonian characteristics from the cosmic soup or Akashic Record. Certainly, it indicates the possibility of being able to channel Pluto in some way. From what I’ve read of him, Cumberbatch is incredibly witty and would be quite precise in his work with Mars in Virgo, as was his character Holmes. He has, like Brett, a close Saturn aspect to a personal planet, Saturn conjunct Venus within minutes and just a few degrees from Mercury. Let’s just say focus would not be an issue, and the role of Sherlock demands focus to the ultimate degree.

Jonny Lee Miller

Am I the only one on the planet that didn’t remember that Jonny Lee Miller used to be married to Angelina Jolie? Not that this has anything to do with the price of eggs or Sherlock, but an interesting factoid, in addition to the intell that Miller and Cumberbatch are good friends. [2](Wonder if they ever play “dueling Sherlocks?”) Another irresistible tidbit: Jonny’s father, Bernard Lee, used to play M in the early James Bond movies. Perhaps Johnny M has an inside track on investigation and intrigue by osmosis, growing up with a dad whose character was molded in the British spy ranks.

Like Brett, Miller has a Scorpio Sun, widely trine the South Node. (There’s significant Scorpio or Pluto to Nodes with all these Sherlocks.) Like the other Sherlocks, there’s a strong Saturn, tightly quincunx North Node. Pluto squares his Jupiter, and since he and Cumberbatch are from the same generation, they share the same Pluto/Neptune sextile and the same comments above apply. Since we don’t know his birth hour, there’s a possibility that Miller’s Moon may quincunx Pluto, if he was born in the earlier hours of the morning. This would make a quincunx or inconjunct involving Pluto unanimous among the three Sherlocks—and if Miller’s birth time supports it, he would share Moon quincunx Pluto with his friend Cumberbatch. (If Miller wasn’t born to fit this neat synchronicity, I think he should ask for a redo.)

Sherlock Holmes

To add another dimension to the discussion, the best deduction I can find of the birthdate for the character of Sherlock Holmes is January 6, 1854, presumably in or near London. [4] The year isn’t in dispute and is quite clear from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels. Other intriguing options are Dec. 2 and “sometime in fall that year,” when Holmes was actually born in Conan Doyle’s imagination. [5] The latter, in my opinion, would be the most astro-logical among the arguments in the article “The Curious Case of a Birthday for Sherlock Holmes.” The obvious options for autumn are Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius. I have little doubt ...

Other than the Saturn influence shared with all three men in this article who have played Sherlock, I don’t think I’ll be the only astrologer or astrology student who thinks this chart bears little resemblance to the Sherlock I know. Perhaps it proves that writers should consider consulting astrologers before creating birth times in their character profiles. (I feel lucky to wear both hats, and when I write fiction, I create the birth times of my characters to make sense with their motivations and behavior in the story.)


One can argue easily that each of these Sherlocks plays the character tinged with color from his own chart. (The best example is Jonny Lee Miller’s stellium in Libra that makes a kinder, gentler Sherlock easily possible.) Still, it’s interesting to observe how much Scorpio and Pluto supports each Sherlock in his pursuit of playing the legend. If any of the modern Sherlocks win an Emmy or take their characters to the big screen and nab an Oscar, it would be only fair to co-nominate their astrology charts, along with their Watsons, in the best supporting role. 

I can’t help but wonder—what if acting coaches knew Astrodrama? How many more roles would be nailed with surgical precision? 

Happy Sun in Scorpio! Don’t forget what a great time it is to read Sherlock books or watch Sherlock on the screen, big or smallor any of your other favorite Scorpionic characters.


Photo Credit: © OrpheusXL -



  1. About Elementary:
  2. Jonny Lee Miller:
  3. Sherlock:
  4. Life of Sherlock Holmes:
  5. The Curious Case of a Birthday for Sherlock Holmes 

November 1, 2012: 
Happy 35th Anniversary 
of the Discovery of Chiron!


Les said...

I loved the Cumberbatch version of Sherlock! And the entire production. I thought I wouldn't like the current US TV incarnation, but I agree that it's very good and I like Miller in the role (I had no idea he was married to Jolie either, but I'm so out of the loop on pop culture!). I'm afraid I missed out on the earlier version(s). Anyway, I enjoyed your analyses here, Joyce! Interesting Pluto/Scorpio and Saturn influences. (I have a few of those influences of my own, but I'm neither genius nor, I hope, sociopathic!)

Joyce Mason said...

Thanks for your comment, Leslee! I have long held the theory that we play out our own dark side, to a certain extent, in these Plutonian characters. I have my own obsessive streak, and while I'm quite sure I'd never take it to sociopathic proportions, there's a certain release, not to mention fun, in seeing a beloved character take it over the top! Glad you enjoyed the post.

Maureen said...

Very interesting article...of the 3, I like Cumberbatch the best. However, my all time favorite Sherlock Holmes is Basil Rathbone (sun/pluto/mercury/neptune in gemini).

Joyce Mason said...

Thanks for weighing in, Maureen! You've got me ready to look up one of the old Sherlocks with Rathbone. If I saw any of them, I don't remember ...but he would have to be so capable of taking on a persona completely with that line-up of Gem. I really appreciate the endorsement and recc of him!