Posts Tagged ‘Sherlock Holmes’

A criminal mastermind?

In 2004, there was a celebrity edition of Mastermind.

Stephen Fry was faced with 14 questions in the available time on his chosen specialist subject – Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.

Here are the 14 questions. How well would you have done?

  1. In which publication did the first Holmes story “A Study in Scarlet” first appear in 1887?
  2. In “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, by what name did Jack Stapleton head a school in Yorkshire and establish a reputation in entomology?
  3. What name did Holmes adopt in his guise as an Irish-American spy?
  4. Mycroft Holmes was a founding member of which club of the most unsociable and unclubable men in town?
  5. Irene Adler, always known as “the woman” by Holmes, was the prima donna of which opera company when she met the King of Bohemia?
  6. In “A Study in Scarlet”, what 5-letter word is scrawled in blood on the wall in a dark corner of the room?
  7. In “The Valley of Fear”, what was the local name for the members of Lodge 341 of the Ancient Order of Freemen in the Vermissa Valley?
  8. In “The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax”, with which London banking firm did Lady Frances have her account?
  9. On which theorem did Professor Moriarty write a treatise that won him the mathematical chair at a small English university?
  10. When relating his very first case, “Gloria Scott”, whom does Holmes describe as “the only friend I made during the two years that I was at college”?
  11. In “The Solitary Cyclist”, what was the nickname of “the greatest brute and bully in South Africa” who conspired with Bob Carruthers to get Violet Smith’s fortune?
  12. In “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”, how did Dr Roylott get the poisonous snake into the room of his step-daughters, killing Julia?
  13. In which story did Holmes make his celebrated reference to “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time” – the curious incident being that the dog didn’t bark?
  14. What did the red-headed London pawnbroker Jabez Wilson have to copy out when he was duped by John Clay into accepting a position with the spurious “Red-Headed League”?

Stephen managed to get eight right.  I will post the answers at a later date.

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.

Composed of all the plugs and dottles left from his smokes of the day before [ENGR]

Holmes displays a vast knowledge of the uses and properties of tobacco in solving cases. His experience with both tobacco and tobacco ash has been broadened by his being such a chronically heavy smoker, prompting me to note, somewhat bitterly, that he was a “self-poisoner by cocaine and tobacco” [FIVE]

He often sits for hours shrouded in smoke. Once during the case of The Hound of the Baskervilles, as I returned to Baker Street “my fears [of a fire] were set at rest, for it was the acrid fumes of strong coarse tobacco which took me by the throat and set me coughing.”

His particular favourite is shag tobacco which he keeps in the toe end of a Persian slipper. Shag is a strong coarse tobacco much inferior to today’s shag which is often used for rolling cigarettes. He also keeps it in various tobacco pouches strewn across his mantlepiece.

Before breakfast he fills his pipe with “all the plugs and dottles left from his smokes of the day before, all carefully dried and collected on the corner of the mantlepiece” [ENGR].

He most commonly uses a black clay pipe, though I think it was once white! Occasionally he will use a briar with an amber stem. When a problem is taxing him he seems to prefer his cherrywood.

He never, never uses a Calabash. That was the pipe used by William Gillette in his otherwise accurate portrayal of Holmes and along with the deerstalker and the phrase “Elementary, my dear Watson” are the stuff of fiction!

His pipes, like his tobacco are all over the place (his such an untidy person!). They are scattered over his mantlepiece and some are in the coal scuttle with the cigars.

As some of you may know, he has made a special study of tobacco ashes and believes he can distinguish at a glance the ash of any known brand of cigar or tobacco. He has written a monograph on the subject entitled “Upon the Distinction Between the Ashes of the Various Tobaccos” [SIGN].

We obtain our smoking requisites from Bradley’s off Oxford Street. I actually prefer ship’s tobacco, a strong blend from the Netherlands or occasionally the Arcadia micture.

The Ocular Helmsman has much detail about tobacco, pipes, cigars and this vile, filthy habit for those who wish to know more.

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