Granada's Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes: Jeremy Brett
Dr. Watson: David Burke; later Edward Hardwicke
Between 1984 and 1994, Granada Television, under the direction of Michael Cox, adapted and produced some forty-one Sherlock Holmes inspired episodes. The series would go on to last ten years, and would eventually include several feature length productions. Granada's Sherlock Holmes is heralded as one of the most authentic adaptations ever made.
The Granada series is the most definitive television adaptation ever created. In fact, the series often transcends film adaptations in terms authenticity and credibility. The scripts rarely deviate from Canon, and when they do it is done in such a way as to enhance the story, rather than detract from it.
In addition to being well written, the series is also well researched and well filmed. The cinematography is breathtaking and manages, through acute directing, to tell the story from a third person perspective, adding insight to the original stories.
None of this would be possible, of course, were it not for the attention to detail. The Granada series is a period piece, and so particular attention was given to costuming, props, sets, and the use of Victorian English. Every little consideration was taken into account, every contingency planned, and the end result is a very realistic look into the world of Holmes and Watson.
It is obvious, even in the first few episodes of season one (which were considerably more awkward than the second and third season episodes) that a lot of love and passion went into creating and filming this series. For that reason alone it is worth watching.
Part of what makes the Granada Adaptations so memorable is the cast. In watching the episodes, we get the sense that particular attention was given to casting, and so it is worthwhile examining some of the key players, and the actors who played them.
Jeremy Brett, as Sherlock Holmes
I must confess that I am a fan of Brett's Holmes. This should be noted, as it is rare to find a middle of the road stance with Brett: people either love Brett's portrayal, or they hate it.
Brett's Holmes is entirely more neurotic than the Holmes found in Canon. Brett plays up Holmes' whimsical sense of humour, and appears quite high-strung on occasion. His mannerisms, his cat like reflexes; even his appearance have become the very definition of Sherlock Holmes to many fans. This is not without reason. Brett looks very much like Paget's rendition of Holmes, and he plays up Holmes' more obsessive attributes, adding a sense of depth and insight to the character that other adaptations have lacked. Beyond being well suited to the role, Brett is also incredibly talented actor, who literally shines in each of his scenes.
David Burke, as Dr. Watson (1984-1985)
While not quite as good as his successor (Edward Hardwicke) Burke's portrayal of Watson was quite endearing. Prior to the Granada Adaptations, the best known rendition of Watson belonged to Nigel Bruce, who played Watson as a bumbling idiot in most of the films made with Basil Rathbone. It was a relief, then, to see a Watson who was noted for his intelligence and usefulness.
That being said, Burke's Watson did appeared (in retrospect) to be a dumbed down version of Hardwicke's Watson. Still, his portrayal was admirable, and Burke made for an amusing and adorable Watson, whose physical features provided an exact likeness to Holmes' Boswell. Burke's Watson, it should be noted, was far more in awe of Holmes than Hardwicke's Watson; the result of which was the impression that Watson was head over heels in love with Sherlock Holmes.
Edward Hardwicke, as Dr. Watson (1986-1994)
Of all the renditions I have seen of Watson, Hardwicke's Watson is the only one which approaches perfection. Aside from looking the part, Hardwicke is also an extremely talented actor, and it is this talent which allows him to so fully own the role of Watson. Hardwick's Watson is intelligent. He is useful. He is loyal. He is far more capable than any other Watson before him. Hardwicke's Watson is the Watson found in Canon, and for that reason alone he is considered by many to be the most authentic Watson to ever see the screen (big or small). As an added benefit, Hardwicke and Brett's chemistry is unparalleled, the spark between them electric at times. Incidentally, it is this energy which makes the Granada Adaptations so exceedingly slash friendly.
Rosalie Williams, as Mrs. Hudson
Williams' performance will undoubtedly go down in history as the greatest portrayal of Mrs. Hudson to grace the screen. Unlike many other adaptations, Mrs. Hudson's role in Granada is not limited to announcing the occasional guest. Indeed, Granada has fleshed out Mrs. Hudson's character, giving her a much larger role in the stories than might otherwise be warranted. Williams transcends Hudson, and becomes the ideal in our mind of the long-suffering landlady at 221B Baker Street.
Colin Jeavons, as Inspector Lestrade
Complete with a ferret like appearance, Jeavons makes for a brilliant Lestrade. He plays the twin roles of Holmes' admirer and competitor with such fluidity that one immediately forgets the actor and sees only the character. Truly, of all the Lestrades I have seen, Jeavons' Lestrade tops the list.
Charles Gray, as Mycroft Holmes
Unlike many adaptations that have chosen style over structure, Granada's casting of Gray to play Mycroft Holmes was a stroke of genius. Aside from looking the part, Gray's talent as an actor brings Mycroft to life, bringing us the perfect image of Sherlock's older and wiser brother. It is also interesting to note that Granada was not the first adaptation to employ Gray as Mycroft.
Eric Porter, as Professor Moriarty
Porter's sinister appearance and precise manner of speaking make for a larger than life Moriarty. Porter is well suited to the role and, despite appearing in only a handful of episodes, Porter manages to give the viewer the sense that Moriarty is more than a mere character created to dispose of Doyle's unwanted character. Truly, Porter's Moriarty gives the viewer cause for sleepless nights.
Aside from several story-based deviations, which will be touched on as we examine each of the episodes, Granada's version of Canon deviates in three key areas, each due their own consideration.
1) Watson's marriage(s):
Unlike Canon, Watson remains a bachelor throughout Granada's series. In fact, Watson (with the exception of the three year period of Holmes' supposed death) remains in Baker Street. Granada is very careful to have Watson leave on some errand when the story calls for Watson to appear on Holmes' doorstep, and yet one never doubts that Watson is still firmly entrenched in Baker Street; and, indeed, Holmes' life. This deviation increases the homoerotic subtext found within Canon, creating a very slash-friendly series. It also serves to eliminate the confusion surrounding Watson's wife/wives.
2) Holmes' drug use:
Although Canon touches on Holmes' cocaine use, it appears in Canon as a mere backdrop to the stories being told. Granada takes this a step further by creating an entire subplot concerning Holmes' addiction. It is handled quite well, and adds a layer of depth one wouldn't expect from an adaptation. It is also quite interesting to watch unfold, for a good number of adaptations have chosen to shy away from the topic. Granada, however, tackles it head on.
3) Side-character plots:
Granada opens each episode with an introduction to the minor characters destined to play a central role in the mystery. In Canon, this information is given in the form of narrative, which, while fascinating in written form, is quite lengthy and cumbersome when adapted to film. By provided this information through a glimpse into these third-party characters lives, Granada not only speeds this process along, but provides well-roundedness to the story. These introductions are usually followed by a domestic scene in Baker Street.
The Granada Adaptations ran for ten years, and encompassed seven seasons. Each season contains upwards of seven episodes, totalling forty-one episodes over the course of Granada's run. Each of these episodes have been examined, and can be found using the menu below.
Granada's Sherlock Holmes (entire series)
I. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984)
1. A Scandal in Bohemia
2. The Dancing Men
3. The Naval Treaty
4. The Solitary Cyclist
5. The Crooked Man
6. The Speckled Band
7. The Blue Carbuncle
II. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1985)
8. The Copper Beeches
9. The Greek Interpreter
10. The Norwood Builder
11. The Resident Patient
12. The Red Headed League
13. The Final Problem
III. The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1986)
14. The Empty House
15. The Abbey Grange
16. The Musgrave Ritual
17. The Second Stain
18. The Man with the Twisted Lip
19. The Priory School
20. The Six Napoleons
21. The Sign of Four (feature length)
IV. The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1988)
22. The Devil's Foot
23. Silver Blaze
24. Wisteria Lodge
25. The Bruce-Partington Plans
26. The Hound of the Baskervilles (feature length)
V. The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (1990)
27. The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax
28. The Problem of Thor Bridge
29. Shoscombe Old Place
30. The Boscombe Valley Mystery
31. The Illustrious Client
32. The Creeping Man
VI. Feature length productions (1991/1992)
33. The Master Blackmailer
34. The Last Vampyre
35. The Eligible Bachelor
VII. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1994)
36. The Three Gables
37. The Dying Detective
38. The Golden Pince-Nez
39. The Red Circle
40. The Mazarin Stone
41. The Cardboard Box
Well worth seeing. Regardless of your interpretation of Brett as Holmes, the Granada Adaptations are still, to this day, the most authentic and definitive adaptations ever made, and while the strain on Brett's health is very evident in the last few seasons, he still manages to pull off a performance of a lifetime; fitting given that he passed away in 1995, cutting short Granada's plans to produce all 60 of ACD's Sherlock Holmes stories.