29th July, 3 Comments
By John Watson
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.
21st August, 4 Comments
By John Watson
He portrayed my good friend over 40 times in what the creator of the Granada Series, Michael Cox, meant to be the genuine article.
There was a dangerous and eccentric edge to his playing of the role which fascinated men and attracted women. His portrayal included some mannerisms that are so uncannily similar to those of Holmes that I find myself fooled occasionally!
The programmes spanned six series plus five feature-length episodes and a short episode broadcast as part of Telethon ’92. The latter has never been officially released though it is available on the Internet.
The whole project started with the best intentions – of keeping true to the stories as I had recounted them – but the commercial considerations of the powers that be at Granada and Jeremy’s failing health meant that the promise was not to be fully realised.
Some liberties were taken with the Canon. For instance, it was decided that I should not be married! So at the end of The Sign of Four, Mary and I go our separate ways. In The Mazarin Stone (from The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes), the penultimate episode to be shown, Jeremy was too ill for filming having collapsed at the end of filming (sadly somewhat prophetically) The Dying Detective (from His Last Bow). The script was rewritten using Holmes’ brother Mycroft in his place. The script also includes elements of the Three Garridebs (from The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes) with the result that David Stuart Davies (see below) calls it “a mess”. There was also a lost opportunity to bring in the poignant moment from The Three Garridebs where Holmes thinks I have been shot. Mycroft also appears to take my role in The Golden Pince-Nez (from The Return of Sherlock Holmes).
Two of the feature-length episodes strayed too far from the Canon for most people’s liking. These were The Last Vampyre (based perhaps too loosely on The Sussex Vampire from The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes) and The Eligible Bachelor (based on The Noble Bachelor from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes).
The Hound of the Baskervilles was another two-hour episode that was so disappointing that Jeremy Brett wanted to do it again. David Stuart Davies refers to the hound jokingly with a reference to Silver Blaze as “the dog that did nothing in the ratings”. The Sign of Four was the only feature length episode that provided a creditable performance.
In the midst of all this, in 1988 and 1989, Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke toured with a stage play entitled The Secret of Sherlock Holmes in which it is proposed that Moriarty is just a figment of Holmes fevered brain. I can scarcely put into words what I think of that!
You can judge for yourself as the Granada series is shortly to be available on DVD as Sherlock Holmes – Complete Collection.
If you want to know more about Jeremy Brett, his life and career, I can recommend two books. The first is my favourite as it’s written by someone who knows Holmes and I very well, David Stuart Davies, Bending The Willow. David’s enthusaism for Holmes led him to become a founding member of The Northern Mugraves Sherlock Holmes Society. He has also published Holmes of the Movies surveying the Great Detective on film.
The second is The Man Who Became Sherlock Holmes by Terry Manners – his first foray into the world of Holmes.
None of these books appear to be available new so you will need to consult a good second-hand bookseller to obtain a copy – or maybe your local library. There is also a very good website devoted to Jeremy Brett called The Brettish Empire.
Few people realise that one other person called Brett also portrayed Holmes. It would be an erudite scholar who knew the answer to that little puzzle!
26th June, 2 Comments
By John Watson
My literary agent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, having sadly passed away, I have, with some reluctance, had to take up other means of recording the singular gifts by which my friend , Mr Sherlock Holmes was distinguished.
I have endeavoured to give some account of my strange experiences in his company from the chance meeting that first brought us together in the matter of A Study in Scarlet [STUD] up to the final story that was published under the title of Shoscombe Old Place [SHOS] in The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, though chronologically that was not the last adventure we experienced together.
It was my intention to have stopped there but my hand has now been forced, however by recent events including yet another portrayal of ourselves on the large screen (the forthcoming “Sherlock Holmes” with Robert Downey Jr.), on the smaller screen (the BBC’s pilot that moves us into the present day) and, in a different vein, the threats against the continuing existence of Undershaw – once the home of my dear friend, Arthur Conan Doyle.
More of these events at some later date as I have now to set about establishing myself in this new world. Would that it would be as easy as wandering into the Criterion Bar and finding that a mutual friend knew of someone who was also looking for comfortable rooms at a reasonable price.
One final note – the four-letter abbreviations that appear in brackets above are the commonly-accepted abbreviations of the Canon established by Professor Jay Finlay Christ of the Baker Street Irregulars.