News Bulletin 69

Alex Kane’s Viewer & Listener Guide:

February 18 – 24, 2012

“I have just been looking through all the recent papers in order to master the particulars.”

There’s not much new on the TV front, but there are a handful of delights on Radio 4 Extra. Also, if you have never seen The Molly Maguires then try and catch it or tape it on Friday.


The Return of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Freeview10 and Freesat115 also Sky119/Virgin117 at 6.35am)

Series 3, Episode 4—The Musgrave Ritual (July 30, 1986) A splendidly tight episode from Jeremy Paul: so good, in fact, that it won the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America.

The Teahouse Detective: The Body in the Barge (Radio4 Extra on DAB and Freeview/ Freesat708 also Sky0131/Virgin910 at 1.15pm and 3.15am)

Baroness Orczy is best remembered as the author of The Scarlet Pimpernel, but she also wrote a number of stories about armchair detective Bill Owen, who related the cases to a young journalist as they took tea at the ABC Teashop, near the Strand. The stories had first appeared in The Royal Magazine in 1901, but neither Owen nor The Royal came anywhere close to enjoying the success of Holmes or The Strand.

Anyway, this is a tight, old-fashioned entertainment with the always reliable Bernard Hepton as Owen.  It was first broadcast in 1998.

The Lost Special (Radio4 Extra on Sky0131/Virgin910 at 11.00pm)

Read by David Schofield, this story, written by Conan Doyle in 1898, concerns the baffling disappearance of a special train (a train privately hired and unavailable to the general public) on its journey to London. A letter to The Times by “an amateur reasoner of some celebrity at that date” is excerpted at one point, and the style of the writing suggests that the author of the letter is probably meant to be Holmes. This “recognized authority upon such matters” does not solve the mystery, although his proposed solution is fairly close to the true solution revealed at the end of the story. The impersonal way in which this person is referred to would seem to imply that the narrator is not meant to be Dr. Watson.

The Lost Special was also adapted by Universal Studio in 1932 as a twelve part serial.


The Return of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 6.30am)


Series 3, Episode 7—The Six Napoleons (August 20, 1986) This has always been one of my favourite Holmes stories. And an absolute joy to have the wonderful Eric Sykes playing Horace Harker. Gerald Campion—playing Morse Hudson—remains best known as Billy Bunter, a character who appeared in The Greyfriars Herald and Magnet magazines, as did the very funny pastiche Herlock Sholmes.

Holmes himself is referred to in the 1953 book, Billy Bunter’s First Case.


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

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.

Murder on the Orient Express (Radio4 Extra on Sky0131/Virgin910 at 6am, 1pm, 8pm and 1am)

Other than David Suchet—who also manages to look the part—John Moffatt is my favourite Poirot. This is a very solid 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

*This is 1/5 episodes and the programme will be running until Friday at the same times.

Thrilling Stories of the Railway (Radio4 Extra on Sky0131/Virgin910 at 6.30am, 1.30pm, 8.30pm and 1.30am)

Victor L Whitechurch is a mostly forgotten writer, but he did write some pretty good stories featuring Thorpe Hazell, a vegetarian railway detective. They first appeared in the Strand Magazine and Railway Magazine (among others) and were published as a collection in 1912. He was admired for his plotting and accuracy.

*Read by Benedict Cumberbatch this is 1/5 episodes and the programme will be running until Friday at the same times.


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

Season 4, Episode 2—Silver Blaze (April 13, 1988) SILV was the story which introduced me to Holmes almost 45 years ago and it remains one of my favourites. So I’m very pleased that this is a bang-on-the-money adaptation.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 12.30am)

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.

Murder on the Orient Express   SEE MONDAY

Thrilling Stories of the Railway  SEE MONDAY


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

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 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky 119/Virgin 117 at 8.00pm)

Episode 5, First Series—The Crooked Man (May 22nd, 1984) Dramatised by Alfred Shaughnessy, best known as the script editor of the hugely influential and massively popular TV series, ‘Upstairs Downstairs.’ Norman Jones, who played ‘The Crooked Man,’ was a well known face on British television, although never a star. Denys Hawthorne, who played Col. Barclay, was born in Northern Ireland and graduated in law from Queen’s University.

Murder on the Orient Express   SEE MONDAY

Thrilling Stories of the Railway  SEE MONDAY


The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 7.55am)

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, 2009 (Sky Action/Adventure on Sky305/Virgin405 at 1.40pm and 10.00pm) 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.

Paul Temple and Steve (Radio 4 at 11.00pm)   

Episode 5 of 8: David Nelson Explains

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.

Murder on the Orient Express   SEE MONDAY

Thrilling Stories of the Railway  SEE MONDAY


The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (ITV3 on Sky119/Virgin117 at 7.55am)

Series 5, Episode 2—The Problem Of Thor Bridge (February 28, 1991) The role of J. Neil Gibson (like those of Roylott and Milverton) is easy to get wrong, but Daniel Massey gets it just about right. Massey’s father, Raymond Massey, had played Holmes in a 1931 version of The Speckled Band and had been pretty good in the role. The film turns up on TV very occasionally, but DVDs are easy and cheap to get.

Catherine Russell—playing Grace Dunbar—is the daughter of Nicholas Smith (Mr. Rumbold from Are You Being Served?), who had a small role in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother. Dean Magri—playing Billy the pageboy—is now a very successful tap dancer and choreographer: which suggests he could have been used in either The Dancing Men or The Problem of the Devil’s Thor Foot. Thank you, you’ve been a wonderful audience!

The Molly Maguires (Sky Classics on Sky311/Virgin411 at 10.15pm)

Directed in 1970 by Martin Ritt this is the story of a secret organisation of Irish coal miners in nineteenth century Pennsylvania and their infiltration by detective James McParland, a Pinkerton agent. It’s based on a mostly true story and also served as a back-drop for Conan Doyle’s ‘The Valley of Fear.’

Richard Harris—playing McParland—is the father of Jared Harris, who plays Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Good support from Sean Connery, Frank Finlay and the wonderful Samantha Eggar didn’t stop the film from performing poorly at the box-office.

Murder on the Orient Express   SEE MONDAY

Thrilling Stories of the Railway  SEE MONDAY