News Bulletin 73

Alex Kane’s Viewer & Listener Guide:

March 10 – 16, 2012

“I expect developments, Watson.”

A very poor week, with absolutely nothing new:


The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Sky119/Virgin117 at 6.25am)

Series 6, Episode 4—The Red Circle (March 28, 1994) What makes this episode stand out for me is the presence of Betty Marsden and Kenneth Connor as Mr and Mrs Warren. They are two veterans of British comedy and give the roles exactly the right mix of off-centre seriousness without ever falling into mere caricature.

John Hallam, who played Giorgiano—and was one of British television’s best known faces (even if people didn’t know his name) was born in Lisburn in 1941 after his family were evacuated to Northern Ireland at the start of the Second World War.

The Teahouse Detective: The Dublin Mystery (Radio4 Extra/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.

Sherlock Holmes, 2009 (Sky 307/Virgin407 at 3.10pm and 10.50pm) 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.

Sherlock (BBC HD at 9.00pm)

Episode 3: The Reichenbach Fall (January 15, 2012) Jim Moriarty is a villain straight from a Marvel Comic, complete with the wildly over-the-top dialogue and the hackneyed psychopathic tendencies.

Again, the plot depends on us believing a number of things which are very difficult to believe. Moriarty was arrested red-handed at the scene in the Tower of London. Whatever about Pentonville and the Bank of England, a jury could not have returned a verdict of ‘not guilty’ for that particular offence. Why would Mycroft have spilled the beans on Sherlock just to get Moriarty to talk?  Internal investigations would have indicated—and very quickly too—that the ‘events’ at the Tower, Bank and Prison—were not triggered by a single computer code. Why was Moriarty not recognised as a ‘child entertainer’ during his trial? I have worked for newspapers and the Sherlock expose would never have been handled in that way.

It was just downright silly in a number of places.  The whole, how-did-he-survive-the-fall story, will keep fans busy for months on blogs and tweets: but maybe they should look at what happened in the last Dr Who series, when the Dr survived what looked like his inevitable demise. Mind you, that resolution was absurd, as, I suspect, will Holmes’s survival prove to be.

It was nice, by the way, to see that the agitated member of the Diogenes Club was played by the 92 years old Douglas Wilmer.


The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Sky119/Virgin117 at 6.00am)

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’.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Sky119/Virgin117 at 6.55am)

Series 6, Episode 6—The Cardboard Box (April 11, 1994) Almost ten years to the day since the first Brett was shown, this turned out to be the last. Yes, he had lost the fire and the passion and looked unwell, but it’s still hard to watch this and not regret the fact that he never got to complete the Canon. I have lost count of the number of actors I have seen or heard tackling the role, but for me Brett remains the best: he eclipses and predominates. 

It’s the reference to Belfast in the story which provided us with our name—the Crew of the SS MayDay—so it seems fitting that Jim Browner should be played by the Belfast born Ciaran Hinds.


Father Brown Stories(Radio4 Extra/Sky0131/Virgin910 at 6.30am, 1.30pm, 8.30pm and 1.30am

Andrew Sachs plays G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown in this cosy little radio series first broadcast between 1984 and 1986. He also took over as Dr. Watson (to Clive Merrison’s Holmes) after Michael Williams died.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sky119/Virgin117 at 7.55am)

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.


Father Brown Stories(Radio4 Extra/Sky0131/Virgin910 at 6.30am, 1.30pm, 8.30pm and 1.30am  SEE MONDAY

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

Season 1, Episode 2—The Dancing Men (May 1, 1984) A very understated adaptation by Anthony Skene, with excellent work from Tenniel Evans as Hilton Cubitt and Betsy Brantley as his wife, Elsie.

Evans’ great uncle was Sir John Tenniel, who was one of Punch’s greatest cartoonists (as was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s uncle Richard) and illustrator of the original Alice In Wonderland: and his great-great aunt was Mary Ann Evans, better known as the great Victorian novelist George Eliot. She and Conan Doyle wrote stories for the Cornhill Magazine. She also wrote for Blackwood’s Magazine. Doyle had sent them a short story—The Haunted Grange at Goresthorpe—in the late 1870s, but it was rejected by them and remained in their vaults until 1942, when it transferred to the National Library of Scotland. It was finally published in March 2001 (by the Arthur Conan Doyle Society). Not a great work, perhaps, but it has characters who have overtones of Holmes and Watson.

The Woman in Green, 1945 (Sky 317/Virgin 415 at 7.45pm) This was the 11th of the 14 Rathbone/Bruce series and is clearly not one of the best. Moriarty—already killed off in two other films—was back, this time played by Henry Daniell (Rathbone’s favourite Moriarty, by the way). And after the success of Gale Sondergaard as Spider Woman the previous year, we have the lovely Hillary Brooke as Lydia Marlowe, the Woman in Green.

It’s a terribly convoluted plot centred on what are supposedly “the most atrocious murders since Jack the Ripper.” But it’s worth watching for the confrontation between Holmes and Moriarty: “We’ve had many encounters in the past. You hope to place me on the gallows. I tell you I will never stand upon the gallows. But, if you are instrumental in any way in bringing about my destruction, you will not be alive to enjoy your encounter.”


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

Episode 3, First Series—The Naval Treaty (May 8th, 1984)

I think that the episodes dramatised by Jeremy Paul are amongst the best: and this is one of my favourites. Paul went on to write The Secret of Sherlock Holmes for Brett and Hardwicke in 1988, which had a very successful run in the West End.

The Woman in Green, 1945 (Sky 317/Virgin 415 at 7.45pm) SEE TUESDAY

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sky119/Virgin117 at 8.00pm and 1.00am)

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).


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

Episode 4, First Series—The Solitary Cyclist (May 15th, 1984) A nice little episode dramatised by the late Alan Plater. He was one of British TV’s most accomplished scriptwriters and adapters, with credits including Z Cars, Soft Softly: Taskforce and the Beiderbecke series.

Sherlock Holmes, 2009 (Sky 307/Virgin407 at 1.00pm and 9.00pm) SEE SATURDAY

Paul Temple and Steve (Radio 4 at 11.00pm)   

Episode 8 of 8: The Final Curtain

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 (Sky 119/Virgin 117 at 8.00am)

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.