'The Irregulars' on Netflix: How the Show Links to Sherlock Holmes

The Irregulars is the latest spin on the Sherlock Holmes story from Netflix. But while the streamer's movie Enola Holmes focused on the sister of the Victorian super-sleuth, The Irregulars has at its heart a band of street kids who occasionally help him out.

Unlike Enola, who is from a series of books by Nancy Springer, The Irregulars have their basis in the Sherlock Holmes novels by Arthur Conan Doyle. However, they are very different in these books than they are in the Netflix show.

The group, known as the Baker Street Irregulars among fans of Sherlock, appear in two Conan Doyle novels, and one short story.

The group makes its first appearance in the 1887 book A Study in Scarlet, where they are described by Dr. Watson as "half a dozen of the dirtiest and most ragged street Arabs that ever I clapped eyes on...six dirty little scoundrels stood in a line like so many disreputable statuettes."

The group gets their own chapter, meanwhile, in The Sign of the Four in 1890. Here, they are described similarly as "a dozen dirty and ragged little street Arabs," led by, "one of their number, taller and older than the others, stood forward with an air of lounging superiority."

the irregulars netflix sherlock holmes
'The Irregulars' on Netflix is a new take on the Sherlock Holmes characters. Netflix

Their last appearance is in short story "The Adventure of the Crooked Man," where we meet one of The Irregulars called Simpson. He is one of only two members of the group whose name we get in the books—in the two novels, the group is led by a boy named Wiggins.

The Baker Street Irregulars in the books are all male, but the Netflix drama has made the group a mixture of male and female characters—leader Bea (played by Thaddea Graham), her sister Jessie (Darci Shaw), plus Billy (Jojo Macari), Spike (McKell David) and Leopold (Harrison Osterfield).

A previous version of the characters had Billy as its leader. In the 1899 play Sherlock Holmes, Wiggins has been replaced with Billy, who was able to get information for Holmes due to his job as a bellboy.

While The Irregulars are usually portrayed as street kids in Holmes movies and TV shows, the Netflix show adds in a member of royalty to the group in the form of Prince Leopold. This character is based on a real person, the hemophiliac youngest son of Queen Victoria who died aged 30.

Of course, the introduction of Leopold and the female members of The Irregulars are not the only changes the show makes to the Sherlock stories. For one, the series features elements of the supernatural, unlike the rational explanations that lay behind even the strangest events in the Arthur Conan Doyle works.

The show, however, is far from the only supernatural take on Sherlock. As the majority of Conan Doyle's Sherlock stories are in the public domain, pulp writers have faced the character off against other free-to-use characters like the supernatural creatures of HP Lovecraft (in the Neil Gaiman story "A Study in Emerald") and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde (in Loren D. Estleman's book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes). Other authors and video game creators have seen the detective battle vampires, ghosts and wizards, while the punningly-titled book Warlock Holmes saw the detective himself use magic to solve crimes.

The Irregulars, meanwhile, posits a world in which Sherlock is not the master detective he seems to be but rather someone who takes credits for others' work—an idea also explored by Enola Holmes. Speaking to the BBC, the series showrunner Tom Bidwell said, "Sherlock Holmes had a group of street kids he'd use to help him gather clues so our series is what if Sherlock was a drug addict and a delinquent and the kids solve the whole case whilst he takes credit."

The series, however, is not the only new adaptation to give us a new spin on the Baker Street Irregulars. In the BBC and Netflix's Sherlock, for example, Holmes relied on a network of homeless people, while in Elementary the detective relied on intel from a group of street vendors.

The Irregulars is streaming now on Netflix.