More elementary problems [STUD]

STRThe Woman is back with some more reviews though she is somewhat perturbed by references to “Irene” in some of these episodes . . .

Episode 4 – The Rat Race

A simple missing person case soon evolves into a murder case and Sherlock is about to be tested more than we have seen in previous episodes. He is faced with a case with drugs, his addiction is laid bare and Watson is worried of any sudden relapse. The opening scene sees a worried and confused Watson with Gregson as Sherlock is missing, then she tells him about Sherlock’s past drug addiction as she is so worried about her client. Then we skip back in time to the case and it all becomes clear.

There are moments of pure Sherlock joy with the acronym ‘IMLTHO’ confusing both Watson and us, of course it means ‘In My Less Than Humble Opinion’ – who will admit to using that in texts from now on? I may have done it. Twice.

This episode brings more of the dynamic between Sherlock and Watson and also Sherlock and Gregson. With Sherlock’s insistence that Watson get back in the dating game, he helps by looking up her date online. He’s not been married because of course he still is married! Watson is also annoyed by his interference, a big brother move. Deep down he’s showing he cares and she knows that, however much it annoys her. The final scene of the episode we see a different Sherlock, a broken and fragile man telling Gregson about his drug past. Again he is laid bare, emotional and then the real twist.

Gregson knew. How could he not?

Another great episode, the case again somewhat flaky but the character development is spot on. More please.

Episode 5 – Lesser Evils

With Watson having giving up her surgical career it was time we got to see if she missed it and yes she most certainly does. The case causes her to meet up with an old friend from her surgeon days.

The case involved the pair finding serial killer ‘The Angel’ who targeted terminally ill patients in the hospital. FYI producers, if you’re going to put David Constabile (The Wire, Damages, Breaking Bad) in an episode and expect me not to shout “it was him, he did it” then you’re an idiot. You never cast a major star as the culprit so within minutes of them entering I had the crime all tied up and Sherlock needed to catch up. They also let the camera follow the janitor around and focus on him, it was all just way too obvious.

The other side story with Watson helping her friend with a case showed that she can still do medical cases but she is tied to her past. But she seemed more resolute by the end, maybe Sherlock and Watson can be good for each other.
An ok episode, I enjoyed the Watson side story but the main plot was weak. Good to see David Constabile though, although a bit obvious…

Episode 6 – Flight Risk

Possibly the best episode of Elementary yet, with an enticing plane crash investigation that of course is not what it seems. The case sadly then falls away again but luckily there is a very good side story emerging – Watson has arranged to meet Holmes Snr.

Sherlock is adamant that he won’t go as his Dad will not meet them, Watson is absolutely sure that he will after conversing with him throughout her stay with Sherlock. Watson goes to dinner and meets Holmes Snr but a few questions in and it is clear this is not him. Sherlock hired an actor to pose as his father as he knew he would cancel and he didn’t want to disappoint Watson.

After Watson has discovered that Allister is not Holmes Snr she soon discovers that he is an old friend of Sherlock’s and has many stories from his drug fuelled days. We also get to hear a woman’s name mentioned.
“Irene”
*credits roll*

I have to wait a week? OH COME ON!

Episode 7 – One Way To Get Off

After the wait for this episode after the revelation at the end of the previous episode, it’s clear we are not going to get a quick explanation. Sherlock is now ignoring Watson and she desperate for answers heads to his rehab place and despite no luck from the doctor she finds more luck from the groundsman whom Sherlock shared an interest with -bees.

He also gives her some letters that Sherlock had left from Irene. Watson then obviously chooses to give them to Sherlock who then stuffs them in the blender. Watson is forced to give up asking about Irene. I’m so disappointed!
Whilst all this is going on there is also a case and this time the writers got this spot on. Finally! Gregson looks back into an old case after a serial killer seems to be repeating. He looks back into the old case and is worried that maybe he caught the wrong man and when he finds out that his partner at the time had planted evidence to frame their suspect, Gregson is forced to admit that he was wrong. Sherlock’s relationship with Gregson has been steadily growing and this time we see how much Sherlock respects Gregson. Sherlock finds out that the right person was arrested at the time and there is a new serial killer, Wade’s son. He had wanted to get to understand his father and the only way he could see that was a possibility, was to become him.

With the case all sorted it causes Sherlock to reflect. He mentions Irene

“I did not take her passing well”

She can’t be dead, can she?

Episode 8 – The Long Fuse

Here we have another episode which looked into the developing relationship between Sherlock and Watson. They are looking for a sponsor for Sherlock as Watson’s six week stay is coming to an end. Sherlock is his usual unhelpful self as he is unhappy with all the candidates until he finds a carjacking ex-con only because he’s sure she will dismiss him. She doesn’t and Sherlock is forced to admit that he is going to lose Watson

The case this episode is about a bomb that goes off several years after being planted. Sherlock must find out who planted it and he has to meet a flirty PR executive who he enjoys meeting with. Now if I told you that she was played by Lisa Edelstein who was of course Cuddy in House and much the same as Episode 5 it was obvious the main star was the guilty party. Otherwise this case was enticing and well thought out, the casting was the major problem.

Now with Sherlock accepting his new sponsor, Alfredo (Ato Essandoh from the movie Blood Diamond) and even suggesting they test car security systems as part of his job, it seems we might get a new regular cast member. At the moment there are only four main characters; Sherlock, Watson, Captain Gregson and Detective Bell so Alfredo would be a welcome addition.

With Watson’s time coming to an end my mind has already been wandering as to how the writers will keep her there. Is Sherlock going to have a relapse? Will she just end up staying on?

Episode 9 – You Do It To Yourself

We’re back to the case being the real side point of the story and Sherlock’s deducing skills are back to the ridiculous. I think if the series is going to progress more in the minds of Sherlock Holmes fans it needs to make the cases and the deducing skills needed much more realistic. That aside, this week we’re back focusing on Watson as her ex-boyfriend has been arrested and accused of a hit-and-run. He also a recovering addict seems to have fallen off the wagon before the accident and Watson confides in Sherlock but doesn’t tell him all the details.

Sherlock can of course find all the information that is needed and the case is indeed solved. Watson admits that she knew Liam (her ex) before he started using drugs and she gives a very good performance as she says how much she longs for someone she used to know. When Watson decides to go and wait for Liam at the rehab facility, even though she told him she wouldn’t, Sherlock arrives. She tells him that he doesn’t need to stay and he says “I have nowhere else to be. Not tonight”. The scene and the way they are sat on the bench shows their need for each other’s companionship and also how far their characters have developed through the episodes so far.

A very good episode but the cases have to get better but I can understand why this series is proving to be more successful than critics would have you believe.

Episode 10 – The Leviathan

Finally a case that has Sherlock confused and also quite energised to resolve the case that you can’t help but get swept away by it. ‘The Leviathan’ is the Fort Knox of bank vaults but somehow it has been robbed. The case itself is quite complicated and I would certainly confuse myself and you if I tried to explain it so you really have to watch it for yourself.

Both Sherlock and Watson have in recent episodes really developed as a team and when Watson’s family arrives in town it’s time for Sherlock to meet them. Of course he goes early to the arranged dinner to the surprise of Watson and at the end her mother realises that Watson is enjoying her time with Sherlock. Watson has always felt that her family were disappointed that she gave up her surgeon job and did not like her companion job but they just want her to be happy. Now that they have seen that she is with Sherlock they are also happier.

This really could be how Watson will stay with Sherlock, she is enjoying being with him.

Despite his rudeness and his quirks they have much common ground laid already with more being revealed each episode. They are still opposites in many ways and I do like how Watson is given more of a stand out part on her own, I feel I know her more than Sherlock. He still intrigues me and I still want to know more about Irene.
Definitely the best episode so far and hopefully many more to come after the Christmas break. I can also see that Episode 12 is titled “M.”

Could it be Moriarty?

I hope to have more for you in the New Year! Amazon are now listing the Season 1 DVD but no release date yet . . .

Holmes Christmas List 2012

About this time each year I try to get Holmes to compile his wish list for Christmas. Usually at the top of his list is a request for me stop bothering him with such nonsense and to start rewriting my records of his cases to stress the science of deduction instead of the romantic approach he believes I always use.

Undeterred I have persisted and gleaned from him this list of what he regards as passable though he insists he cannot be cluttering his brain with all this nonsense when he has cases that must be solved.

He seems to have some regard for the BBC Sherlock Series and in this vein he has shown an interest in Sherlock – The Casebook though he did throw it across the room when part way through it (I think it was at the section on ‘A Scandal in Belgravia’ – he can be very brusque when anyone else refers to ‘The Woman’). There is now a box set of both series of Sherlock if anyone still hasn’t seen them or just want to pour over every detail of ‘The Reichenbach Fall’ looking for the obvious clue that Steven Moffat says everyone has missed. I doubt that I could persuade him to let me put the Sherlock Calendar up though Mrs Hudson might (she particularly likes the “I am not your housekeeper” from the Mrs Hudson in the series and is thinking of getting Holmes a mug inscribed with it!)

The renewed interest in Holmes generated by the Sherlock series has resulted in even more ‘guides to everything about Holmes’. I did not think any more were needed but Holmes thinks the two from Nick Utechin – Amazing and Extraordinary Facts – Sherlock Holmes and Roger Johnson’s and Jean Upton’s – The Sherlock Holmes Miscellany as providing fresh insight.

Now we also have a Sherlock version of Cluedo using characters and locations from the BBC series.

The latest Mary Russell memoir has her and Holmes, like Webster’s dictionary, Morocco-bound in Garment of Shadows and this is back in the more serious vein after the somewhat lighter Pirate King.

I would add Sherlock’s Home – The Empty House as we still need funds to secure Undershaw although we have won some of the key battles there!

This is a much shorter list than usual but there are a lot of interesting books due to be published in the New Year and at some point we may get a DVD of Elementary (Holmes seems to think that Watson being a woman is particularly apt – I have no idea what he means!)

The same elementary class of deduction [LADY]

More from “The Woman” . . .

Elementary Episode Two – While You Were Sleeping

I feel I should start each of these reviews by saying that Elementary is an adaptation of Watson’s chronicles and should not be directly compared to the Canon or the BBC TV series Sherlock. Comparisons do exist but I did enjoy the pilot and I also found the second episode to be enjoyable.

Sadly the plot of this episode is probably as weak as that of the pilot. Clues seem to be guessed rather than deduced but I am enjoying seeing the relationship between Holmes and Watson develop. This episode gave us Watson meeting up with an ex-boyfriend and of course Holmes meddled and found himself told off by Watson. He is finding out more about her, what pushes her buttons and she has found out that nothing can be kept from him!

Miller’s Holmes is still quirkier than other portrayals and this episode seemed more ‘House’ in style. The addiction meetings were a good reminder of Holmes’ past and we know he has kept this secret from Captain Gregson. There is still more to why he left London. Will we ever find out what happened? Will Moriarty make an appearance?

Right now Miller and Liu are keeping me returning to watch for more, other characters are extremely weak compared to these two. I’m not sure if that is the point but other programmes survive because of a good cast, take Monroe in ‘Grimm’ or Kalinda in ‘The Good Wife’. That’s why I hope Moriarty could make an appearance to spark up some more intrigue and develop the story more.

After the bees in the pilot, the ending of this episode has Holmes with his trusty violin. This felt more forced than placed into the story however I did find myself smiling. The episode plodded along but the crimes aren’t too difficult to solve and you don’t find you get a real “solved it” moment. I like the way Holmes and Watson are developing but the show needs a sudden influx of oomph from somewhere.

Elementary Episode 3 – Child Predator

First off, finally we have a plot that twists and turns that the previous episodes had severely lacked. Producers tried to throw us off with the topless Miller at the start of the episode with the character himself admitting he had a shirt somewhere!

Holmes and Watson are engaging more as characters by each episode and this one gave us the more emotional side to Holmes. The story is far darker than the previous plots, psychopaths, child abuse and serial abduction. The park scene with kidnap victim Adam was one of the real moments of the episode, just him and Holmes. You feel that Holmes has met someone with many traits the same as him and this is what made this case more intriguing.

Holmes is more emotional in this episode but still remains high with his ego and intellectual snobbery also taking centre stage. I think having the female Watson also brings more emotion to a story like this and I think it helped bring the two closer than previously before.  Watson isn’t in the background, she’s as important as Holmes is. They have developed a partnership and it’s continuing to keep me coming back each week to see more.

Also have we met Moriarty? Adam (not Worth, his surname is Kempler) is as smart, possibly smarter, as Holmes and these two could easily be pitted against each other again. If this was the case he would be a younger Moriarty and maybe this would be the brilliance of it. As I have mentioned before the show needs another of the main characters to help guide through this series and it’s between Moriarty and Mycroft for making an appearance I think.

This series has finally started to find its feet, roll on Episode Four!

Interesting, though elementary [HOUN]

As the limitations of my army pension and Mrs Hudson’s reluctance to have a satellite dish fitted to 221B prevents me from seeing the latest incarnation of Holmes and I on the small screen, I have asked someone of more independent means, whom we will refer to for the moment as “The Woman”, to review the “Elementary” series, starting with the pilot episode (which I have managed to see myself).

Finally ‘Elementary’ hit UK screens this week after months of suspense and already it has picked up mixed reviews in the US. The very popular and successful BBC series ‘Sherlock’ is always uttered in the same breath, the Robert Downey Jr films get muted noise. ‘Elementary’ was never going to be ‘Sherlock’ and whilst the wait for Season Three is agony, ‘Elementary’ takes us on a different interpretation of the great detective Sherlock Holmes.

There are three big changes to the Sherlock Holmes adaptations we have seen before.

The first major change is Joan Watson played by Lucy Liu (Charlie’s Angels, Kill Bill, Ally McBeal) who is hired by Holmes Senior to babysit Sherlock after his rehab. She makes the perfect accompaniment to Sherlock’s insulting and rude behaviour. Having a female Watson makes me think there will be a romantic will they-won’t they storyline building.

Have I been watching too much American TV?

I like the female aspect despite this being against everything written before, it’s a new angle that has had me intrigued and Lucy Liu was a superb casting.

The second change is no 221B. Sherlock is now in New York and there is no Mrs Hudson either. I guess Joan is enough “woman” for Sherlock.

The third change, the man himself – Sherlock Holmes. He’s a tattooed, unshaven, unkempt scruff but somehow made me think of Captain Jack Sparrow with his way of doing things. Jonny Lee Miller (Hackers, Trainspotting, Dexter) makes a good Sherlock and despite certain odd un-Sherlock behaviours he is very likeable. I found the baseball score guessing scene very silly as he had no basis for making that prediction. His physic powers are very strong in ‘Elementary’. He also brings new sex appeal to the character and is frequently seen shirtless, not that I was complaining!

After reading a few reviews before of this I wasn’t expecting much from the pilot, however I found it to be enjoyable and I didn’t let my eyes leave the screen for one minute. The programme was fast paced and missing a part of it would have been hard to keep up with, or so I had thought. The crime they need to solve is over complicated and doesn’t need to be. When it had finished I had thought it probably wouldn’t have mattered if I had missed parts of the middle section but anyway this was just the first episode.

Here are my other highlights of the first episode:

  • Sherlock knowing Joan’s father had an affair because he had googled it
  • He keeps bees
  • Joan’s comments about there being no mirrors in his house “I think you know a lost cause when you see one”
  • The episode ended with the Elvis Costello song “Watching The Detectives”

I’ve often noticed a TV programme’s popularity can be assessed in recent times via several modes of social networking. The most popular source is from micro blogging site Tumblr. Doctor Who, Merlin, Sherlock and even Downton Abbey are particularly popular amongst the Tumblr community. Elementary is probably not yet at the height of those mentioned yet but there is certainly enough evidence to believe that it’s more popular than people would have you believe.

‘Elementary’ has been extended to a 22 episode run and despite many critics writing this off and many fans also doing the same I still believe there is space for both ‘Sherlock’ and ‘Elementary’ and they should be reviewed separately. I would however, like to be able to look at both Sherlock and Watson in ‘Elementary’ and know they were those characters, right now you could name them anything and I’d believe you.

But my last point and one for you to think over – did Miller’s Sherlock remind anyone else of Matt Smith’s Doctor Who? Enjoy your second watch of the pilot to see if you agree.

I hope to persuade “The Woman” to review other episodes throughout the season.

It is with a heavy heart [FINA]

It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen once again as I did to write those words with which I began The Final Problem, two years after the disappearance of Holmes with Moriarty over the Reichenbach Falls.

It seems that almost every portrayal of Holmes and I will, at some point, take Holmes into that great abyss once again, leaving me with a void in my life.

I have been quiet for over two months as regular readers will have noticed. It was almost two years following the events of May 1891 that circumstances (as I related in The Empty House) forced my hand, much in the same vein as caused me to begin this new series of writings (as I have related in the About page of my notes).

The new series of Sherlock from the BBC, in its final episode, The Reichenbach Fall, has done it again, and created doubt in many minds about the true nature of Holmes abilities. The public support has been overwhelming but as the BBC Sherlock Series 2 makes its way around the world I must refrain from providing too much detail, with particular reference to our American friends, and therefore I will delay any discussion of the events that led up to this latest tragedy.

I will, instead, endeavour to concentrate on the immediate future and the many examples of the work of he whom I shall always regard as the best and wisest man whom I have ever known.

Books

I have the following books already awaiting review:

Molly Carr’s In Search of Doctor Watson (revised Second Edition with my picture on the cover!), The Sign of Fear and A Study in Crimson. She also has a new book due out this year (see below)

Kate Workman’s Rendezvous at the Populaire

The Outstanding Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes by Gerard Kelly

Mr Holmes and Dr Watson – Their Strangest Cases

The Sherlock Holmes Companion – An Elementary Guide by Daniel Smith

Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and Devon – a complete tour guide

The following books are due later this year:

Three sets of audiobooks read by Edward Hardwicke Three Tales of Betrayal, Three Tales of Intrigue and Three Tales of Avarice (these are not due until April but Amazon appears to be shipping them already!)

A Sherlock Holmes Who’s Who (With of Course Dr.Watson) by Molly Carr (March)

The Secret Archives of Sherlock Holmes by June Thomson (April)

Sherlock Holmes at the Breakfast Table by Leslie Coombs (May)

Pocket Sherlock Holmes Quizzes and Puzzles by The Puzzle Society (June)

The Lost Casebooks of Sherlock Holmes: Three Volumes of Detection and Suspense by Donald Thomas (July)

The Sherlock Holmes Miscellany by Roger Johnson and Jean Upton (July)

Garment of Shadows: A Novel of Suspense Featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes by Laurie King (September)

Films

I have the following films awaiting review:

BBC Sherlock Series Two (with the Series One and Series Two soundtracks)

The Sherlock Holmes Society of London 1959-1974 (films from the Society’s archives)

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (with Ronald Howard as Holmes)

The following films are due later this year:

Murder by Decree (April)

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (May)

In Addition

I plan to continue the series I started this year on Holmes on TV and I hope to bring us up to the present (including the BBC Sherlock Series and perhaps the pilot for the forthcoming CBS series).

I hope to return to my regular writing soon . . .

Holmes on Television – Part 2: 1972 to 1979

After a generally good start in the thirty years since Holmes first appearance on television, the Seventies turned out to be a decade that is probably best forgotten in relation to Holmes on the small screen.

Following the repeated series with Peter Cushing as Holmes in 1970 on BBC2 the next appearance of Holmes on the small screen was in the USA in a 90 minute adaptation of The Hound of The Baskervilles on ABC-TV on the 12th of February 1972. Stewart Granger played an unconvincing Holmes with Bernard Fox as me.

It was not well-received by the critics. Would you be convinced by a Holmes wearing a string tie living in a Baker Street on top of a hill overlooking St Paul’s Cathedral? Perhaps the most interesting cast member was William Shatner as Stapleton, three years after his role as Captain James T Kirk in the original Star Trek series. There will be more direct link with Star Trek as we shall see later.

But worse was to some. Back in Britain, the BBC’s Comedy Playhouse was a series of one-off 30 minute comedies, the idea being to see which the audiences liked that could be made into their own series. John Cleese had fallen out with the rest of the Monty Python team and was looking for “something completely different”.

So, on the 18th of January 1973 , the same day as the last of the current series of Monty Python was being shown on BBC2, Cleese appeared as Holmes with William Rushton as me (all is forgiven, Nigel Bruce) in “The Strange Case of the Dead Solicitors”.

A more serious attempt followed on the BBC late the following year though this should really be excluded from “Holmes on Television” as he wasn’t in it! “Dr Watson and The Darkwater Hall Mystery: A Singular Adventure” as its title suggests leaves everything up to me (played by Edward Fox). Its 73 minutes is like a foretaste of the recent BBC Sherlock series with many canonical references (including STUD, BLAC, MUSG and SPEC). I appear to have some fun with a Spanish maid but as the “action” appears to pre-date SIGN I had not met my future wife at that point.

Nearly three years pass and then, in 1976, “Holmes in New York” appears on NBC-TV with Holmes being played by James Bond, I mean, Roger Moore with John Steed (Patrick Macnee) of the Avengers impersonating Nigel Bruce impersonating me. Nevertheless, the plot has some points of interest. Just what is that statuette on Moriarty’s desk and what might it have to do with the person playing Moriarty in this two-hour (too) long television movie?

The following year, in the series “Classics Dark and Dangerous”, came a 30 minute dramatisation of Silver Blaize with Christopher Plummer as Holmes and Thorley Waters as me. This was one of a series of six adaptations of horror and mystery stories. It was broadcast on ITV in Great Britain on the 27th of November  1977. Christopher Plummer is a cousin of Nigel Bruce and portrayed Holmes in a dry, distant manner and chose to stress Holmes use of cocaine by wearing a pale foundation. Thorley Walters plays me as “an overgrown schoolboy” according to one review.

This was preceded on the 18th September by John Cleese, this time with Arthur Lowe (of “Dads Army” fame) as me in “The Strange Case of the End of Civilisation As We Know It”, another parody on ITV lasting 54 minutes. Best forgotten is the general view.

Then in 1978, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore appeared as Holmes and me in “The Hound of the Baskervilles . . . Yet another adventure of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson by A Conan Doyle”. This 84 minute parody is also best forgotten!

The BBC TC series “Crime Writers” covered “The Great Detective” later in 1978 with Jeremy Clyde as Holmes and Michael Cochrane as me.

The Seventies was somewhat redeemed at the very end with a series of 24 pastiches, essentially a reworking some of the same scripts as were used in the 1954-55 Sherlock Holmes series starring Ronald Howard. This time Geoffrey Whitehead played Holmes with Donald Pickering as me.

Generally speaking, none of what occurred in the Seventies has made it to DVD which may say something about its quality, so much of what I have written is based on what others have told me about these programmes.

The exception is the last series with Geoffrey Whitehead as Holmes. Some of these episodes have appeared on YouTube and a good search engine should help you locate them.

If anyone can advise on the availability of any of the programmes on video, here or in the USA, I will be happy to pass on the details.

So, the Seventies came to a close with little to recommend it to Holmes fans. But the Eighties would eventually bring us a fresh approach to my original stories and a Holmes, who on the television screen, would rival, and some say surpass, Basil Rathbone’s portrayal on the cinema screen.

Holmes on Television – Part 1: 1937 to 1970

The first appearance of Holmes on television was in the USA.

Louis (or Luis)  Hector, who had played Holmes on the radio from 1934 to 1935, played Holmes alongside William Podmore as me in “The Three  Garridebs” an adaptation of the story from The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes”. David Stuart Davies’ excellent book, “Starring Sherlock Holmes”, gives a fairly detailed account of this black and white, 30 minute, first appearance broadcast by NBC on the 27th November 1937.

It was another 12 years, in 1949, before Holmes appeared again on television. Again this was in the US and was an adaptation of “The Speckled Band” with Alan Napier as Holmes and Melville Cooper as me in a 28 minute broadcast on CBS. Alan Napier would later play Batman’s manservant Alfred in the Adam West Batman’s series in the 1960s.

Three years later on the 29th July 1951, Holmes appeared for the first time on British television on the BBC in a children’s programme, “For the Children – The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone” with Andrew Osborn as Holmes and Philip King as me.

Later that year Holmes appeared in six 30 minutes adaptations on the BBC in a series entitled “We present Alan Wheatley as Mr Sherlock Holmes in …”. Alan Wheatley would be later remembered for playing the Sheriff of Nottingham in the television series “Robin Hood” alongside Richard Greene (who played Sir Henry Baskerville in “The Hound of the Baskervilles” with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce). This series included “The Empty House” (broadcast on the 20th October 1951), “A Scandal in Bohemia” (27th October), “The Dying Detective” (3rd November), “The Reigate Squires” (17th November 1951), “The Red-Headed League” (24th November) and finally “The Second Stain” (1st December). I was played by Raymond Francis, whom British readers may remember as Chief Inspector Lockhart in the series about Scotland Yard called “No Hiding Place”.

A couple of years later in the US, Basil Rathbone appeared as Holmes in a 30 minute pastiche (the first television programme to stray from the Canon). This CBS broadcast on the 26th May 1953 was entitled “Suspense: The Adventure of the Black Baronet” in which I was played by Martyn Green as Nigel Bruce was too ill (he died later that year). The story was written by John Dickson Carr and Adrian Conan Doyle, son of Sir Arthur.

The following year in the US there was the first major series of Holmes adventures on television. This starred Ronald Howard as Holmes and Howard Marion Crawford as me (he had played Holmes on the radio in Britain). These are mainly pastiches with one story, “The Red-Headed League”, from the Canon. All 39 episodes were about 25 minutes long and were broadcast weekly stretching over a whole year from the 18th October 1954 to the last episode on the 17th October 1955.

Nothing was seen of Holmes on television for the next nine years until Douglas Wilmer appeared as Holmes in “Detective: The Speckled Band” on BBC1 in the UK on the 18th May 1964. Nigel Stock was Watson. This was one of a series of stories featuring different detectives. The BBC was looking for something to follow their succesful “Maigret” series, which had starred Rupert Davies who introduced each programme in the Detective series. The following year, twelve more Holmes adventures, all from the Canon, appeared on the BBC in 50 minute episodes with the Wilmer and Stock pairing.

Then there was a three-year gap before Holmes appeared again in the BBC series “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes” series of 16 adaptations from the Canon. Peter Cushing replaced Douglas Wilmer as Holmes but Nigel Stock was Watson again. All sixteen were shown on the BBC1 in 1968 and 12 of them were shown again, this time in colour, on BBC2 in 1970. The really sad fact about this series is that only 5 episodes remain (A Study in Scarlet, both parts of  The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Boscombe Valley Mystery, The Sign of Four and The Blue Carbuncle). It was BBC policy at the time to wipe and re-use tapes once they were judged to be of no further use. This seems very short-sighted now but the first domestic video recorders were still a couple of years away.

In the next part of this series, we enter the 1970s and we come across some rather questionable interpretations of Holmes’ adventures, as we make our way to the mid-1980s and encounter what some see as the best portrayal of Holmes on television or maybe on-screen anywhere . . .

DVDs available in the UK:

Ronald Howard – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Douglas Wilmer – Sherlock Holmes (only the US version available as an import)

Peter Cushing – The Sherlock Holmes Collection (only 5 of the series)

DVDs available in the US:

Ronald Howard – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Douglas Wilmer – Sherlock Holmes

Peter Cushing – The Sherlock Holmes Collection (only 5 of the series)

Books used in compiling this series:

UK: Starring Sherlock Holmes by David Stuart Davies; Sherlock Holmes on Screen by Alan Barnes; Sherlock Holmes – A Centenary Celebration by Allen Eyles

USA: Starring Sherlock Holmes by David Stuart Davies; Sherlock Holmes on Screen by Alan Barnes; Sherlock Holmes – A Centenary Celebration by Allen Eyles

On the fourth day of the New Year [FIVE]

As we enter 2011, I thought I would share with you my plans for the coming year.

I have several books to review. These include Mr Holmes and Dr Watson – Their Strangest Cases by Edith Meiser, The Official Papers Into The Matter Known As The Hound of the Baskervilles (DCC/1435/89 refers) by Kieron Freeburn, The Lost Stories of Sherlock Holmes edited by Tony Reynolds, a series of books by Molly Carr including The Sign of Fear, A Study In Crimson and In Search of Doctor Watson, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and Devon, a tour guide by Brian Pugh, Paul Spiring and Sadru Bhanji. There is also the audiobook, The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries by John Taylor read by Benedict Cumberbatch that I have yet to review.

New books expected this year include Watson’s Afghan Adventure – How Sherlock Holmes’ Dr.Watson Became an Army Doctor due January 24th, Reasoning Backwards: Sherlock Holmes’ Guide to Effective Problem Solving due March 1st, The Sherlock Holmes School of Self-Defence: The Manly Art of Bartitsu: as Used Against Professor Moriarty, due April 27th, and The Strange Return of Sherlock Holmes due any day now.

Finally, in the books section, I will be looking at a series of children’s reading books based on the Sherlock Holmes stories from Lerner Books.

I have also received  a DVD of Robert Stephens in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, The BBC Sherlock Holmes Collection (which includes Peter Cushing in A Study in Scarlet, The Boscombe Valley Mystery, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Sign of Four and the Blue Carbuncle, Richard Roxburgh in another version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, Rupert Everett in The Case of the Silk Stocking, and Douglas Henshall in The Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle) and Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes.

I plan to follow up the popular articles about Holmes on the radio (in the UK, parts 1 and 2, and in the USA, parts 1 and 2) with Holmes on television and on film.

We can expect a new series of BBC Sherlock in the autumn and a new Robert Downey Jr Sherlock Holmes film at the end of the year.

So, all in all, it looks like a busy year for all those who admire the best and wisest man whom I have ever known.

Holmes Christmas List 2010

As happened last year, with the case of the Blue Carbuncle just chronologically around the corner again and people beginning to think about gifts, Holmes has compiled his Christmas list.

He did not get everything that was on last year’s list but this year’s list is completely new. I have provided links to amazon.co.uk and amazon.com where possible.

1. Top of the list this year is the DVD of the BBC Sherlockwith a contemporary take on the classic stories set in present-day London. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as me, his loyal friend. We couldn’t be more different, but Sherlock’s inspired leaps of intellect coupled with my pragmatism forges an unbreakable alliance.

Across three, 90-minute, thrilling, scary, action-packed and highly entertaining television movies, Sherlock and I navigate a maze of cryptic clues and lethal killers to get at the truth. Holmes has come out of the fog. With sparkling scripts and unforgettable performances from the two leads, this is Sherlock for a new generation. The DVD contains all 3 episodes and the original Pilot.

Amazon UK: Sherlock [DVD] and Sherlock [Blu-ray] , Amazon USA: Sherlock [DVD] and Sherlock [Blu-ray]

2. Linked to the BBC Sherlock is this neat, compact magnifying glass that every modern Sherlock needs. Watch Sherlock in A Study In Pink to see how he uses it. All you now need is the scarf, the coat and his endearing manner with all those about him and you’re set to go sleuthing this Christmas!

Amazon UK: Eschenbach Magnifying Glass

3. The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries, which I mentioned in Part 2 of Holmes on British Radio , has just been released. These are four new Holmes stories with a railway theme written by John  Taylor who wrote The Undiscovered Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. These new stories are “An Inscrutable Masquerade”, “The Conundrum of Coach 13”, “The Trinity Vicarage Larceny” and “The 10.59 Assassin”.

According to Taylor, in a drawer in my desk, I have a locked cedarwood chest containing notes referring to some of Holmes’ cases that, for one reason or another, never saw the light of day. Now, for the first time, I have decided to reveal the truth to the world. In these four thrilling stories, Holmes experiments with the science of ballistics, locates some missing gold bullion, investigates the theft of a large amount of money and solves the baffling mystery of the Stovey murder.

If all that wasn’t enough then the stories are read by the newest Sherlock – Benedict Cumberbatch. Just one question then. Why is Sherlock (Cumberbatch) reading these stories rather than me (Martin Freeman)?

Amazon UK: The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries, Amazon USA: The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries (sorry but not available in the USA in time for Christmas but you could try The Unopened Casebook of Sherlock Holmes instead).

4. I have already reviewed this digitally-restored collection of the 14 films with Basil Rathbone as Holmes.

The multi-million pound restoration is discussed in a 5 minute featurette with Robert Gitt, Head Preservation Officer at the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Along with the beautifully restored films are audio commentaries by Sherlock Holmes Expert David Stuart Davies (author of numerous books on Holmes and Rathbone) on The Scarlet Claw, The Woman In Green, Sherlock Holmes Faces Death and The Hound of the Baskervilles. There is also an audio commentary by another Holmes Expert Richard Valley (acclaimed author and publisher of Scarlet Street Mystery Magazine who in Amazon’s review is said to be currently penning a book on Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes although he sadly died in 2007) on The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.

Richard Valley has also provided production notes and the films are accompanied by photo galleries, movie posters and theatrical trailers.

Amazon UK: Sherlock Holmes – The Definitive Collection, Amazon USA: The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection (different packaging in the USA)

5. Again I have already reviewed Sherlock Holmes for Dummies and despite its American bias and a couple of errors (my wife becoming Mary Marston instead of Morstan and mistaking the blue plaque above the Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street for a legitimate historical plaque) it is still a handy guide to the stories, Britain as it was at that time, the characters in the stories, our portrayals in films, on television and on the stage, etc.

Amazon UK: Sherlock Holmes for Dummies (paperback), Sherlock Holmes for Dummies (Kindle edition), Amazon USA: Sherlock Holmes for Dummies (paperback), Sherlock Holmes for Dummies (Kindle edition)

6. Continuing with the guides, I have now reviewed Close to Holmes – Alistair Duncan’s popular guide to Holmes and Conan Doyle’s London.

I have already reviewed his two other books, Eliminate the Impossible and The Norwood Author.

Close to Holmes is a handy guide that will just about fit in your pocket as you explore London as it is today and how it looked in the late nineteenth century to us and to my literary agent Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Alistair Duncan’s research is carefully done, as usual, and he treats us to pictures of many of the locations as they were and as they are now.

Amazon UK: Close to Holmes (paperback), Close to Holmes (Kindle edition), Amazon USA: Close to Holmes (paperback), Close to Holmes (Kindle edition)

7. The second edition of Christopher Redmond’s Sherlock Holmes Handbook sums up this Canadian scholar’s lifetime expertise about Holmes. The first edition appeared in 1993 and this new edition catches up on new films and books and the advent of the Internet.

It is still one of my favourite guides providing a summary of each story in the Canon, the characters in the stories, the cases I chose not to publish, our rooms at 221B, Holmes’s methods and so on. In the section on Crime and Punishment, as well as a summary of British law (and law enforcement) as it was then, there is a summary of other detectives’ work before, during and after Holmes’ career.

Amazon UK: Sherlock Holmes Handbook, Amazon USA: Sherlock Holmes Handbook

8. The exhaustively annotated, ten-volume edition of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Edgar Award winner Leslie S. Klinger ends with The Apocrypha of Sherlock Holmes.

As is well known, Holmes’ adventures have inspired a vast body of literature. Since the 1920s these “writings about The Writings” have contributed fascinating new insights into the stories, enhancing the pleasure of reading them.

This final volume of The Sherlock Holmes Reference Library covers more “adventures” of Sherlock Holmes than those that are contained in the sixty tales. This deposit of extra-Canonical material is known by Sherlockian scholars as The Apocrypha.

Amazon UK: This volume is not yet listed by amazon.co.uk, Amazon USA: The Apocrypha of Sherlock Holmes

9. Until Benedict Cumberbatch came along most people hailed Jeremy Brett’s portrayal of Holmes as the best ever.

Bending the Willow, David Stuart Davies wonderful tribute to Jeremy who said that he wanted his interpretation of Holmes to “bend the willow, but not break it.”

Apparently a second edition of this fascinating and perceptive study is available but I have not yet seen it. The second hand copies listed on Amazon are quite expensive so it may be worth contacting the publishers direct.

Amazon UK: Bending the Willow, Amazon USA: Bending the Willow

10. Finally the Sherlock Holmes film. This was originally top of the list but I am now undecided about this as my initial enthusiasm for it has dissipated in the wake of the BBC Sherlock. I now wonder if anyone will really be able to capture what Holmes and I were up to in Victorian times. Some of the liberties taken with the Canon now begin to jar – such as Holmes appearing never to have met my future wife when in reality we both met her at the same time in 221B at the start of The Sign of The Four. Still, it is a very enjoyable film and the new one in production has Leslie Klinger advising them and with the addition of Stephen Fry as Mycroft this should help to ensure greater fidelity.

Amazon UK: Sherlock Holmes [DVD], Sherlock Holmes [Blu-ray], Amazon USA: Sherlock Holmes [DVD], Sherlock Holmes [Blu-ray]

This was, as I predicted, a bumper year of Holmes books and other paraphernalia following the Sherlock Holmes film and Sherlock TV series and with follow-ups to both in production yet another bumper year may be soon upon us.

Eliminate the Impossible

Eliminate the Impossible” is the first of two books by Alistair Duncan on Holmes. His second Holmes book, “Close to Holmes” in which he looks at the historical connections between London, Holmes and my literary agent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, will be the subject of another review at a later date.

Alistair has also written a book about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Norwood Author“, which I have already reviewed. Currently, he is writing another Doylean book about Undershaw, the house that Sir Arthur had built at Hindhead which remains under threat from developers. This book is not due to be published until next year, by which time the fate of Undershaw will almost certainly have been decided.

Eliminate the Impossible” runs to 244 pages of which the first three-quarters cover Holmes on the page and the last quarter looks at Holmes on the screen.

I note that he prefers to the term “Sherlockian” which is usually reserved for Holmes fans abroad whilst “Holmesian” is supposedly the term used in the UK. I have always found “Holmesian” a bit cumbersome – “Sherlockian” leaves no-one in doubt who you’re talking about and in the BBC Sherlock series we’re on first name terms with the main protagonists for the first time!

May I also raise a point about our address. It was 221B Baker Street – note the capital “B” after 221. Flats are designated with a capital letter not a lower case letter. So where “221b” has been used “221B” should be used instead.  Even the Dummies Guide gets this wrong! But congratulations to the BBC Sherlock props department for getting this right and commiserations to the Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street for getting it wrong on their unofficial blue plaque.

Part One – Holmes on the page

This covers the origins of the stories, Holmes’s influence on crime fiction, his appearance and character before dealing with the “Heroes  and Villains” as Alistair calls them, beginning with me (I assume I am a hero?) His selection is interesting. It includes two women and I will leave you to guess who they are!

Following this is a short discussion about the “timeline” of the stories which has always, and continues to be, a subject of much discussion (and many books)! Alistair picks out D Martin Dakin’s and Leslie Klinger’s chronologies and sets them against the dates found on the Internet. The order of the stories as listed here puts the last three stories from The Case-Book in the order in which they are now usually published (VEIL, SHOS, RETI) rather than the order in which they originally appeared in The Case-Book (RETI, VEIL, SHOS).

For each of the sixty stories, he then gives the date of publication (in The Strand except for the first two stories which were first published elsewhere), the date the story was set in (just the year) and the identity of the client. Following a brief synopsis he then presents some notes about the story, usually about the dates involved, but sometimes about the real identities of the people involved, and some of the puzzles and inconsistencies.

His own inconsistencies are that he leaves “The Adventure of” off all the stories in The Memoirs and again changes the order of the last three stories – this time to SHOS, RETI and VEIL. I think he has the date of publication of SHOS in The Strand incorrectly as January 1927 when it should be April 1927 making it the last to be published.

In the general introduction to the stories he sensibly suggests that you read the story first before reading his notes and doing it the other way round is likely to confuse matters.

Part Two – Holmes on the screen

This looks at Holmes portrayal in film and on television by looking at a selection of actors who have portrayed my good friend. Alistair attempts to classify them as either “good” or “bad” and “remembered” or “forgotten” making the point that some portrayals (“good” or “bad”) might only be remembered by Sherlockians rather than the general public.

He has left out all the comic portrayals presumably on the grounds that they are universally viewed as “bad” and “best forgotten”.

Rathbone and Brett come out best in this analysis with perhaps Douglas Wilmer coming in third. Alistair puts Brett just out in front and probably the favourite for those who would see the Rathbone films as largely set in their own time rather than the time of the original stories.

Alistair recommends David Stuart Davies book, “Starring Sherlock Holmes“, for more detail about Holmes on film and television (and stage and radio for that matter!)

As Alistair’s book was written in 2008, it predates the Robert Downey Jr film “Sherlock Holmes” and more importantly the BBC Sherlock series. It will be interesting to speculate where these two very different portrayals would be in the “good”, “bad”, “remembered” and “forgotten” categories. Cumberbatch’s Holmes has a good chance of being in the category “good and remembered” if they can maintain the standard of the first series (mostly ignoring The Blind Banker) whereas Robert Downey Jr may end up in “bad but remembered” if they cannot raise their game!

Nevertheless, Alistair Duncan succeeds, as he sets out in his introduction, “to bring a fresh perspective” to some of the puzzles concerning “the anomalies in the stories and the films”. Whilst he “conceived it as an introduction to the canon” it does, as he hoped, “appeal to long-standing fans as well as novice Sherlockians”.

This book, like its successor “Close to Holmes“, is available on the Kindle although Amazon have not linked the two versions properly on their website so you will need to go to the Kindle store to find it.

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