I watched the entire CBS series, Elementary, starring Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Joan Watson, shortly after the series wrapped up in 2019, if I recall correctly. When the series first began in 2012, I watched the first couple of episodes, and I was not immediately impressed. I had been a big fan of the BBC's Sherlock, and at the time, I was under the impression that no actor could quite match Benedict Cumberbatch's take on the famous character. However, when I gave the series another try a few years later, I began to see that Elementary had some advantages over its British counterpart. Over the course of seven seasons, Liu and Miller were able to develop their portrayals of Holmes and Watson to a degree that Freeman and Cumberbatch could not achieve. Meanwhile, some of the supporting cast of Elementary were given a great deal of development over time that most of the supporting characters on Sherlock were not given. Finally, while Elementary continued to get better and better over time, and ended up the series at the top of its game, the quality of Sherlock declined noticeably in the fourth (and so far, final) season.
Now that the entire series of Elementary is streaming on Hulu, I decided over this Christmas break to watch a couple episodes, and then decided to re-watch the entire series! I've just finished the first season, and it's absolutely as good as I remembered it having been. Lucy Liu is particularly excellent, I think. And Jonny Lee Miller displays a great deal of versatility in his portrayal of Holmes. Again, the more extended format over many seasons, seems to have allowed both actors to grow in their roles to an extent that their British counterparts did not.
I shan't be reviewing the entire series, as I've been doing with the Granada TV adaptation starring Jeremy Brett, but I may share my thoughts from time to time. Meanwhile, I'm thoroughly enjoying experiencing Elementary again (even if I still have to watch ads, one of the downsides of the Hulu platform).
This being Christmas Day, I thought it would be fun to watch yet another adaptation of the much beloved Christmas Sherlock Holmes story, "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle." I stumbled upon this episode from the unusual animated series, Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century, a series that originally aired from 1999-2001. It's an unusual adaptation, to be sure. In the series, a rejuvenated Sherlock Holmes, living in 22nd century London, works with Beth Lestrade (a descendant of Inspector Lestrade from the canon) and a robot Watson to solve crimes. In this particular case, the team encounters a "Blue Carbuncle" animatronic toy, a very cantankerous AI toy, which eventually leads to a brief confrontation with a clone of the infamous Professor Moriarty (apparently the main antagonist of the series).
Once I'm done with my Granada series reviews, I may have to tackle this Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century series, as it appears to be available on YouTube. Sure, it's a little silly, much like most of the animated series that I enjoyed as a kid. Indeed, the end of "Blue Carbuncle" episode I just watched is not unlike a typical episode of shows like "Super Friends," wherein the main character share a jolly laugh after coming face-to-face with an arch nemesis. I may browse through some of the other episodes of the series in the near future.
As I wrap up my ninth year of this blog, I wish you all a very merry Christmas, and a prosperous and happy New Year!
"Silver Blaze" has long been a favorite story among readers, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle counted it as one of his favorite Holmes stories. The story contains a bit of dialogue that is often quoted to demonstrate the details Holmes catches that other mere mortals usually miss.
“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
The Granada adaptation of "Silver Blaze" is an exceptionally well done presentation of the story. I can only imagine that this particular episode cost a bundle to make: lots of extras, location shooting on the moors, and many horses, could not have been cheap. But the result is admirable. Jeremy Brett is often at his best. He is in fine fettle throughout the episode, and constantly finds glee in keeping a step ahead of all the other characters. (The flourish when he finally reveals Silver Blaze is particularly enjoyable.)
The costumes bring Sidney Paget's original artwork to life, as the Granada series often did so very well. Probably the best example of a perfect costume is Holmes's hooded coat and deerstalker cap, done in what looks to be a light grey gabardine. The costume designer clearly had studied Paget's illustrations very carefully.
The supporting cast does a fine job as well. In "Silver Blaze" we are introduced to one of the very few representatives of the official police department who manages to impress Sherlock Holmes most of the time: Inspector Gregory. As Holmes describes him, “Inspector Gregory, to whom the case has been committed, is an extremely competent officer. Were he but gifted with imagination he might rise to great heights in his profession." The actor who plays Gregory, Malcolm Storry, does a very fine job portraying a competent, if a bit unimaginative, detective who clearly wants to impress Holmes. And there's a very impressive scene between Holmes and Silas Brown that is only described by Holmes in the source material, in which Brett and Russell Hunter excel. Peter Barkworth's presents a Colonel Ross who is suitably pompous and dismissive of the great detective, only to become rather fawning when he realizes how Holmes has saved his bacon.
Overall, I found the adaptation to be one of the more enjoyable episodes in the Granada series thus far. It was great to watch such a popular story brought to life in such an entertaining fashion. The episode contains many of the elements that made the series such a hit with so many Sherlock Holmes fans. Highly recommended!
[Originally posted on 2/19/2014]
When I think back to my preteen years, when I first discovered Sherlock Holmes, the story that immediately jumps out in my memory is "The Adventure of the Dancing Men." The idea of Holmes solving a secret picture code appealed to my young imagination. Right around the same age, I had read J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, and had learned as much as I could about the runes on the map to the Misty Mountain. I used to try to write my name in runes, based on the little I could glean from Tolkien's novel and an encyclopedia article I found on runes. I don't know if I ever tried writing any messages in the Dancing Men code, but I bet there are all kinds of Sherlockians, young and old, who have done so.
I also remember poring over the Adventures, Memoirs, and Return of Sherlock Holmes, as well as The Hound of the Baskervilles, as they appeared in The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes (it had a different cover design from the one pictured here, but it was essentially the same one, with all of the Paget illustrations). My parents had bought me the collection when I began to show interest in the Holmes stories. As I recall, it took me a little while to realize that there were more Holmes adventures beyond the ones in that collection. In the days before Wikipedia, I compared the Illustrated Holmes with my grandpa's Complete Sherlock Holmes (the one by Doubleday, with the preface by Christopher Morley). In a sense, my search for the "complete" stories and novels was my own youthful "detective investigation."
And then I remember clearly the excitement of first reading A Study in Scarlet: here at last I was discovering the genesis of the characters I had come to know and love. I marked in pencil some of the passages that stood out to me: Holmes's theory of the mind as an "attic," Watson's list of Holmes's limitations, and Holmes's dismissal of the importance of astronomy. I'm sure lots of Sherlockians can recite it from memory:
“What the deuce is it to me?” he interrupted impatiently: “you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”
I have to admit, these recent weeks of "rediscovering" my interest in Sherlock Holmes, and working on this very blog, have allowed me to recapture some of the wonder and excitement I had thirty-odd years ago, discovering it all for the very first time. I suppose that's part of why Sherlockians end up gathering in their various societies and groups: they love to share that excitement, and hopefully to pass it on to the next generation. It's part of why I've been so thrilled with the recent resurgence in Holmes adaptations. The idea of a new generation discovering Holmes through the movies and TV shows is something that I find very fulfilling to contemplate. As it has been for over a hundered years, the game is afoot! And always will be...
Several weeks ago, my family sat down to watch Netflix's Enola Holmes 2. For those who may not have heard of the Enola Holmes franchise, the films are based on a series of young adult novels by Nancy Springer, which feature a young protagonist named Enola Holmes, the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. Enola's name, as the reader may already suspect, is the word "alone" spelled backwards. In the films, Enola is played by the excellent British actress, Millie Bobby Brown, who became famous due to her role as Eleven in the very popular Netflix series, Stranger Things. We had all watched the first Enola Holmes film, and we had all thoroughly enjoyed it, so our expectations for the second film were quite high. I am pleased to report that our expectations were absolutely met!
First of all, Millie Bobby Brown continues to be a delight in her role as the title character. She's an intelligent, feisty young woman, with deductive capabilities that rival those of her big brother, Sherlock (played in the films by British actor Henry Cavill). One fun little convention in the films is Enola's penchant for "breaking the fourth wall" and addressing the camera (and thus, the viewer) directly from time to time. As the father of two daughters, both of whom are loving this series of films, I am especially pleased to see a young female character being portrayed as strong and intelligent. Enola displays those qualities in spades.
Although the films tend to play a bit fast and loose with the historical period surrounding the plot, I don't think they are much different from Arthur Conan Doyle's stories in that respect. Viewers will almost certainly be aware of more multiculturalism (particularly in the casting), but from my point of view, this enhances the world of the film, even if it's not strictly historically accurate. One prominent plot thread in Enola Holmes 2 deals with feminism and union organization among workers in a match factory, which I'm fairly certain was more or less unknown during the Victorian period. (However, if anyone knows of any feminist or unionist movements in the period of which I'm unaware, I'd love to hear from you!)
I should say a word about Henry Cavill's portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. If you watch the films, you will see a Holmes who is supposed to be a bit younger than he is when Conan Doyle introduces him in A Study in Scarlet. Thus, Cavill plays Holmes as a bit more "human" than we often see him in other adaptations. He is not overly emotional, but he is also not quite the calculating deductive machine who is often presented. Moreover, keeping in mind that Enola is the main character, and Sherlock is a supporting role, I found Cavill's portrayal to be quite effective. Some Sherlockian "purists" may find the revision of Sherlock's back story disappointing, especially at the end of this film (which I will not spoil here). I found it entertaining.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the performance of Helena Bonham Carter as Eudoria Holmes, mother to Sherlock and Enola (Mycroft does not appear in this film, although he did appear in the first one, as a rather unpleasant character). As in the first film, she turned in what I found to be a wonderful performance. I had read shortly after the first film came out that some significantly more conservative viewers were outraged by Eudoria Holmes shirking what they saw as her duties and responsibilities as a mother. (One Roman Catholic priest apparently found the first Enola Holmes film to be one of the most "evil" films he'd seen.) I, personally, do not share that outrage. Indeed, Eudoria Holmes's strengths (and weaknesses) as a mother contribute to her progeny's unique talents in the deductive arena.
Finally, as the second Enola Holmes film did not have to concern itself with quite as much exposition as the first film did, I feel like the main plot, and the mystery contained therein, was a bit better than the first film. Indeed, when the film was over, we all felt that we had enjoyed this installment even more than its predecessor! I would certainly recommend the movie to all fans of Sherlock Holmes, as well as anyone who enjoys a good, entertaining action/mystery story.
With this post, I am resuming a series of reviews that has been on hold for far too long: a couple years ago, I began watching the entirety of the Granada TV adaptations, starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes. I have reviewed every episode up to (and including) the Granada version of The Sign of Four.
I resume the series with the next episode to air after The Sign of Four: "The Devil's Foot." This episode originally aired on April 6, 1988. It is based on the story entitled "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot," one of the stories in the collection called His Last Bow. The story was published in England in 1910, and appeared in America in 1911. Reportedly, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ranked it #9 on his list of his dozen favorite Holmes stories.
The Granada adaptation follows the story pretty closely. Viewers who are sensitive to horrific images may wish to be warned that a couple of the characters who die in the story are filmed with spooky, open eyed looks of horror on their faces, and one other character is shown foaming at the mouth. It's a pretty creepy episode overall, with the most bizarre sequence being one in which Holmes exeriments with the effects of the strange powder that he suspects led to the death of two people, as well as the lunacy of two others. In the original story, the effects of the powder are described from Watson's point of view, while in the adaptation, we are given Holmes's point of view, which includes him bleeding from the eyes as he relives his struggle with Professor Moriarty on the edge of the Reichenbach Falls. In fact, one of his hallucinations shows both him and Moriarty falling to their deaths, which never happened, of course. The sequence is a bit disturbing, and the music that accompanies it is an interesting mixture of violins, synthesizer and drums.
One interesting addition to the plot happens towards the beginning of the episode. Watson makes no reference to Holmes's famous addiction to cocaine at the beginning of the story, providing this description: "Holmes’s iron constitution showed some symptoms of giving way in the face of constant hard work of a most exacting kind, aggravated, perhaps, by occasional indiscretions of his own." However, the adaptation shows Holmes with his cocaine syringe, with some rubber tubing wrapped around his upper arm. Watson enters and Holmes immediately tries to hide the evidence of his drug use, and though the good doctor does not criticize his friend, he is clearly troubled by the knowledge that Holmes has not shaken his addiction. Later in the episode, Holmes buries his syringe in the sand on the beach, wiping away the evidence with his hand.
Even though I found Brett to be fairly compelling in his performance, it is clear that the effect from his medication for his bipolar disorder was beginning to show. He looks a bit puffy, and his focus sometimes seems to be lacking a bit. Edward Hardwicke, who played Watson (and does a fine job in this episode) was quoted long ago as saying that Brett was smoking about 60 cigarettes a day, which could hardly have helped his health at the time. Still, the quality of the episode doesn't seem to be faltering too badly at this point, and I found it to be an engaging story, for the most part. Fans of the great detective may be a bit surprised by Holmes's decision after he discovers the identity of the murderer.
While it was hardly my favorite episode of the series thus far, I still think it was well worth watching, and a faithful adaptation of its source material. You can watch the episode on YouTube below. (Which reminds me, I shall be attempting to fix some of the dead links in earlier reviews in this series. But that process will take a bit of time.)
“I am full of curiosity. I should much prefer to hear now.”
It is difficult to believe that I haven't posted here on Baker Street Babble for almost fourteen months!
Back when Covid first hit, and most of us were confined to our homes for much of the time, my blogging on several subjects (including Sherlock Holmes) really took off. I used a lot of the enforced time at home to indulge myself in my various passions: Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, Bible collecting, and more. When things began coming back (whenever that was), my free time began to diminish significantly. Blogging about Sherlock Holmes took a back seat to all the things I needed to do. (My Shakespeare blog, willywigglestick.wordpress.com, didn't fare much better!)
Recently, though, as part of the Christmas season, I watched a couple TV adaptations of the popular Holmes story, "The Blue Carbuncle." (Specifically, the Granada adaptation with Jeremy Brett and the 1968 BBC series with Peter Cushing.) That got me thinking, maybe it's time to make a reappearance, just as the great detective did after his hiatus, between "The Final Problem" and "The Empty House." Before I begin regular posting again, I probably need to do some housekeeping around the site. Once again, I see that most of the links to YouTube videos in my series of reviews of the Granada adaptations have died. So I will try to find new links (which will most likely be taken down eventually). Also, I need to look through my Links and Sherls on Film pages. Once I've accomplished that, I can begin considering continuing the Granada reviews, and discovering other Sherlockian topics I can cover.
For anyone who still may be checking in on the blog, feel free to leave a comment, and let me know what you think of the archived blog posts, or what you'd like to see here on Baker Street Babble. Soon, the game will be afoot once more, and the adventures can continue! Thanks for reading.
I'm a stay-at-home dad, and Director of Music Ministries at a United Methodist Church in Mt. Juliet, TN, and a longtime fan of Mr. Sherlock Holmes.