News Bulletin 65

Alex Kane’s Viewer & Listener Guide:

January 28 – February 3, 2012.

“The matter is a perfectly trivial one but there are points in connection with it which are not entirely devoid of interest and even of instruction.”


Murdock Mysteries (Watch on Sky109/Virgin124 at 8.00pm)

Elementary, My Dear Murdock (February 10, 2008)—The Murdock Mysteries (based on the novels by Maureen Jennings) stars Yannick Bisson as a detective in 1890s Toronto. The series occasionally features real people from the late Victorian era. In this episode Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Geraint Wyn Davies), who is in Toronto to make a speech on spiritualism, invites Detective Murdoch to a séance hosted by Miss Sarah Pensall where they are told of the location of the body of Miss Iris Winston. Detective Murdoch, despite his disbelief in communication with the dead, goes with Sir Arthur go to the location and finds Miss Winston murdered. It’s enjoyable, albeit pretty unconvincing stuff.

Davies was to play Doyle again a few episodes later (Belly Speaker—March 16, 2008). This one features a ventriloquist with a puppet called Mycroft!


Murdock Mysteries (Watch on Sky109/Virgin124 at 11.45am) SEE SATURDAY

Fairy Tale: A True Story (Channel 5 at 4.05pm) Fairly loosely based on the downright peculiar story of the Cottingley Fairies—one of the most infamous hoaxes of the last century—this is actually a likeable enough little film. Peter O’Toole is good as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as is Harvey Keitel as Houdini. But the real strength of the film lies in the performances of Florence Hoath and Elizabeth Earl as Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths. Looking at it almost a century after the events (the film was made in 1997) it’s hard to believe that anyone with a rational mind could ever have believed the story to be true. But it was a time of awful bloodshed and sadness, a time when even rational people wanted to believe in something magical.

Frances’ daughter, Christine Lynch, lives in Belfast. In 2009 she published the first edition of her mother’s memoirs under the title Reflections on the Cottingley Fairies. She still believes—as did her mother—that the fairies in the fifth photograph were genuine!

Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (TCM on Sky317/Virgin415 at 4.40pm) The third Holmes vehicle in 1943, this is one of my favourites in the Rathbone/Bruce series. I was getting a little tired of the in-your-face anti-Nazi propaganda of the previous three, so it was nice to see a return to more old-fashioned detection—albeit set in a nursing home for  convalescent officers. It’s also got a really strong Holmesian storyline—borrowing heavily from The Musgrave Ritual— and an excellent screenplay from Bertram Millhauser.

I also love the closing lines from Holmes: “There’s a new spirit abroad in the land. The old days of grab and greed are on their way out. We’re beginning to think of what we owe the other fellow, not just what we’re compelled to give him. The time is coming, Watson, when we cannot fill our bellies in comfort while the other fellow goes hungry, or sleep in warm beds while others shiver in the cold. And we shan’t be able to kneel and thank God for blessings before our shining altars while men anywhere are kneeling in either physical or spiritual subjection. And, God willing, we’ll live to see that day, Watson.”


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Freeview10 also Freesat115 and Sky 119/Virgin 117 at 8.00am)

Episode 6, First Series—The Speckled Band (May 29, 1984) Another excellent dramatization from Jeremy Paul, with Jeremy Kemp in terrific form as Roylott. It’s a very easy role to turn into a sort of pantomime villain, but Kemp manages to make him a more rounded character than we know just from the short story. Rosalyn Landor, who plays Helen Stoner, is now a multi award winning narrator of audio books in America.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky 119/Virgin 117 at 4.05pm)

Episode 7, First Series—The Blue Carbuncle (June 5th, 1984) Does this episode ever get show at Christmas time?! An excellent adaptation of what is one of my favourite stories. There are three great strengths to this one: 1) Brett’s delivery of the line about the goose coming back to life; 2) Ken Campbell’s perfect portrayal of James Ryder; and 3) and the always value-for-money Frank Middlemass as Henry Baker. This is just fun to watch and a reminder that a great part of the success of the Granada series lay in the strength of the casting of key roles.

Hercule Poirot—Mrs McGinty’s Dead (Radio4 Extra on DAB also Freeview708/Freesat708 and Sky0131/Virgin910 at 6am, 1pm, 8pm and 1am: Monday-Friday)

Other than David Suchet—who also manages to look the part—John Moffatt is my favourite Poirot. This is a very tight adaptation of the Christie novel. I don’t know of any other actor who has played Holmes, Watson and Poirot—but I’m sure one of you will let me know otherwise at


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (ITV 3 on Sky 119/Virgin 117 at 8.00am)

Episode 7, First Series—The Blue Carbuncle (June 5th, 1984) SEE MONDAY

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 4.00pm)

Episode 1, Second Series—The Copper Beeches (August 25, 1985) It’s hard to believe, but apart from an uncredited role in “The Charge of the Light Brigade” in 1968, when she was only five; and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it turn in the 1984 television series “Oxford Blues,” this was Natasha Richardson’s first major role. And she is very good as Violet Hunter, one of my favourite characters from the Canon.

Great work, too, from the ever reliable Joss Ackland, as Jephro Rucastle. He had roles in “The Strange Case of the End of Civilisation As We Know It” (a rarely seen 1977 comedy with John Cleese as Holmes and Arthur Lowe as Watson) and Sherlock Holmes and the Incident at Victoria Falls ( a shouldn’t be seen 1991 film with Christopher Lee and Patrick Macnee as possibly the worst Holmes/Watson ever).

Who Shot Sherlock? (5USA on Freeview31/Freesat129 also Sky174/Virgin153 at 7.00pm) This is from series 5 of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. This remains a hugely successful series in America, although I gave up watching a few years ago. The lead character, Gil Grissom, (played by William Petersen) has Holmesian characteristics, as noted on Wiki.


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 8.00am)

Episode 1, Second Series—The Copper Beeches (August 25, 1985) SEE TUESDAY

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 4.00pm and 1.00am)

Episode 2, Second Series—The Greek Interpreter (September 1, 1985) Charles Gray had been a very good Mycroft Holmes in the 1976 film “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution” (one of my favourite Holmes films), so it is always a pleasure to see him reprise the role in the Granada series.

My one major concern is with the screenplay, because I don’t think that Derek Marlowe has captured either the soul or sound of Holmes.


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 8.00am)

Episode 2, Second Series—The Greek Interpreter (September 1, 1985) SEE WEDNESDAY

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 4.00pm)

Episode 3, Second Series—The Norwood Builder (September 8, 1985) Not one of the best of the Granada series, but a few nice touches along the way, including good work from Matthew Solon as McFarlane. It’s always good, too, to see Colin Jeavons back as Lestrade. I have mentioned before that Jeavons is one of the truly great character actors of British television and he was a superb Uriah Heep in the BBC’s 1966 adaptation of David Copperfield. He also played Professor Moriarty in the 1983 series The Baker Street Boys: The Adventure of the Winged Scarab—Part 2.

Paul Temple and Steve (BBC Radio 4 at 11.00pm)

Episode 2 of 8: 27a Berkeley House Place

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Temple mysteries, particularly the series that still turns up on Radio 4 Extra at regular intervals. This is a new production—first broadcast in June 2010—of the 1947 detective serial and sounds pretty good; with Crawford Logan making an excellent Temple and Gerda Stevenson splendid as his wife, Steve.  The producer, Patrick Rayner, was one of the key people behind the Merrison/Williams Sherlock Holmes complete canon for Radio 4.


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 8.00am)

Episode 3, Second Series—The Norwood Builder (September 8, 1985) SEE THURSDAY

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 4.00pm)

Episode 4, Second Series—The Resident Patient (September 15, 1985) Nicholas Clay, who plays Dr. Trevelyan, had played Stapleton in “The Hound of the Baskervilles” in 1983, with Ian Richardson as Holmes. Patrick Newell, who plays Blessington, appeared in “A Study In Terror (1965), “Young Sherlock Holmes” (1985) and also played Lestrade in a 1980 Holmes series for Polish television. Sadly, though, this is just a so-so adaptation of what is, admittedly, not one of Doyle’s best stories.