Alex Kane’s Viewer & Listener Guide:
December 3 – 9, 2011.
“I will tell you no more gloomy details. Let us turn to something brighter.”
The Return of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Freeview10/Freesat115/Sky119/Virgin117 at 06.50am) Series 4, Episode 1—The Devil’s Foot (April 6, 1988) A cracking episode to launch the fourth series, with great work from Denis Quilley as Leon Sterndale, the African explorer. Oddly enough, I can never think of Sterndale without thinking of that other ‘African explorer,’ Captain Spaulding, as played by Groucho Marx in “Animal Crackers.” Quilley also played Bob Carruthers in the Merrison/Williams adaptation of “The Solitary Cyclist” in 1993.
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 7.50pm) Series 6, Episode 5—The Mazarin Stone (April 4, 1994) An absolute jumble of an episode which drags in “The Three Garridebs” and Mycroft (Charles Gray stepping in for the increasingly ill Brett—who makes only a brief appearance). It just doesn’t work: largely to do with the fact that the stories, individually, are weak. The name of the main villain in the 2009 “Sherlock Holmes,” Lord Blackwood, is derived from the name Count Negretto Sylvius (Negretto is Italian for ‘Black’ and Sylvius is Latin for ‘Woods’).
Sherlock Holmes: His Last Bow (BBC Radio4 Extra on DAB/ Freeview708/Freesat708/Sky0131/Virgin910 at 6.00am, 1.00pm, 8.00pm and 1.00am) Episode 2—The Cardboard Box (January 12, 1994) Kevin Whately (of “Morse” and “Lewis” fame) is a very good Browner. (Ken Coombs who serves as Whately’s ‘stand-in’ in “Lewis” has also appeared in both the Downey Holmes’ films). Stephen Thorne—playing Lestrade—is one of radio’s best known voices and he has also done a number of readings of Conan Doyle stories, including “The Crooked Man” and “Sir Nigel.”
The Return of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 7.00am) Series 4, Episode 2—Silver Blaze (April 13, 1988) “Silver Blaze” is the story which began my lifelong enjoyment of the Canon and this is a pretty good dramatisation.
Sherlock Holmes: His Last Bow (Radio4 Extra on Sky0131/Virgin910 at 6.00am, 1.00pm, 8.00pm and 1.00am) Episode 3—The Red Circle (January 19, 1994) The great joy of both the Merrison/Williams and Granada productions is the contribution from the guest stars and the obvious enjoyment that so many of them get from being involved. Today we have the chance to listen to Joan Sims as Mrs Warren, a part she tackles with obvious relish. I have very fond memories of her as Mrs. Bung in “Carry On Screaming”, the closest that Carry On ever came to Sherlock Holmes.
The Return of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 7.00am) Season 4, Episode 3—Wisteria Lodge (April 20, 1988) Great screenplay from Jeremy Paul and a lovely performance from Freddie Jones as Inspector Baynes. Jones was to return to the Granada series a few years later for “The Last Vampyre” and he also had a role in “Young Sherlock Holmes in 1985). Donald Churchill—playing Scott Eccles—had played Watson to Ian Richardson’s Holmes in “The Hound of the Baskervilles” in 1983, although he wasn’t very good.
Sherlock Holmes: His Last Bow (Radio4 Extra on Sky0131/Virgin910 at 6.00am, 1.00pm, 8.00pm and 1.00am) Episode 4—The Bruce Partington Plans (January 26, 1994) John Moffatt—playing Sir James Walter—has played Holmes to Timothy West’s Watson in “Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula” in a 1981 radio adaptation. Pauline Yates—playing Mrs Johnson—is the wife of Donald Churchill (see above).
Sherlock Holmes: His Last Bow (Radio4 Extra on Sky0131/Virgin910 at 6.00am, 1.00pm, 8.00pm and 1.00am) Episode 5—The Dying Detective (February 2, 1994) Edward Petherbridge—playing Smith—is probably much better known for playing Lord Peter Wimsey in a ten episode BBC series: but he also played Holmes (with David Peart as Watson) in a National Public Radio series between 1991 and 1993.
The Return of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 6.55am) Season 4, Episode 4—The Bruce Partington Plans (April 27, 1988) Another opportunity to compare the Merrison/Willliams version (see Wednesday) with Brett/Hardwicke. A very good guest star list in this one; including Geoffrey Bayldon (who had appeared in one of the episodes of the 1979/80 Whitehead/Pickering “Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson” series). Bayldon turned down the opportunity to be the original Dr Who and again turned down the role when Patrick Troughton (my favourite) replaced William Hartnell.
The Newly Discovered Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (Radio4 Extra on Sky0131/Virgin910 at 7.00am, 5.30pm and 5.30am) Episode 2—The Mystery of the Obese Escapologist (January 23, 1999) The great strength of this Holmes spoof is the cast: Roy Hudd (Holmes), Chris Emmett (Watson), June Whitfield (Mrs Hudson), Geoffrey Whitehead (Moriarty) and Jeffrey Holland (Lestrade). The humour is broad and bawdy, but never goes over the knuckle.
Hudd appeared in Granada’s “The Dying Detective” and in an episode of “The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” with Clive Merrison and Andrews Sachs. Emmett played Watson to Bernie Winter’s Holmes in a Sherlock-themed edition of the gameshow 3-2-1. Whitehead played Holmes in a 1979/80 Polish television series with Donald Pickering as Watson.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 7.50pm) Season 1, Episode 1—A Scandal In Bohemia (April 24, 1984) I remember watching this episode for the first time and thinking “Wow! Brett is Sherlock Holmes.” I still prefer Hardwicke to David Burke, but this first series wouldn’t have worked without Burke’s understated and occasionally subtle interpretation of the character. Gayle Hunnicutt is an ideal Irene Adler. And let’s not forget the wonderful Rosalie Williams as Mrs Hudson—a great piece of casting and a great piece of acting.
The Book Show (Sky Arts on Sky243/Virgin281 at 8.00pm) Features interviews with PD James and Anthony Horowitz.
Sherlock Holmes, 2009 (Sky Christmas on Sky 303/Virgin403 at 9.45pm) While Robert Downey Jnr gives us a Holmes we have never really seen before (and I won’t complain about that) I still think this film is let down by a lousy plot, gorgonzola script and an awful lot of hamming-it-up from a cast who should know better. Guy Ritchie doesn’t seem to have understood that Holmes is a ‘thinking machine’ first and foremost.
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 12.05am) Series 6, Episode 5—The Mazarin Stone (April 4, 1994) See Monday
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 7.00am) Series 5, Episode 1—The Disappearance of Lady Francis Carfax (February 21, 1991) Julian Curry—playing Schlessinger/Peters—gets it absolutely right: and that’s important, because so many other versions of this story have failed because of the underplaying or overplaying of this central role. Personally, I would happily chase across Europe after Cheryl Campbell, even if she wasn’t playing Lady Francis!
Sherlock Holmes: His Last Bow (Radio4 Extra on Sky0131/Virgin910 at 6.00am, 1.00pm, 8.00pm and 1.00am) Episode 6—The Disappearance of Lady Francis Carfax (February 9, 1994) This version doesn’t work for me precisely because Peter Wickham gets it completely wrong as Schlessinger/Peters. And the Lady really has disappeared in this one! What do I mean by that? Answers by e-mail please to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Four of you had a go at last week’s quiz and the winner is Roger Johnson. I asked, in Sherlockian terms, what links Peter Jeffrey, Christopher Lee and Richard E Grant? They have all played Mycroft and they have also either played Holmes or played someone who wasn’t really Holmes!