Posts Tagged ‘Baker Street Irregulars’

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.

Baker Street Irregulars

The Baker Street Irregulars were recruited by Holmes to perform various missions, generally to search London following clues and to go places where Holmes himself could not.

I first encountered them in A Study in Scarlet as six dirty little scoundrels who stood in a line like so many dispreputable statuettes. Their chief was the energetic and inventive Wiggins. Holmes explained to me that there was more work to be got out one of these little beggars than a dozen of the police force.

The mere sight of an official looking person seals men’s lips. These youngsters went everywhere, however, and heard everything. They were as sharp as needles too and all they wanted was organisation.

Holmes paid them a shilling (five new pence, I understand, in current coinage) plus expenses with a guinea (one pound and one shilling in old money and therefore 105p in new money) bonus to the one who found the object of their search.

Holmes used the Irregulars to hunt down the cab driven by Jefferson Hope in A Study In Scarlet, to find the ship Aurora in The Sign of Four, and to watch over Henry Wood at Aldershot in The Crooked Man.

I note that the Irregulars have appeared in a number of interesting films and productions, including Without A Clue (1990) where they took delight in tormenting the incompetent Holmes played by Michael Caine. The various portayals of Holmes and myself will be the subject of a future discussion – there are few that I could say I approve of!

Most recently they appeared in a television production, Sherlock Holmes & The Baker Street Irregulars, where their sharp wits saved Holmes from an accusation of murder and helped to foil an audacious robbery while rescuing members of their own gang. Jonathan Pryce played Holmes and I was pleased to see a relatively acceptable portrayal of myself by Bill Paterson.

They also appeared in the The Baker Street Boys, a series of eight 30 minute episode broadcast by the BBC in 1983. They were released on video in 1985 but have since been deleted from the BBC catalogue.

The Baker Street Irregulars are also the name of an organisation of Holmes enthusiasts founded in 1934 by Christopher Morley who publish the Baker Street Journal. Although subscriptions to the journal are available membership is by invitation only and to those who have made a significant contribution to the Sherlockian world (as the Americans prefer to call it). Their members have included US Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S Truman who maintained quarters for the Secret Service labelled “The Baker Street Urchins” on a map of what is now known as Camp David.

Winston Churchill’s Special Operations Executive, tasked by him to “set Europe ablaze” during the Second World were often referred to as the Baker Street Irregulars.

I am fairly familiar with all forms of secret writings [DANC]

Some of you may have been perplexed by the four character references that I usually put at the end of quotations from “the Canon”.

“The Canon”, by the way, is the term used to refer to the collection of sixty cases published on my behalf by Arthur Conan Doyle. In 1911, the Reverend Ronald A Knox, an Anglican priest, published an essay entitled “Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes”. The article was a parody of a school of German Biblical criticism. He subjected my stories about Holmes to the same kind of “form criticism” as German theologians used on the Bible. He was the first to call the stories the “Canon” or “Sacred Writings” and the article is considered the beginning of the scholarship related to the sixty stories.

There are sixty works in all – four novels and fifty-six short stories. The fifty six short stories, after their serialisation in The Strand Magazine, were published in collections, namely:

  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  • The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
  • The Return of Sherlock Holmes
  • His Last Bow
  • The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

Just for completeness, the novels are:

  • A Study In Scarlet
  • The Sign of Four
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles
  • The Valley of Fear

Jay Finley Christ devised a set of four-character abbreviations to conveniently refer to each of the sixty stories. Jay Finley Christ was a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, an organisation of enthusiasts considered the pre-eminent Sherlockian group in the United States.

Here is a full list of these abbreviations:

ABBE Abbey Grange
BERY Beryl Coronet
BLAC Black Pete
BLAN Blanched Soldier
BLUE Blue Carbuncle
BOSC Boscombe Valley Mystery
BRUC Bruce-Partington Plans
CARD Cardboard Box
CHAS Charles Augustus Milverton
COPP Copper Beeches
CREE Creeping Man
CROO Crooked Man
DANC Dancing Men
DEVI Devil's Foot
DYIN Dying Detective
EMPT Empty House
ENGR Engineer's Thumb
FINA Final Problem
FIVE Five Orange Pips
GLOR Gloria Scot
GOLD Golden Pince-Nez
GREE Greek Interpreter
HOUN Hound of the Baskervilles
IDEN Case of Identity
ILLU Illustrious Client
LADY Lady Frances Carfax
LAST His Last Bow
LION Lion's Mane
MAZA Mazarin Stone
MISS Missing Three-Quarter
MUSG Musgrave Ritual
NAVA Naval Treaty
NOBL Noble Bachelor
NORW Norwood Builder
PRIO Priory School
REDC Red Circle
REDH Red-Headed League
REIG Reigate Squires (Puzzle)
RESI Resident Patient
RETI Retired Colourman
SCAN Scandal in Bohemia
SECO Second Stain
SHOS Shoscombe Old Place
SIGN Sign of the Four
SILV Silver Blaze
SIXN Six Napoleons
SOLI Solitary Cyclist
SPEC Speckled Band
STOC Stockbroker's Clerk
STUD Study In Scarlet
SUSS Sussex Vampire
THOR Thor Bridge
3GAB Three Gables
3GAR Three Garridebs
3STU Three Students
TWIS Man with the Twisted Lip
VALL Valley of Fear
VEIL Veiled Lodger
WIST Wisteria Lodge
YELL Yellow Face

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