As famous friendships go, the Holmes and Watson partnership seems to have attracted more analysis than any other fictional duo. Partnership is an interesting word to use, inferring a degree of equality and co-dependency.
Modern adaptations have demonstrated this dependency in different ways – compare the childlike, needy petulance of Robert Downey Jnr to the lonely ex soldier helping a person of questionable mental health relationship between Sherlock and John in BBC Sherlock. During a scene in The Hounds of Baskerville, Lestrade comments that ‘seeing familiar faces appeals to his (Sherlock’s) sense of…’, to which john replies, ‘Aspergers?’ – said with a mix of truth and irony.
So who in the partnership is most dependent on the other? I have always had the impression that Watson would survive perfectly well enough without Holmes, but without Watson, Holmes would have floundered and remained a little-known amateur. Let us not underestimate the importance of Watson’s writings, without them the world would never even of heard of Sherlock Holmes. And whether he liked it or not, Holmes did need that fame. It brought him clients, including high-profile ones, and therefore the money to survive.