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, totaling 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.
I. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
A Scandal in Bohemia
A Scandal in Bohemia is our introduction to the Granada series and, as such, sets our expectations for what is to come. I think it fair to say that Granada set their sights high, and, fortunately for us, they would not disappoint as the series continued.
Perhaps the most noteworthy element of this episode is the introduction of Brett’s Sherlock Holmes. I must admit it is one of the best introductions I have seen. When we do finally get a chance to see Holmes for the first time, we are instantly blown away by how perfectly Brett captures the Great Detective. His voice, his appearance, his mannerisms, his facial expressions; all of them instantly convey the character we know as Sherlock Holmes.
Brett’s Holmes is also a fairly tactile individual. This is of particular interest, for it is often Watson who is the recipient of Holmes’ tactility. On several occasions we are witness to Holmes guiding Watson out of a room by the small of his back, or clasping Watson on the shoulder to garner his attention; small, minute things which immediately add to the subtextual nature of the series.
We are also given a chance to witness Brett’s ability to adopt Holmes’ disguises, and this Brett pulls off brilliantly. Indeed, if the viewer is not convinced that Brett is an ideal Holmes, undoubtedly they will change their mind after witnessing Brett disguised as a horse handler, or clergyman.
Although quite true to Canon, one less desirable element occurs in this episode, and that is the manner of the King. In all manners: dress, speech, and presence, he is quite over the top, and one feels as though his role was slightly over-played.
The Dancing Men
As the purpose of this review is to highlight the homoerotic subtext found within this adaptation, it should not come as a surprise, then, that the review of this episode focuses largely on this very topic. In fact, it is remarkable to note that Granada’s deviations from Canon only serve to increase the already blatant subtext found within Canon.
Throughout this episode, Holmes and Watson share approximately twenty odd looks, each of them conveying the love, affection, and understanding that defined their relationship in Canon. In addition to this, there is a lovely little scene where Holmes has out his diary, and then sets it down, upon which Watson looks at it longingly, going so far as to reach for it. A little further into the story, we see that Watson has indeed stolen it, as he is stealthily trying to return it to Holmes’ desk. Holmes notices, but doesn’t not say anything, instead secreting a knowing smirk.
These are beautiful scenes, and left me quite giddy. When combined with the frequent touching and side long glances, the whole of the story gains a sense of true romance. Words cannot describe how increased the presence of slash is in these adaptations.
There were, however, some less desirable elements found in this adaptation. There is a sixties’ “acid-flashback” style dream that occurs midway through the story, and the episode would have been better for its exclusion. Finally, the actor chosen to play Abe Slaney was a little over the top; not quite as convincing as he could have been. To balance this, however, the detective in the case was brilliant, and his admiration and awe of Holmes was spot on, providing for some very amusing scenes.
The Naval Treaty
Here we have another exceedingly slashy episode. The story begins with Holmes the chemist, and lots and lots of shoulder leaning and knowing smirks. As the story continues, it gives rise to the theme of jealousy as Watson recalls his childhood friend Percy and requests Holmes’ aid in solving Percy’s case. It is quite obvious here that Holmes is unimpressed with Watson’s childhood friend. Indeed, Holmes seems pleased to discover that Percy has become an emotional wreck. Clearly Holmes’ amusement stems from the knowledge that he has no contest for Watson’s affections.
This episode is also noteworthy in that it depicts a very witty, very intelligence Watson. In fact, when bantering with Holmes, Watson seems to get the better of his friend on several occasions. Holmes is perpetually torn between feeling put out and fiercely proud. This episode also shows us an enraged Holmes, something that Brett pulls off brilliantly. Indeed, for the first time in my life, I was quite wary of Holmes. Perhaps even a little frightened.
There was really only one less impressive element, and that was the shadow fight that occurred near the end of the episode. Overly dramatic and quite heavy handed; the scene was entirely unwarranted.
The Solitary Cyclist
While this story does contain slash elements, they are not quite as obvious as was seen in the first three episodes. That is not to say that they are diminished in any way, merely that they are significantly more subtle. In The Solitary Cyclist, we have Holmes and Watson at odds with one another. Holmes is particularly blasé, and spends most of the first half of the episode insulting Watson’s investigation skills. This hostility (largely on Holmes’ behalf) creates a good deal of tension, and one cannot help but wonder whether this is the result of a lover’s spat, or simply unresolved sexual tension.
I lean towards the latter, for later in the episode Holmes finds himself in a fist fight. This is nothing unusual, for Holmes is an accomplished boxer, but there is a distinct shift in Holmes’ behaviour immediately following this scene. He seems calmer somehow, as though punching another man in the face several times has resulted in a loss of tension. It is quite easy to read this scene (and, indeed, the subplot) as Holmes searching for an outlet to release the tension caused by his lust for Watson.
This is particularly noteworthy when we consider an earlier scene, the one in which Holmes examines the client’s (Violet) hand. There is a suggestion of sensuality in this scene, and one cannot help but wonder if Holmes was projecting his desire for Watson onto their bicycling client.
Overall, the episode presents several endearing elements, and while some of the supporting cast are quite woollen, Brett and Burke are quite adorable together. This is especially true in the scene where Watson doctors Holmes’ wounds, and again, in the scene where Holmes demands that Watson jump in front of a horse in order to stop it’s frantic flight. Good man, indeed.
The Crooked Man
Here we get to see Watson in his element, something which amuses Holmes (and, indeed, the viewer) to no end. In fact, Holmes spends half of this episode smirking at Watson and watching Watson from out of the corner of his eye with a bemused expression on his face. The tenderness that exists between them, however, is not the highlight of this episode. The Crooked Man demonstrates what it was that made Granada brilliant. The atmosphere. Granada uses things like sets, costumes and the weather exceptionally well, creating a world that actually feels like the late 1800s. We see Holmes and Watson in top hats, and Watson in one of the most pimping smoking jackets I have ever seen. We watch as a crime unfolds and are started to see the bright flash of lightening and hear the distant roar of thunder. Everything is damp and we can almost feel the ache in our bones. The Granada atmosphere is quite masterfully done.
Other noteworthy moments include Holmes’ strange obsession with phallic objects. Several times he’s seen stroking clubs or playing with fire pokers. Indeed, even upon touching a curtain, Holmes’ fingers caress the material. Brett’s Holmes had an air of sensuality to him, and I do suspect that this likely made Holmes even more popular with the female population than he previously was. The ending, of course, is quite possibly the most brilliant deviation I have seen. Elementary, my dear Holmes. Elementary.
The Speckled Band
Although the deviations in this story, and lack of Watson’s narrative, did deter from the subtext found in Canon, this was none the less a very slash-friendly episode. The episode begins, as the story did, with Holmes standing at the foot of Watson’s bed, waking him. One immediately gets the sense that Holmes has been there for some time, likely watching Watson sleep while contemplating how best to wake him. Indeed, he is halfway through a cigarette before he gets around to rousing Watson.
Here we also treated to Holmes’ use of the word intimate, which, while existing in Canon, was often left out of other adaptations. The subtext continues as they journey to Stoke Moran, where, while sitting across from one another in the train, Holmes and Watson both lean forward until their knees are touching. Again this trend continues, throughout their investigation, where, on several occasions, we are witness to the familiarity between the two, and indeed, Holmes’ appreciation of Watson, as seen through various looks and smirks.
Perhaps the most subtextually heavy scene exists while the two men are awaiting the lighted signal which will send them into Stoke Moran. The mood is quite suspenseful as Holmes and Watson sit across from one another in the approaching dark, both of them whispering and staring into one another’s eyes. Indeed, at one point Watson falls asleep, upon which Holmes is forced to wake him, and the tenderness seen in this scene is quite suggestive.
Other noteworthy elements include the casting of Dr. Roylott. The actor chosen to pay this role was brilliant. He managed to convey, through his talent, the ideal depiction of a medical man gone wrong.
The Blue Carbuncle
In direct contrast to The Speckled Band, the deviations and lack of Watson’s narrative in this episode add to the subtext found in Canon. Indeed, between the constant looks, the playful banter; the touching, the caressing, and the leaning, the episode contains so much subtext that one is instantly convinced that Holmes and Watson are far more than mere friends. In fact, at one point, due in large part to the camera angle, Holmes and Watson are sitting so close that it is easy to mistake Watson’s chair for Holmes’ lap.
Aside from the slash, this is also a brilliant episode for highlighting Brett’s acting ability. Brett manages to convey a rage-filled Holmes in an ideal light, and his anger becomes so real that the viewer actually flinches upon hearing his outburst. Indeed, all of his mannerisms throughout this episode are so in keeping with Holmes that it is often hard to remember that we are watching an adaptation.
Although, overall, one of the better episodes so far shown, on occasion the film editing is a little rough, and one feels slightly put out by the quick reel changes and lack of fade ins. Aside from this, though, The Blue Carbuncle is brilliantly done, and makes for the perfect Christmas special.
II. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Copper Beeches
Canon paints Holmes as an obsessive, single-minded man, who relishes his place in the spotlight. Granada takes this theme a step further, suggesting that it is Watson’s attention which Holmes craves above all others. The episode begins with Watson engaged in his writing, something which irritates and annoys Holmes to no end. Holmes, desperate for Watson’s attention, goes so far as to insult Watson’s talent as a writer. This has the effect Holmes was looking for; namely that Watson casts aside his writing so that he might engage Holmes in an argument. Sadly, for Holmes, this tactic also results in Watson’s hurt feelings, something which Holmes seems to regret, for Watson’s anger creates new distance between them.
Amusingly, we see a much more sensual Holmes in this episode. Indeed, Holmes goes so far as to caress a client’s hair, and one cannot help but notice a reoccurring trend; namely Holmes’ tendency for violence or sensuality whenever he is fighting with Watson. Clearly, these events are related, and one cannot help but be aware of the underlying cause; sexual tension.
This is particularly amusing, as the story ends with Watson reading to Holmes from his latest manuscript, something which earns Holmes’ praise, Holmes having obviously learnt his lesson on insulting Watson’s writing.
While not particularly less desirable, the episode does spend a good deal of time focusing on third party characters, and shows relatively few scenes involving Holmes and Watson. For most fans, this will likely provide insight and interest into the story at hand, but for students of subtext, the lack of interaction between Holmes and Watson is a little disappointing.
The Greek Interpreter
This is an excellent episode for witnessing both the loyalty to Canon and the tendency for Granada to deviate from Canon. In terms of dialogue, Granada is quite loyal, even using expressions such as my intimate friend, something which other adaptations have shied away from. Granted, Granada also substitutes odd in place of queer, an indication of the mainstream homophobia that is prevalent in Sherlockian circles.
Despite the deviations, which we will elaborate on in a moment, this episode is quite entertaining. We are introduced to Mycroft, Holmes’ brother, and a more perfect Mycroft could not have been found. Indeed, beyond simply fitting the role, the chemistry between Brett and Gray is very reminisce of a sibling relationship, complete with moments of annoyance and begrudging love. Mycroft also appears to be well aware of Holmes’ inclinations, even stating that he is familiar with Holmes’ aversion to women. Indeed, Mycroft does not even require an introduction to Watson, an indication that Holmes has likely mentioned Watson on several occasions.
The episode does deviate from Canon, and quite a bit, as in this version Holmes and Watson track down their villains, and manage to capture and arrest them. Granada has added an entirely new ending, complete with an amusing picture of Holmes smoking in the non smoking compartment of their train. While this deviation is interesting, and provides for a sense of completeness, one cannot help but feel that the original was better; more realistic, certainly. On the plus side, the deviation allowed for increased subtext, including a scene where Holmes grabs Watson and pulls him towards his chest, wrapping his arm around Watson’s shoulder. Watson, not wanting to lose contact, immediately reaches for Holmes’ hand, and there they stand, for several moments, hand in hand, pressed quite intimately together. It’s a lovely scene, which would not have existed but for the deviation, so for the student of subtext, the rewrite is quite welcome.
Overall, an interesting look at the story and Granada has set the tone for what we can expect from its deviations.
The Norwood Builder
Granada, when they did deviate from Canon, tended to do so for a reason. The Norwood Builder is a good example of this. Many Sherlockians have commented on the original story and mentioned that the use of animal remains to suggest a human body is quite unreasonable. Even given the medical and forensic limitations of the time, it was unlikely that anyone should mistake the skull of a cat for the skull of a human. Granada fills in this blank by creating a back story involving a murdered hobo. It works exceptionally well and makes Canon believable; something which cannot be said for the original story.
Aside from the noteworthy improvement of the deviation, this episode is also quite enjoyable thanks to its subtext. The Norwood Builder showcases Holmes and Watson as a couple, and this can be seen in dozens of scenes; from Holmes’ tactility towards Watson, to Watson’s reading of Holmes’ moods, to their proximity at any given moment (especially when seated upon the settee). This does not even touch on the constant eye gazing. It’s quite adorable to witness the interaction between them.
Other noteworthy elements include the showcasing of Watson’s brilliance. Any adaptation which acknowledges Watson’s importance automatically ranks high in my opinion. In fact, on several occasions it is Watson’s deductions, and Watson’s contributions to the case, which allows Holmes to arrive at his conclusion.
Finally, no episode would be complete without the inclusion of Lestrade, and the highlighting of the intense rivalry between Lestrade and Holmes. Overall, a delightful episode.
The Resident Patient
The Resident Patient showcases married Holmes and Watson at their finest. The episode opens with Holmes sitting next to Watson in the barber shop, patiently waiting for the barber to finish Watson’s weekly haircut. That Holmes should accompany his friend on such an errand is quite suggestive.
The slashiness of this episode continues with Holmes and Watson walking back to Baker Street, arm in arm. The suggestion that their relationship was perhaps more intimate than Canon suggests continues throughout the episode, and can be seen in such scenes as Holmes’ gentle waking of Watson, or Holmes’ frantic search for a document which Watson finds within seconds. Indeed, on several occasions they even turn to bickering, like the old married couple they were.
If the slash is not enough to convince you, the episode is also remarkable for being one of the episodes that plays The Game. In fact, most of Granada does this, and it makes for a very interesting examination of Canon.
The Red-Headed League
This is a playful episode, and while the bulk of it centres on the back story, the occasional glimpse into Holmes and Watson’s world is enough to keep our attention. Watson is particularly brilliant in this episode, and yet, perhaps the most endearing scene of all is Watson’s amusement; and Holmes’ silent scolding at this amusement. That Holmes himself soon caves to Watson’s mood, the pair of them erupting into laughter, is quite suggestive of the bond between them.
Their interaction, however, is not limited to shared amusement. Indeed, viewers will be particularly taken by the entire ‘violin land’ scene, not to mention the touching moment where Holmes lights Watson’s cigarette.
The Red-Headed League is also remarkable for another of its deviations. Here, Moriarty is worked into the plot, and his role is quite well suited; it also serves to set the audience up for Burke’s final episode: The Final Problem.
All in all, a delightful take on Canon.
The Final Problem
Before we begin, I must confess that this episode broke me. As nearly as the original story broke me, and that, I think, is a testament to Granada and the love that went into making this adaptation.
Every little detail has been taken into consideration. Even the opening music, which normally held a mysterious, and yet, cheerful air, has been made sombre. Every moment of this episode prepares us for the coming sadness of its conclusion.
Despite the care taken in scripting this episode, we see again Granada’s propensity to deviate from Canon. The entirety of the story takes place in Baker Street, rather than Watson’s consulting room, and we are instantly reminded of Granada’s exclusion of Mary Morstan. This deviation creates a sense of intimacy, for although Holmes has spent the last few months in France, and Watson is just returning from a brief vacation, the pair are as close as they gave ever been; closer, certainly, than Canon would suggest.
We meet here, too, Moriarty, who, although we have caught glimpses of him before, truly comes to life in this tale. His portrayal is so well done, in fact, that I still get chills thinking of him.
The episode is not without slash; on the contrary, the slash is quite abundant. From Watson lighting Holmes’ cigarette, to Watson’s doctoring of Holmes’ wounds; right from the start we are given an abundance of subtext. This subtext only increases as the episode continues, Watson accompanying Holmes on his ‘vacation’, where the two men spend several weeks touring through Europe, often sharing a single room or tent. In fact, were it not for Watson’s constant worry (which itself can be seen as additional subtext) their entire voyage to the Continent is very reminisce of a honeymoon.
We know the ending before it arrives, and yet, our hearts cannot help but break (as surely as Watson’s did) upon witnessing Holmes’ death. While the struggle and the fall were not quite as dramatic as Canon made them seem, we see in Watson’s tears the true sorrow of Holmes’ demise. All in all, a worthy rendition of this, Holmes’ Final Problem.
III. The Return of Sherlock Holmes
The Empty House
The Empty House marks the beginning of Season Three, and the introduction of Edward Hardwicke as the new Watson. Oddly, this cast change works exceptionally well here, for Hardwicke is a slightly older, slightly more stoic Watson, and one can easily imagine that it was Holmes’ death which changed him, rather than a mere casting decision.
Indeed, Hardwicke and Brett have tremendous chemistry together, and so we are not put out in the least by the replacement of Burke. If anything, the replacement of Burke only served to intensify the subtext already inherent in the adaptation.
While the tale begins slowly, and indeed, we are quite bored throughout the court case (anticipating Holmes’ return, no doubt) it is well worth the wait to witness Holmes’ unveiling. The scene in Watson’s consulting room is brilliant; utterly perfect in every way. Holmes, a grin on his face, reaches out his hands as if to draw Watson into his waiting arms, only to have Watson collapse in a dead faint at his feet.
Holmes’ tenderness in his revival of Watson (complete with several caresses) is so touching that our hearts break a second time, even as we are marvelling over Holmes’ removal of Watson’s collar.
Again, Granada elaborates on Canon, and this elaboration increasing the presence of slash tenfold. Granada, flashing back to Holmes’ death, suggests that Holmes, upon spotting Watson at the falls, made as if to call out Watson’s name. We see Holmes change his mind; and we see, too, the terrible agony this decision bore upon his heart.
We see, also, Watson’s anger at having been duped by Holmes, and Holmes’ heartfelt apology. The entire scene ends in forgiveness, with Watson tucking Holmes into bed, which is one of the most touching moments in the entire series.
Ripe with slash, the true moment of brilliance in this episode is Watson’s deduction at the end (while, I might add, Watson is wearing the hat that Holmes brought him back as a present), Watson’s eagerness and Holmes’ pride reminisce of their previous relationship, and a sign that the two will pick up exactly where they left off.
The Abbey Grange
The episode begins with Holmes barging into Watson’s room in order to wake him. Automatically, the student of subtext will be quite impressed, for Granada suggests that this is not an unusual moment, both Holmes and Watson’s reactions to this intrusion quite suggestive that Holmes’ presence in Watson’s bedroom was an every day occurrence.
The subtext continues throughout the episode, and it is interesting to note that Granada does not deviate from Canon so far as Holmes’ aversion to women. Indeed, it is often Watson who finds himself ‘flirting’ with their female clients, and this Holmes bears with some jealousy and a sense of amused fondness. It is quite telling, here, that Holmes, upon witnessing Watson’s interest, becomes increasingly tactile towards Watson.
Slash aside, perhaps the most noteworthy event in this episode is Holmes’ introduction to a ‘fan’. The entire scene is quite amusing, and one gets the impression that Holmes is quite taken aback, although, still flattered by the attention.
Then, of course, there is the final scene, which makes this episode one of the most amusing in all of Granada. Holmes, having agreed to let the criminal go, is shown appreciation by the woman involved, as she, in her joy, rushes forward to embrace the detective in a crushing hug. Holmes’ reaction is beyond amusing. That, after freeing himself from the woman’s embrace, Holmes should immediately turn to Watson for comfort, is also quite telling.
The Musgrave Ritual
Granada’s tendency to include deviations which increase the subtextual nature of the series has been mentioned before, but here it is perhaps too obvious. Granada, deviating from Canon, re-writes The Musgrave Ritual in order to include Watson. This, of course, allows us witness Watson’s interest in Holmes’ ‘older’ cases, something which pleases Holmes to no end.
Several other deviations are present, including a further examination of Holmes’ cocaine use (indeed, Granada goes so far as to show Holmes under the influence of this drug, and the entire scene is quite fascinating). We see, too, Watson’s disapproval of the drug, which will later become a subplot in its own right.
Other noteworthy elements include Holmes’ interaction with the butler, as one gets the impression that Holmes’ interest in the butler was not merely limited to his mind. Indeed, Holmes spends a portion of the episode eyeing the butler appreciatively, and one cannot help but wonder if, on Holmes’ previous visit, Holmes had had the occasion to become intimately familiar with the man who would later provide Holmes with one of his more singular cases.
Finally, this episode is worth watching for the ‘walking on water’ scene. While it is later revealed that Holmes is standing in a boat, upon a first viewing, one honestly does believe that Granada is comparing Holmes to Jesus, and, while I am certain individuals of faith will find this quite disrespectful, I, for one, found the entire scene amusing beyond comprehension.
The Second Stain
The Second Stain begins with an interesting examination of Watson in the role of housewife. Indeed, Watson, knowing that they are expecting two eminent visitors, spends a good portion of the introduction fluttering around frantically and trying to tidy their rooms. Quite amusing, and an interesting examination of Watson’s role in Holmes’ life.
While the episode does present several subtextually heavy elements, these are confined to the background, the case coming to the forefront in such a way as to block out all other elements. Indeed, the case is quite dramatic, and exceptionally well done. In fact, Granada’s version is perhaps an improvement upon the original.
Despite the suspenseful nature of the episode, Granada still manages to intersperse the story with humour. Noteworthy elements include Holmes setting their table on fire, Holmes’ snarl upon being interrupted during his investigation, and, finally, Holmes’ gleeful cry (complete with skipping) as the case comes to a close. Overall, this is perhaps one of Granada’s finest episodes.
The Man with the Twisted Lip
Although known for its amusing qualities, Granada’s version of The Man with the Twisted Lip is remarkable for its sets. All of Upper Swandam Lane is so masterfully done that the viewer is instantly transported back into the slums of Victorian London. The opium den is of particular note, for the depravity of the patrons is so well done that we are actually fearful for Watson’s health.
Despite the faithfulness of the period, this episode truly belongs to Brett. From the moment we see him, as an old, decrepit opium addict, to his gleeful expression upon discovery the true identity of Mr. St. Clair, Brett is brilliant. This is perhaps one of his finest episodes, and he plays each of his scenes in such a convincing manner that one forgets that we are watching a mere adaptation. Of particular note is the smoking scene, which, through the use of camera angles and Brett’s facial features, becomes one of the most inspired scenes in all of the adaptations.
No Granada episode, however, would be complete without slash, and The Man with the Twisted Lip does not disappoint. Whether we are witnessing Holmes and Watson sharing a ‘single-bedded’ room, or observing the delightful manner in which Holmes wakes Watson the next morning (by tickling the soles of his feet!), we are constantly aware of the affection and love that exists between the two men. Overall, a completely delightful episode.
The Priory School
Upon watching The Priory School (and indeed, upon first reading the story) my first thought was that times had truly changed. That pedophilia should not be the first suspicion is quite remarkable, and not something we would (sadly) see today.
Despite this thought lurking in the back of my mind (which does make for an uncomfortable viewing experience), the episode is quite well done, and not without subtext. Indeed, that Holmes and Watson, wherever they should travel, should constantly be set up in a shared room is quite indicative of the subtextual elements found in Canon.
Although I prefer the story to the adaptation, the episode was not without noteworthy elements. Aside from Holmes on a horse (which is always delightful to behold), perhaps the best aspect of this episode is that it is Watson, rather than Holmes, who is truly the hero. Any adaptation that places this kind of faith in Watson automatically has my approval.
The Six Napoleons
While, overall, I quite liked this episode, I must confess that the opening scene was rather disappointing. Perhaps the version I own is flawed in someway, but it is rather difficult to gain a full understanding of the situation when one does not speak the language being used. My own fault, I am sure, for not progressing further with my Italian lessons, but still, quite frustrating.
This is, of course, completely forgotten by the time we arrive in Baker Street, only to witness Lestrade, paying a visit to Holmes and Watson in hopes of acquiring Holmes’ assistance. This entire episode highlights brilliantly Lestrade’s need for Holmes, and the friendly rivalry which existed between them.
Lestrade aside, perhaps the most amusing element of this episode is Watson, and his interaction with Holmes. Indeed, we are treated to a very authoritative Watson here, with Watson ordering Holmes out of the house. The viewer, and, in fact, Holmes himself, are quite amused by this. This continues as it is Watson that Holmes continues to defer to, even when he is subtly leading Watson in the right direction.
Other noteworthy features include the casting for Bepo, who was, quite possibly, the most brilliant ‘madman’ I have ever seen. Then, of course, there is the tablecloth scene, which simply amazed me beyond the retelling of it. Finally, there is Lestrade’s confession that Scotland Yard is quite proud of Holmes. Brett’s performance here transcends every scene to date, Brett actually blushing, and becoming quite choked up as Holmes, graciously, accepts Lestrade’s praise. A delightful scene that, literally, left tears in my eyes.
The Sign of Four -feature length
Although impressed with the deviation of this story (namely that Watson does not woo and wed Mary) I must confess that I was disappointed by this episode.
As the first feature length made by Granada, The Sign of Four was obviously given a slightly larger budget. This was done to the detriment of the story. The sets were lavish, to the point of becoming unrealistic, and the lighting was such that, even in the dead of night, each scene became as bright as midday. Granada has also adopted a strange obsession with mirrors in this adaptation, and several times they were used to provide new angles when filming. The change in atmosphere and attempts at ‘artistic’ direction took away from what originally defined the Granada adaptations.
The subtextual elements found in the original story are also, sadly, lacking. Granada attempts to mislead the viewer into thinking that Mary and Watson will eventually marry, and, in doing so, Granada ignores Holmes’ reaction to their courtship. That this ends as a ruse is quite frustrating, for one feels slightly cheated by the underhanded manner in which Granada treated the original story.
The deviations, too, were also handled quite poorly. Several night scenes became day scenes and this took away from the atmosphere found within Canon. Finally, the dramatic chase upon the Thames was less than dramatic. The entire scene unfolds in slow motion, and one gets the impression that we are witnessing a leisurely, sight-seeing voyage down the river, rather than a daring, high speed chase. We are not going to touch on Tonga’s death, for it is not worth mentioning.
There is also Holmes’ cocaine use, which is a pivotal aspect of the original story. Here it is cut out all together, and this is particularly disappointing when one considers that Granada has gone to great lengths to focus on Holmes’ addiction.
It should be noted that several more pleasant aspects can be found in this adaptation. The actress cast to play Mary Morstan was quite brilliant, and pulled the role off perfectly. The actor cast into the role of Thaddeus is also quite charming, and provides an amusing take on the character. Finally, Toby should be noted as well, for he is quite adorable.
While the episode did hold my attention, I do feel it is the weakest of all Granada’s adaptations, which is quite tragic, for the story demands better; one would have expected better from Granada.
IV. The Return of Sherlock Holmes
The Devil’s Foot
As if to make up for the removal of Holmes’ cocaine use in SIGN, Granada’s version of The Devil’s Foot emphasizes its use. Indeed, the episode takes this a step further and shows Holmes attempting to overcome his addiction, going so far as to allow the viewer to witness the painful process of Holmes’ withdrawal.
This, of course, creates a very slash-friendly episode, for here we are witness to Watson’s concern (and doctoring) as Holmes, on forced holiday, attempts to recover his degraded health. In fact, throughout the episode we are witness to Watson’s concern, and Holmes’ appreciation for this concern, instantly reminding the viewer of just how intertwined Holmes and Watson’s lives are.
The slash becomes even more prevalent near the end of the episode, when Holmes, engaging in his infamously dangerous experiment, is saved from a fate worse than death by Watson’s hand. Holmes’ cry of “John!” coupled with his apology and concern is so touching that I was momentarily rendered speechless. That the episode should end with the two men rushing off to frolic on the beach is also quite suggestive.
While, overall, The Devil’s Foot is a remarkable episode, I do, however, have one quibble. The hallucination scene, complete with 1960s-esque graphics, is quite out of place, and makes little sense in context with the remainder of the episode. While perhaps necessary, one cannot help but wish Granada had employed at least part of their SIGN budget on making this scene realistic.
Silver Blaze has always been one of my favourite stories, and so it delighted me to find that Granada did it such justice. In fact, I dare say this is one of Granada’s better adaptations. The story itself is very true to Canon, save for some elaborations, which serve only to enhance the story. Holmes is in peak form, Brett’s depiction of the detective’s bored restlessness so spot on that it’s hard to imagine another actor in his place. Watson proves particularly clever in this episode, and, indeed, most of the explanation is left in his capable hands (much to Holmes’ amusement, I might add).
While perhaps not as slashy as some of the other episodes, this episode does focus a good deal on the friendship between the two men (the cornerstone of a healthy relationship). There is playful bantering, and the occasional side-long glance, but perhaps the most fitting moment comes near the end, when Watson, turning to Holmes, shows his amazement by stating: “Wonderful, my dear Holmes”. This, of course, is nothing extraordinary, but in this particular instance, Watson’s ‘Holmes’ is blocked out by background noise, and so it seems as though Watson has taken to referring to Holmes as ‘my dear’. I do confess that this amused me on so many levels.
Overall, though, a wonderful depiction of a brilliant case.
Wisteria Lodge marks the beginning of a shift for Granada. As the seasons wore on, so too did Granada’s tendency to take liberties with the source material. In fact, by the time we reach the sixth season, it is often hard to associate Canon with Granada’s adaptations. While, on occasion, this is mildly annoying, it can be forgiven, for most of these deviations came in an effort to reduce Jeremy Brett’s role, as Brett’s health was steadily declining (Brett, the viewer will recall, died before Granada could complete the 60 stories in Canon).
This is notable in Wisteria Lodge, too, for Brett seems oddly out of sorts, and his appearance is quite dramatically altered, even when compare to the previous episode.
There is also an increase in artistic license, which is very evident when one examines the camera angles and sets. Indeed, Wisteria Lodge marks the beginning of what would later come to be known as Granada’s prism and mirror phase. While interesting, I suspect Granada’s intentions did not match the end result.
The story itself, however, is quite lovely, and Watson is particularly useful in this story. The inspector, too, is quite brilliant, and manages, quite masterfully, to outsmart Holmes. While we never quite forget the reasons for the changes in the series, the story-telling is still exceptionally well done and very much reminisce of Canon, even when deviating in order to work around Brett’s health.
The Bruce Partington Plans
It is quite obvious that some time has passed between the filming of Wisteria Lodge and The Bruce Partington Plans. Brett seems to have rallied some, and while this will eventually prove temporary, it is heartening to see his strength renewed.
The episode begins, oddly enough, with Holmes bored and looking for entertainment. It’s particularly amusing to note that he finds this entertainment in Watson. Indeed, we are treated to Holmes serenading Watson (singing, no less), then taunting Watson, then snorting at Watson, and then pacing restlessly until Watson finally caves and engages Holmes in conversation. It’s a lovely scene, and as amusing as it is endearing.
Overall, this episode is quite slashy. Aside from the above mentioned scene, we are also treated to Holmes singsonging Watson’s name, and then perching next to Watson in their carriage. And then there Holmes slapping Watson on the back. And Holmes’ grin when Watson finally agrees to break into their suspect’s house. And finally, the early morning breakfast scene, complete with Holmes sans collar, and a shared smirk as Holmes utters his now famous phrase:
“For England, home and beauty — eh, Watson?”
Slash aside, this episode is also remarkable in that it features Mycroft, and, as always, Gray’s portrayal of Mycroft is so brilliant it transcends Canon. Of course, extra points have been given for Mycroft’s forgetting of Watson’s name.
The Hound of the Baskervilles -feature length
This is a beautifully filmed adaptation. The colours, the detail, the authenticity of the props and costumes; all of it is very in keeping with the period. The special effects left something to be desired, but given the time in which it was filmed, and the limited budget of a television movie, one cannot be too picky. That being said, this version is by no means over the top. In fact, it’s quite subtle, and manages to create a sensation of suspense without flashy gimmicks.
The attention to detail that make Granada’s adaptations noteworthy is presence, and one cannot help but notice the realism of the fog, or the mist of the actors’ breath in the air. Every little detail reminds the viewer of the Canon version, and that, if nothing else, is what makes this one of the best Hound adaptations I have seen.
There are a few deviations from Canon, but these only add to the sense of mystery and authenticity. Indeed, these deviations render this film entirely more subtextual than Canon would have us believe.
This, of course, leads us to the subtext, which is really what this is all about. I will pause, however, to mention the cast. This was brilliantly cast, and each of the characters involved were exactly as I pictured them. This is particularly true of the female actors involved, as they have been made to appear natural (quite fitting with the period) and lack the heavy eye make-up and elaborate hairstyles of some of the other adaptations. A remarkable well rounded, and well put together film.
Subtextually, there are a lot of little elements which combine together to lend weight to the theory that Holmes and Watson were utterly in love. The movie opens with the famous scene of Holmes spying on Watson through the reflection in their coffee pot. Brett’s mannerisms here give this scene an air of stalking and intense interest, so that the view is left with little doubt of the desire Holmes tries so desperately to hide.
The chemistry between Brett and Hardwicke, as mentioned above, is incredible. They have silent communication down to an art, and throughout this film they are seen to be communicating solely through a look or a touch. The affection they show for one another is evident in these looks, as they are often accompanied by a soft smile, or a pride-filled grin.
Deviating from Canon, Holmes has snuck a letter into Watson’s pocket, the contents of which run through Watson’s mind almost continuously throughout the story. This is particularly well done, and one gets the impression that Watson cannot survive without his Holmes. In fact, he rereads the letter before bed, an obvious sign of how much Watson misses his constant companion.
Indeed, the story ends with their date, and there is no doubt in the reader’s mind that this is exactly Holmes intention when he invites Watson to the concert and dinner.
There were, however, some less than enjoyable aspects to be found in this adaptation. Hound was filmed later into Granada’s run and Brett is a looking a little worse for wear. His wheezy, raspy voice is hard not to notice, and it does distract a little. We cannot, however, fault the man for his failing health.
Overall, though, this is by far my favourite version of Hound. Aside from the authenticity and attention to detail which make this a remarkable rendition, it is also one of the slashiest versions I have seen. Really, quite enjoyable.
V. The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
Note: It should be noted that Granada has begun to deviate, quite considerably in this season. As such, many purists will likely want to avoid Granada’s final three seasons. Brief reviews of the episodes have been given.
The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax
Granada’s version has Watson away on vacation, obsessing over a woman staying at his hotel. Holmes, on the other hand, remains in Baker Street, where he keeps abreast of Watson’s absence via a series of letters. What is remarkable here is not that Holmes reads Watson’s letters, but that he acts them out, using small figurines as props. The entire scene is quite amusing.
“Watson, you’re a brick.”
Perhaps even more amusing is the knowledge that Watson, despite being on vacation, sets aside time every day to write to Holmes. Likewise, Holmes sets aside time every day to read Watson’s letters. While that is suggestive in and of itself, Granada takes this a step further and suggests that Holmes is quite upset by Watson’s seeming obsession with Lady Frances Carfax. Indeed, Granada seems to indicate that it was Watson’s obsession which first convinced Holmes to travel to Lausanne.
Of course, the entire setup of the story deviates from Canon (so much so, in fact, that the tale is barely recognizable until midway through the second act), but in rewriting the story, Granada has (inadvertently, perhaps) created a story that is very ripe with subtext. Even Holmes’ disappointment at the failure of the case has been made to look like Holmes is disappointed, not at having cost a woman her sanity, but at having failed Watson.
The Problem of Thor Bridge
While again we see several deviations, overall Granada has done this story justice. It’s amusing, and yet dramatic enough to hold our attention. The original story is there, and while, occasionally, events unfold in a manner unfamiliar to the readers of Canon, the similarities are enough that the story is recognizable.
Perhaps the most noteworthy element of this tale is Watson’s role in the story. Indeed, Watson is quite clever, and, on several occasions, provides insight which proves to be the correct solution. In fact, more often than not, it is Watson who directs Holmes’ attention to the correct solution.
Despite Watson’s increased role, it is still abundantly clear that Watson is, without question, Holmes’ ‘boy’, and this creates a very slash-friendly feel to the episode. The Problem of Thor Bridge is also noteworthy for depicting one of the most adorable domestic breakfast scenes in all of Granada.
Shoscombe Old Place
Before we delve too deep into the episode, let me just say that any episode which features a very young Jude Law in drag automatically ranks high on my list of favourite episodes. That being said, again we are witness to several deviations, but again these deviations do not detract (too much) from the story (although the spider found inside the sister’s coffin was fairly heavy-handed).
While not as slashy as some of the previous episodes, the energy between Holmes and Watson is still very much apparent, and it is interesting to note that the pair must specify that they require two rooms; the whole of England likely under the assumption that they share everything. The subtextual elements, however, are not the focus of this episode, and, in the end, the whole of it belongs to a shining performance by Rosalie Williams, who is, by far, the most three-dimensional Mrs. Hudson to grace the screen.
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
Season five appears to be the season in which Watson took to vacationing. Again, the episode begins with Watson on vacation, this time fishing, and this provides for an absolutely adorable scene when Holmes, searching for Watson, appears on scene, much to Watson’s surprise..
There is, however, a slight shift in Watson in this episode. In fact, he seems quite put out; annoyed, even, and one cannot help but wonder at the cause for this. It is perhaps the least desirable of all the deviations, and this mood reappears several times as the season progresses.
That being said, Granada still manages to play up the quirky love which existed between the two men, and even when Watson is scowling, the viewer is very much aware that his heart belongs to Holmes; just as Holmes’ heart belongs to Watson. It’s quite adorable, and made more apparent by Brett’s depiction of Holmes. Indeed, the number of times Holmes gazes fondly at Watson only increases as the series moves forward.
The Illustrious Client
I must confess; I did not expect Granada to include the bathhouse scene. It is Canon, yes, but over the span of one hundred years, the connotation of bathhouses has shifted dramatically. Today, and, indeed, even in the early 1990s, bathhouses were (and are) a symbol of gay culture. That Granada should include such a scene is quite telling, and indeed, quite surprising.
While again we are faced with several dozen deviations (a sign of the increasing license Granada took with Canon as time elapsed), overall the episode is quite enjoyable. This is mostly due to the presence of subtext. Several scenes highlight the subtextual nature of Granada’s adaptations, and in each of these scenes the viewer is instantly aware of the true nature of Holmes and Watson’s relationship.
Watson’s concern upon learning of Holmes’ injuries is a good example of this, and, indeed, Watson appears quite alarmed to learn that his friend has been badly beaten. Shortly after this moment, the episode shifts, becoming Watson’s in earnest, and we are thrilled to note Watson’s incredible dedication to Holmes, and his ability to bend himself to Holmes’ desires.
Finally, no episode would be complete without a subtle interpretation of Canon, and Watson’s reaction to learning that the royal family is involved in the case is quite enjoyable.
The Creeping Man
Before we turn our attention to a serious review, I’d like to take a moment and express my enjoyment of the following scene:
“Come at once if convenient. If inconvenient, come all the same.”
Except, of course, here Watson is unmarried, and Holmes is fetching him from ‘the office’. If one squints, it is not too hard to make out the postscript of Holmes’ note.
“Pick up milk.”
Oh, such married bliss.
This is an unusual episode, because, for reasons unknown, Watson appears to be quite hostile. I am fairly certain this attitude was not present in Canon, and upon reviewing the previous episode, I see that it is not present there, and so I am having a particularly difficult time explaining Watson’s hostility in this episode. I’m tempted to seek an answer with the actors, for I can honestly think of no reasons that Watson might appear so ‘put out’.
Watson’s anger does lessen as the episode progresses, and yet its presence certain does distract from the story. In fact, I was so preoccupied by it that I can hardly recall whether Granada continued with its trend of deviations. Most of the story is a blur to me, as I became, quite literally, obsessed with discovering the motive for Watson’s anger. I am sad to admit that I found not cause.
This very likely would have upset me, were it not for the final scene. Ah, Holmes, dancing alongside a smoking monkey; how can that fail to please?
VI. Feature length productions
The Master Blackmailer
I must confess; I was quite curious to see how Granada intended to turn this story into a feature length production. They did not disappoint.
This episode deviates substantially from Canon, but it’s done in such a way as to enhance the story, making it quite engaging. Granada works in several subplots, which add depth and intrigue to the original tale. But, above all else, Granada manages, through deviations, to create one of the most subtext heavy episodes of the series.
I refer here, of course, to the homosexual subplot. In Granada’s version, a man due to marry finds himself the victim of blackmail over several letters he had sent to his male lover. Granada does not shy away from this plot, but rather, follows it completely, commenting on a very common occurrence in the homosexual community of the late Victorian Era. This is particularly interesting when contrasted with the extreme hatred Holmes demonstrates for the blackmailer. The two are tied together, and one cannot help but wonder if Granada intended for the audience to associate the Holmes’ disgust for blackmail with the plight of the homosexual soldier.
This is, of course, not the only theory which Granada explores. One of the reasons Granada tends to stand above and beyond its competition is its willingness to speculate. Here, Granada speculates that Holmes was a lonely boy who craved love and attention. This is handled subtlety, and provides depth for Holmes’ character.
Of course, the height of this episode comes with Holmes’ venture into the blackmailer’s home, Holmes taking on the character of plumber, and I must confess, my slasher tendencies aside, the wooing of the maid is quite possibly the most amusing of all Granada’s scenes. Brett plays up Holmes’ fumbling awkwardness around women, and manages, even when Holmes is convincing himself that he is doing the right thing, to look chagrin.
This episode presented several other delightful elements, and while each should be rambled about at length, I will restrain myself and mention only a few of the more subtextually heavy scenes.
There is, of course, the infamous bathtub scene, where Holmes, nude and covered by water, attempts to bath while Watson paces on the far side of the open bathroom door. This is particularly amusing as the pair are engaged in conversation. There is the Holmes whispering in Watson’s ear scene, and the domestic squabble concerning the paying of the bills. There is Watson’s dancing and Holmes’ amused smirk at the sight of dancing Watson. There are a dozen other looks and touches, each of which convincing on its own, but combined together, the subtext of the evidence becomes text.
To deviate slightly from our purpose, it is also worth mentioning that the episode is exceptionally well filmed and put together, and Robert Hardy as Charles Milverton is brilliant, his performance inspiring loathing and disgust. By far this is one of Granada’s best episodes.
The Last Vampyre
This is Granada’s version of The Sussex Vampire, and it is quite different from the original. In fact, it deviates with such frequency that it practically classifies as a pastiche.
I have noted before that Granada’s deviations tend to lend weight to the story. This is not the case with this episode. By focusing on vampire myths and introducing a suspected vampire, Granada has shifted the story to something entirely more fantastical, which, I am sure the viewer will agree, is so far removed from Sherlock Holmes that it feels out of place.
The story also disappoints in that it ceases to be a mystery and becomes a suspense thriller. Granada focuses more on the terror of the unknown and less on the mysterious circumstances Holmes is attempting to unravel. This creates an atmosphere that is more befitting Bram Stoker’s work than Arthur Conan Doyle’s.
The episode was not without some merit. Indeed, it presented several elements which were quite delightful. Jeremy Brett’s performance is particularly noteworthy, as he plays an incredulous Sherlock Holmes with such conviction that I often found myself crying out in amusement. Holmes, and to a lesser extent, Watson, do remain with their feet firm upon the ground, and their reactions to Granada’s attempted herrings is quite fitting, quite in character, and quite amusing. The episode also makes an interesting commentary on mob mentality, and the hysteria that comes of superstition. This was fascinating to watch, and still quite relevant in world of 2006.
Finally, I was rather impressed by Granada’s subtle suggestion that Stockton (the suspected vampire) had an inappropriate relationship with Jack, the Ferguson’s eldest son. This was not outright stated, but there existed enough innuendo to suggest that Stockton was a pedophile, and that he was likely abusing the Ferguson’s teen. While disturbing to watch, it did lend a good deal of weight to the episode’s final outcome.
The Eligible Bachelor
This is Granada’s version of The Noble Bachelor and, much like The Last Vampyre, this episode deviates considerably from Canon. In fact, the majority of the episode is entirely original; with elements from Doyle’s works borrowed for what one can only assume is the express purpose of making the episode appear authentic. A slightly difficult challenge, for Granada quite overplays their hand; and nowhere is this more obvious then the set changes, Granada’s use of fog and prisms enough to confuse even the casual viewer.
Aside from sliding remarkably off course, the episode is also rather drawn out, and, indeed, quite dull at times. The build up, which I suspect was meant to create a sensation of suspense, falls completely flat, leaving the viewer with the overwhelming need for caffeine, or some other stimulant.
Then, of course, there is Holmes’ prophetic dream. I’m not entirely certain this warrants comment, for it went beyond the bizarre and entered the realm of ludicrous. The fact that this, what was meant to be a pivotal moment in the story, occurs some forty minutes into the episode, is quite frustrating, especially given that, prior to this, nothing has happened; forty minutes for a dream that makes little sense and is so far removed from the character of Holmes that, even with Brett’s tremendous performance, one does not recognize his character.
The episode claims only one redeeming quality, and that was the portrayal of Holmes and Watson’s relationship. It was handled with such care, and such love, that each moment of their interaction almost, almost, made up for the travesty that was this story.
VII. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Note: The feature length episodes found in season six set the stage for what is to become Granada’s norm. From this point forward, Granada will take an increasing number of liberties, such that the episodes contained within season seven are unrecognizable in terms of Canon. While this is disappointing, I have decided to ignore these deviations and concentrate on the aspects that made season seven enjoyable.
Season seven also introduces Granada’s obsession with prisms and floating rainbows. While I have yet to decide what Granada truly intended, for now I am operating under the assumption that Granada felt the need to ‘gay-up’ the episodes so as to perpetuate the theory that Holmes and Watson were in fact lovers. Nothing says gay, after all, like floating rainbows.
The Three Gables
Although this episode was, at times, quite slow, and did include several unusual deviations (Holmes’ gossiping friend, comes to mind, as does the elaborate lawn party), the episode does redeem itself in its treatment of Holmes and Watson’s relationship. In fact, it is quite obvious, through the episode, that Holmes and Watson have grown rather close, and, indeed, that they are quite protective of one another. There is a decided air of caring and warmth between the two, and Granada chose a perfect story to highlight this fact.
The story begins with Watson standing up to a boxer in an effort to defend Holmes’ honour. It then leads to an assault on Watson, which sends Holmes running, his worry and concern so evident that upon spotting Watson safe (if worse for wear) Holmes actually breathes a sigh of relief. Then there is the tender touch upon Watson’s shoulder, and later, Holmes’ need to dote on Watson while Watson recovers from his injuries. Finally, there is Holmes anger and need for vengeance, Holmes’ hostility towards the woman involved tied directly (and so says Holmes) to Watson’s injuries.
All in all, quite a lovely sight. As an added benefit, the woman chosen to play Ms. Maberley was absolutely stunning in the role.
The Dying Detective
Here Granada returns to its formula of using deviations for the sake of enhancing the story. In fact, Granada has created an entire back-story based on the references made in Canon, and its inclusion enriches the story beyond what a mere retelling of Canon could have done.
Of all the season seven episodes, The Dying Detective is easily the best. With its purposeful deviations and its insight into the characters, the episode is very reminiscing of season pasts; when Granada was still at the height of its run. Particularly enjoyable elements include Holmes’ discomfort in a social setting, and Holmes’ jealousy over the interest Watson shows their female client. Then, of course, there is Watson’s upset upon hearing of Holmes’ illness.
In fact, the entire scene involving Holmes’ illness is quite stunning. Watson’s worry is vibrant, and it thrilled me beyond words to discover that Granada kept the original: “Quick, if you love me.” This, couple with Brett’s grotesque appearance, kept this episode quite true to Canon, and so, even with the deviations (or perhaps because of them) this was a delight to watch.
The Golden Pince Nez
In The Golden Pince Nez, Granada does not so much deviate as it does rewrite. In fact, Granada has substituted Watson for Mycroft. This was done, of course, due to Edward Hardwicke’s absence, and yet the absence of Holmes and Watson interaction makes this episode quite depressing.
Still, the case was handled well, and Mycroft’s presence did give Granada the opportunity to examine Holmes’ background. We see several theories on Holmes’ family and family life, and while at times awkward, very often Granada seemed to touch close to what one would assume is the truth.
It is also amusing to note that Holmes is quite testy when Watson is not around. In fact, this was so obvious that Mrs. Hudson even commented on it.
“…you miss the doctor.”
Quite cute, all things considered, and enough that we can forgive Granada for championing Mycroft, the political back-story, and the strange camera angles.
The Red Circle
This is an interesting episode, for it thrusts Holmes and Watson into the background and focuses instead on the case at hand. The case is exceptionally well handled, and a good deal more dramatic than the original. It holds its own, and so the viewer does not really mind Holmes and Watson’s absence.
That is not to say that Holmes and Watson are not present, for they are, and their role is quite remarkable. I found, however, that their presence onscreen was accompanied by a good deal of discussion. Brett, and in some respects Hardwicke, are obviously getting older, and so it is not surprising that Granada has cut back on action scenes. This dialogue, however, allows some additional insight into the case, and additional insight into their relationship.
One need only examine the terror in Holmes’ eyes when he mistakenly believes it is Watson clambering over the rooftops in pursuit of their suspect.
The Mazarin Stone
Of all the episodes to avoid, this is perhaps the one. Granada’s version of The Mazarin Stone combines the original tales of The Mazarin Stone and The Adventure of the Three Garridebs. While this sounds quite exciting, it should be noted that Holmes does not appear in this episode (due to Brett’s failing health). As such, one of the most pivotal, and, indeed, subtextually heavy scenes in Canon, is rendered sterile, Watson’s injury no longer met with Holmes’ comforting embrace.
In addition to this, the stories have been completely rewritten, so not only have they been combined with Holmes’ role removed, but they have also been altered to the point where they are no longer recognizable. The ending is quite possibly the oddest thing I have ever seen, and I am still trying to determine what the Granada writers were smoking when they wrote and filmed it.
That being said, there were several enjoyable aspects. Watson is certainly given his moment to shine in this episode, and, as always, Mycroft is particularly delightful (especially when he is incognito, and again when he is flirting with their female clients). The Garridebs sisters are also quite adorable, and provide for several amusing scenes. Still, Brett’s absence was felt, and Holmes’ presence sorely missed.
The Cardboard Box
Such a delightful episode to end the series on, and while we grieve for the loss of Sherlock Holmes (and, more aptly, Jeremy Brett, whose premature death cut the series short and stole from the world a great and shining star), we are far too grateful to feel disappointment that Granada could not complete its mission and film Canon in its entirety.
The purist will undoubtedly disapprove of the deviations, but I for one was rather fond of them. To begin, Granada sets The Cardboard Box over Christmas, allowing for a delightful examination of Holmes and Watson and their celebratory traditions. That Holmes’ biggest concern (even above that of his case) is what to buy Watson for Christmas filled me with such overwhelming glee. Holmes’ pride and excitement at having found a suitable gift was adorable beyond words, and finally, Holmes’ excitement upon discovering that Watson not only likes his gift, but is wearing it, was enough to set my heart swooning.
The shift to the holiday season also presented several amusing elements, which gave this episode a rather light-hearted feel. The sight of Holmes decorating his chemical bench with ribbons and bobbles brought tears to my eyes. The episode, too, presented quite the romantic front, Holmes and Watson particularly close and content with one another’s presence. All in all, the episode ranks high in subtextual elements.
In fact, the only quibble I can put forward is that of the body-snatching subplot, which really wasn’t explored, and made little sense, so one cannot help but wonder what it was included to begin with.
Aside from that, however, The Cardboard Box marks a fitting end, with Holmes and Watson standing side by side; together in the end as they were in the beginning. Certainly a fitting tribute to the most definitive Holmes and Watson the screen has ever seen.
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.