Archive for July, 2010

Every modern improvement which the march of civilisation demands [CHAS]

There were three reasons why I began writing again after all this time. One was the battle to save Undershaw, once the home of my literary agent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. That battle seems almost lost.

The second reason was the Robert Downey Jr film “Sherlock Holmes” which still seems to divide opinions as to whether it used or abused the image of Holmes.

The third reason was the brave step by the BBC and the Dr Who team to bring Sherlock Holmes into the 21st century. This all started when Mark Gatiss, one of the creators, writers, and executive producers of the series was called in by the BBC in 2002. The BBC were thinking of doing a Sherlock Holmes Christmas Special and knowing Mark was a Holmes “purist” they asked for his advice. Nothing came of it but later on he began to discuss with Steven Moffat (the other creator and also one of the writers and executive producers) how they might bring Holmes and I into the modern day.

Well! I write after the three Season 1 episodes have been broadcast (both in the UK and the USA) and the DVD has been released. The series appears to have been a great success receiving critical acclaim from even the most traditional Holmesians.

Each episode contains a number of Canonical links to look out for.

A Study In Pink – Pilot Version (herafter referred to as [PILO])

The pilot version of “A Study In Pink” appears only on the DVD. More details to follow.

Episode 1 – A Study In Pink (hereafter referred to as [PINK])

[PINK] is based on my first story [STUD] where I first met Holmes, settled into 221B Baker Street with him and became involved in the case of Jefferson Hope. [PINK] recreates our first meeting and our decision to share diggings. It then picks up a singular element of the Jefferson Hope case – the use of identical pills, some with poison and some without to exact revenge on men who has wronged him.

This episode makes the occasional references to other stories in the Canon. One of these was to a case that I have alluded to but never written up. This was the case of Mr James Phillimore, who, stepping back into his own house to get his umbrella, was never more seen in this world, which I mentioned in [THOR]. James Phillimore is the second of the apparent suicides in [PINK] and we see him before he dies going back to get his umbrella!

One of Holmes’ laconic messages, sent as a telegram to summon me in [CREE] was “Come at once if convenient – if inconvenient come all the same”. This is sent as (two) text messages by Holmes in [PINK].

When I meet Stamford in the park, I am holding a coffee cup with the word “Criterion” on it. This is a reference to the original meeting in [STUD] which took place in the Criterion Bar which in [PINK] has now become a coffee bar!

Billy, who greets Sherlock and me as we enter the cafe was the name of our page in the original stories.

The cabbie in [PINK] is called Jeff Hope – in [STUD] he was Jefferson Hope.

You may also notice the website that Sherlock uses to find the fourth victim’s phone number is called “Mephone” – a skit on the “iPhone”. Get it?

Episode 2 – The Blind Banker (hereafter referred to as [BLIN])

[BLIN] contains references to [DANC] in the use of a cipher and to certain elements of [SIGN] in that the murders are committed in closed (locked) rooms by someone with excellent climbing skills.

The pace and flow of this episode is different to Episodes 1 and 3 and has a different writer. Allusions to the Canon are few but Sherlock’s laziness rather than untideness are starting to get to me along with his complete disinterest in my interest in women.

My unsuccessful attempt with a self-service till in a supermarket is probably something that will ring true for many people.

This episode is better than most reviews say it is. It is best watched in isolation rather then straight after Episode 1.

Moriarty has the final word!

Episode 3 – The Great Game (hereafter referred to as [GREA])

[GREA] is based mainly on [BRUC] and [FIVE]. But there are snippets from all over the Canon.

The episode begins with a lesson on English that so many of us older citizens may think overdue. Then, after the credits we have the modern equivalent of Holmes using a pistol to “adorn the opposite wall with a patriotic V.R.” though this time it is a “smiley face” that is done in “bullet-pocks” (from [MUSG]).

Sherlock is bored and my blog of “the taxi-driver” case gets a bit of a critical review before the discussion about his understanding of the rotation of the Earth and the way he jealously guards access to his hard drive, brain or lumber room as he calls it  in [STUD]. This develops to the point where I have to leave “to get some air”.

A massive explosion follows but when I return Mycroft is there trying to get Sherlock interested in the Bruce-Partington Program. A civil servant called Adam West has been found dead and is suspected of stealing the plans (compare this to Cadogan West in [BRUC]). Note the competitive deducting by Sherlock (lilo) versus Mycroft (sofa) as to where I slept at Sarah’s.

Lovely quotation from Sherlock as we go off to see Lestrade – “Where would I be without my blogger?” similar to “I am lost without my Boswell” in [SCAN]. Then the envelope addressed to Sherlock that was in the strongbox recovered from the scene of the explosion is said, according to Sherlock, to be Bohemian stationery (another link to [SCAN] and possibly [CREE]). The writing on the envelope is said, by Sherlock, to have been done with a Parker Duofold pen with a Meridian nib – the very pen that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used.

There then follow four more problems for Sherlock to solve before he eventually solves the Bruce-Partington Program problem and the there’s a confrontation with Moriarty that is straight out of [FINA]. The cliff hanger ending is a Reichenbach Falls reprise alongside a swimming pool rather than above a waterfall.

We must wait until next year for an [EMPT] solution!

This was the first of the three episodes to be produced, after the pilot and may explain why [PINK] is so “polished”. [GREA] does not have the pace of [PINK] but is similar in style.

Unlocking Sherlock (only on the DVD)

“Unlocking Sherlock” explains the making of the series. More details to follow.

The DVD was released in the UK on August 30th with all three episodes (the first and third with commentaries by those who produced them), the 60 minute pilot which has not been broadcast and “Unlocking Sherlock” about the making of the series.

In the USA the DVD was released on November 9th, two days after the last episode  aired on the PBS network. The USA DVD has the same content as the UK DVD.

Season 2 will start on January 1st 2012 with A Scandal In Belgravia [SCAN] followed a week later by The Hounds of the Baskerville [HOUN] and the week after that by The Reichenbach Fall [FINA]. After each title I have given the main Canonical story that appears to be the main basis for the episode though, if Season 1 is anything to go by, these will not be the only references! Viewers in the USA will have to wait until May 2012.

I hear of Sherlock everywhere [GREE] – American Radio Part 2

At the end of Part 1, I said the heyday of Holmes on the radio in the USA was coming to an end with the series of 39 shows with Ben Wright as Holmes and Eric Snowden taking my part. This series lasted until June 1950.

Then, after a gap of five years, in 1955 the shows with the Gielgud and Richardson pairing mentioned in British Radio Part 1 were broadcast in the USA in a different order and with four extra shows. These were repeated in 1956.

In 1959, 36 of the Carleton Hobbs and Norman Shelley shows were aired for the first time in the USA.

Then after what appears to be a very long gap, in 1977 the CBS Mystery Theatre broadcast eleven shows with Kevin McCarthy as Holmes and Cort Benson as Watson. These shows are all from the Canon and include HOUN, SIGN, STUD, REDH, BOSC, SPEC, SCAN, BLUE, BERY, IDEN and GLOR.

I can then find details of three more CBS Mystery Theatre shows, all with Gordon Gould as Holmes but with a different Watson in each case – MUSG with Lloyd Batesta in 1981, NAVA with Bernard Grant in 1982, and NAVA again later in 1982 with William Griffiths.

Nine years later in 1991, Edward Petherbridge appeared as Holmes with David Peart as Watson in STUD followed by VALL, FIVE, TWIS, SILV, GREE, SCAN, BLUE, SPEC, BRUC, NOBL, SIXN and HOUN stretching into 1993.

I also have a note of a production of HOUN with Nicol Williamson and George Rose but I have no date for this and I cannot tell whether this is a radio broadcast or not.

There are two more series, both of which are still running and produced by Jim French for the Imagination Theatre. The first of these, The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes are all pastiches with Lawrence Albert as Watson but with a succession of different actors playing Holmes. These include John Gilbert, John Patrick Lowrie and Denis Bateman. In one episode, Watson (played by Lawrence Albert) impersonates Holmes and works with Mycroft in that episode and the previous one. Over 90 episodes have been produced (at the end of 2009) and scripts and recordings are available.

Following on from this, Jim French started another series in 2005 called The Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with John Patrick Lowrie as Holmes and Lawrence Albert again as Watson. This time they are all stories from the Canon and, as of March 2010, 23 shows have been produced.

So this brings this series itself to an end. The previous parts were:

  1. Sherlock Holmes on British Radio – Part 1
  2. Sherlock Holmes on British Radio – Part 2
  3. Sherlock Holmes on American Radio – Part 1

But, before I go I must acknowledge the following sources without whom this series could not have been produced:

There are still some broadcasts that I am trying to track down but if anyone  knows about any that I have missed then please drop me a line care of 221B Baker Street.

Everything is in order [CHAS]

When I heard recently that someone had set themselves a summer reading project to read the entire Canon of sixty stories including all the short stories and the four novels, I suggested an unusual approach to this would be to read the stories in the chronological order according to when the cases occurred rather than the more usual order of publication.

Using Vincent Delay‘s as the the most recent attempt to order the stories, despite my legendary problem with dates, this would be the order in which they should be read.

Before Holmes and I met:

  1. The Gloria Scott
  2. The Musgrave Ritual

Our meeting and the first case together, up to the Great Hiatus:

  1. A Study In Scarlet
  2. Shoscombe Old Place
  3. The Resident Patient
  4. The Beryl Coronet
  5. The Speckled Band
  6. Thor Bridge
  7. The Cardboard Box
  8. The Yellow Face
  9. The Greek Interpreter
  10. Charles Augustus Milverton
  11. The Valley of Fear
  12. The Reigate Squires
  13. Silver Blaze
  14. The Sign of the Four
  15. The Five Orange Pips
  16. The Noble Bachelor
  17. A Scandal In Bohemia
  18. The Stockbroker’s Clerk
  19. The Crooked Man
  20. The Second Stain
  21. The Naval Treaty
  22. The Dying Detective
  23. The Blue Carbuncle
  24. The Boscome Valley Mystery
  25. The Man with the Twisted Lip
  26. The Engineer’s Thumb
  27. The Hound of the Baskervilles
  28. A Case of Identity
  29. The Copper Beeches
  30. The Red-Headed League
  31. The Final Problem

After the Great Hiatus:

  1. The Empty House
  2. The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax
  3. The Norwood Builder
  4. The Sussex Vampire
  5. The Golden Pince-Nez
  6. The Red Circle
  7. Wisteria Lodge
  8. The Three Students
  9. The Solitary Cyclist
  10. Black Peter
  11. The Bruce-Partington Plans
  12. The Veiled Lodger
  13. The Missing Three-Quarter
  14. The Devil’s Foot
  15. The Abbey Grange
  16. The Dancing Men
  17. The Retired Colourman
  18. The Six Napoleons
  19. The Priory School
  20. The Three Garridebs
  21. The Three Gables
  22. The Illustrious Client
  23. The Creeping Man
  24. The Blanched Soldier
  25. The Mazarin Stone
  26. The Lion’s Mane
  27. His Last Bow
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