"The Adventure of the Speckled Band" seems to be a favorite with many readers, despite its many obvious plot holes (snakes don't drink milk or climb ropes, for example). Holmes's cool head in the face of the belligerent Grimesby Roylott's threats and the middle-of-the-night stakeout waiting for "the speckled band" to arrive are fairly dramatic and entertaining scenes, and the gothic horror of Mr. Roylott's messy end is rather gripping.
The Granada adaptation is quite well done, and it adheres very closely to the outline of its source material. There are a few changes that the viewer will notice in comparison to the original story. A few examples:
As I mentioned above, the nasty confrontation with Mr. Roylott at the Baker Street flat is one of the more enjoyable scenes in the original story, and the adaptation in the TV episode does not disappoint! The little twitchy half-grins that Jeremy Brett flashes, as the angry Grimesby delivers his monologue, are absolutely priceless. Brett's gleeful laugh in the face of the verbal onslaught is the cherry on top of the sundae. And, of course, the lovely moment when Holmes bends the poker back into shape is delightful as well.
Just a bit later in the episode, when Holmes and Watson meet up with Helen Stoner again, the writers add a funny little moment in which Watson, clearly still very impressed with his friend's handling of Mr. Roylott's bullying manners, tells Miss Stoner that "Holmes sent him off with a flea in his ear!" I'm not 100% sure what that phrase actually means, but it made me chuckle. David Burke's excellent portrayal of the faithful sidekick never ceases to impress me.
Before Holmes and Watson encounter the deadly snake face-to-face, there is an intense monologue from Jeremy Brett that is very effective in setting up the scene to come, as he meditates aloud on the dangerous nature of the evil Grimesby Roylott, a doctor gone wrong. The monologue is very nearly word-for-word from Doyle's orginal:
When a doctor does go wrong he is the first of criminals. He has nerve and he has knowledge. Palmer and Pritchard were among the heads of their profession. This man strikes even deeper...
My only real quibble with this particular adaptation is the scene that comes after Mr. Roylott meets his demise. After the horror of the snake, Holmes's brief explanation of how he put together the last few details seems just a bit anti-climactic. His somewhat emotionless statement that the death of Grimesby Roylott does not weigh heavily on his conscience, followed by the whistle of the train, is a bit too abrupt an ending for the episode. Overall, though, I found the episode a very engaging one, and quite a bit more interesting than the previous episode, "The Naval Treaty." A faithful adaptation and well worth my time.
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.