Series: Sherlock Holmes aka: The Return Of Sherlock Holmes
"My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people do not know."
— Sherlock Holmes, The Blue Carbuncle
There have been numerous television adaptations of Sherlock Holmes. See the main page for a list. This page covers the franchise of television series produced by British television company Granada Television between 1984 and 1994, staring Jeremy Brett as the titular Great Detective. Of the 60 Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 42 were adapted in the series spanning 36 one-hour episodes and five feature-length specials.The first two seasons are refered to as The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes. These series co-starred David Burke as Doctor Watson, reversing the commonly held view of Watson as The Watson epitomized by Nigel Bruce in the 1940s and 50s, portraying Holmes' biographer as a strong, intelligent, humorous but never bumbling man of action, often learning from Holmes in the art of deduction. Rosalie Williams proved a real gem as the long-suffering Mrs. Hudson, and the supporting cast was magnificent, including an early appearance by Natasha Richardson.In The Return of Sherlock Holmes, the producers pulled a daring but successful trick in changing Watsons, since the original Watson, David Burke, left for a variety of reasons. Edward Hardwicke replaced him, and though the two interpretations are different, both are extremely successful in challenging The Watson impression.For The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, after a three year break necessitated by Jeremy Brett's health, professional difficulties and various projects, the series returned in 1991 under the oversight of the original producer, Michael Cox. Unfortunately, the number of truly strong stories left in the canon of original Holmes material had started drying up and some of the remaining strong ones needed a bust in the budget (travels to France for instance), leaving the production team an unenviable choice: stay faithful (the original mandate of the series) and pump out low quality episodes, or make quality television but deviate dramatically from the source material. They wavered between the two options during this series, resulting in an uneven six episodes. It was followed by a set of three tv movies featuring expanded adaptations of short stories. The Master Blackmailer (adapting the Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton) The Last Vampyre (adapting The Adventure of The Sussex Vampire), and The Eligible Bachelor (mostly adapting the adventure of "The Noble Bachelor").The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes was the final series, airing in 1994. At this point in time, Brett's health was massively unstable due to childhood heart problems, medication prescribed to deal with his bipolar disorder, and complications from chain-smoking his entire life. Adding to the performance difficulties (Brett could often only sustain seconds-long takes before collapsing) were scheduling crunches (the producer, June Wyndham Davies had originally wanted a year to do the series, but after Executive Meddling was given scant months to scramble together scripts and productions schedules), leading to actor replacements (Edward Hardwicke, who played Watson, was unavailable for one episode, and Brett himself had to bow out for an episode, leading to the inclusion of Charles Grey as Holmes' brother Mycroft to replace both characters in two episodes).The series as a whole is generally regarded as one of the most accurate attempts at depicting the original stories ever put to screen (barring certain changes in order to facilitate adaptation from print to television), and Brett's portrayal is often praised as at very least one of the best Holmes out there, if not the definitive portrayal. It is telling that the next major feature film adaptation starring Robert Downey, Jr. decided to take a jarringly different interpretation of the character to get out of Brett's shadow.
The Sign of Four (feature length adaptation, 1987)
Second series (1988)
The Devil's Foot
The Bruce-Partington Plans
The Hound of the Baskervilles (feature length adaptation, 1988)
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes
The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax
The Problem of Thor Bridge
Shoscombe Old Place
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
The Illustrious Client
The Creeping Man
The Master Blackmailer (1992)
The Last Vampyre (1993)
The Eligible Bachelor (1993)
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
The Three Gables
The Dying Detective
The Golden Pince-Nez
The Red Circle
The Mazarin Stone
The Cardboard Box
Provides Examples Of:
Absentee Actor: Edward Hardwicke was off filming Shadowlands when "The Golden Pince-Nez" was in production, so Mycroft replaces Watson. An even more extreme example was Brett's illness preventing him from appearing in more than three minutes of "The Mazarin Stone" - again, Charles Grey stepped in as Mycroft.note Both episodes are generally highly regarded by fans, and Brett's three minutes in "The Mazarin Stone"are used to excellent effect. Interestingly that story is one of the few from which Watson is originally (mostly) absent, and not the narrator, since ACD originally created it as a stage play.
Action Prologue: The opening of "The Final Problem". Holmes dodges carriages, masonry, and ruffians, all bent on killing him. Eesh.
Actor Allusion: Charles Gray also appeared as Mycroft in The Seven Percent Solution.
Aerith and Bob: Jeremy Brett (a.k.a. Peter Jeremy William Huggins) and David Burke.
After-Action Patch-Up: Watson for Holmes after the chase in "The Final Problem". Well, he is a doctor after all.
Alternate Universe: Technically, the series is this as they decided to leave Mary Morstan Watson completely out of the Adventures run and keep Watson a bachelor.
Badass Baritone: Holmes and Watson, though Jeremy Brett often pitched his voice higher to fit the canonical description of Holmes's voice.
Bad Boss: When Moriarty's subordinate reports failure at the end of "The Red-headed League," just look at how scared the man is, and compare that to his earlier smugness.
Beam Me Up, Scotty!: Subverted quite nicely - you really have to hand it to Granada for their cleverness.
Holmes never once says "Elementary, my dear Watson." Instead, Watson says "Elementary, my dear Holmes" teasingly at the end of "The Crooked Man".
Jeremy Brett smokes the non-canonical calabash pipe only on the trek through the Swiss Alps. Remember that the duo left their luggage on the boat train in England, so Holmes was probably happy to take whatever pipe he could get.
The deerstalker cap is only semi-canonical, as Sidney Paget was taking a bit of artistic liberty with Doyle's description of a country-bound Holmes. For the first time in the history of Sherlockian film and television, Sherlock Holmes did not wear a deerstalker in London - only a topper or homburg. Brett's Holmes wore the deerstalker in the country ONLY, but, even then, the solid grey cap looks more stylish than practical (considering the original use for the design).
Entirely averted with the Inverness - Jeremy Brett never wore it on-screen. He wore frock coats and greatcoats, and, when he was in the country, he wore a light grey longcoat.
Bittersweet Ending: The end of "The Final Problem". The "sweet" part comes in when Watson demonstrates just how much Holmes has meant to him.
Brick Joke: At the beginning of "A Scandal in Bohemia," the King of Bohemia ignores Watson's offer to shake hands; at the end, Holmes ignores the King's offer to shake hands, and Watson caps things off by shaking hands uninvited.
British Brevity: 7 episodes for the first season, 6 for the second. It doesn't get better in future runs.
Chekhov's Gun: There's really no reason why we should see Holmes's silver cigarette case at the end of "The Red-headed League"... except for the fact that we then recognize it for what it is at the climax of "The Final Problem".
Chekhov's Skill: We know Watson's a doctor, but the only time he uses his medical skills on-screen is in "The Greek Interpreter".
Christmas Episode: "The Blue Carbuncle," complete with instrumental Christmas carols.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Holmes and Watson, as a matter of fact. Their clothing seems to very deliberately reflect not only their coloring but their personalities, as well. Holmes is ALWAYS in black or grey (but usually black) - the only episode in the entire series in which he wears a color (cream) is in "The Naval Treaty". Watson, on the other hand, tends to wear brown, or a warm shade of grey (except for the Christmas Episode, in which he wears blue).
Holmes: You don't mind breaking the law? Watson:(stoutly) Not in least. Holmes: Or running the chance of arrest? Watson(firmly) Not in a good cause. Holmes: Oh, the cause is excellent. Watson: Well, then I am your man. Holmes:Splendid.
Costume Porn: The detail and authenticity of the clothing is just astounding. Irene Adler's dresses are utterly gorgeous.
Curb-Stomp Battle: The drunken Woodley never has a chance against Holmes in "The Solitary Cyclist" - nor do the ruffians at the beginning of "The Final Problem".
Later Granada episodes would play this trope hard, but the most notable instance of it in the Adventures run is the ending of "The Greek Interpreter," which includes the run's one moment of Family-Unfriendly Violence.
In "The Norwood Builder," the decoy bones used in the staged fire are human, rather than rabbit.
Bravo to Granada. C'mon, Sir ACD, rabbit bones? Not even Scotland Yard could possibly mistake them for being a human's!
Disney Death: Holmes, although we don't know this for certain until "The Empty House" - apparently, Granada ended "The Final Problem" with the possibility that Holmes was dead in case their ratings weren't high enough to continue the series.
While Edward Hardwicke was bald and wore a wig for the role of Watson.
Plus, Jeremy lost several pounds to acquire Holmes's slender look.
Early-Installment Weirdness: Watson's voiceover at the beginning and end of "A Scandal in Bohemia" did not become a trend, although he later would sometimes read aloud from his writing onscreen.
Establishing Character Moment: Watson and Holmes's first scene together, in "A Scandal in Bohemia," is a beautiful establishing moment for them both. Watson is shown to be soldierly, stern, concerned for Holmes's wellbeing, and willing to listen to and put up with Holmes. Holmes, on the other hand, is shown to be careless with his health, easily bored because of his fast mind, absolutely dependent upon mental stimulation, brilliant, quirky, fond of "his Boswell"... And just look at him when he's sitting all folded up before the fire - it's a powerful image. He's just alone, and he'll always be a bit alone.
Evil Counterpart: Not played so strongly with Holmes and Moriarty as in other adaptations - the closest we get to this idea is when Holmes tells Watson that Moriarty will do "what I should do. Engage a special train."
In fact, Granada seems almost to stress Holmes's goodness in opposition to Moriarty's wickedness, quite different from otheradaptations.
Foreshadowing: There are moments of this throughout the run, but "The Red-headed League" takes the prize for being one big foreshadowing to "The Final Problem".
Good Is Not Nice: Not always, in Holmes's case. He can actually be downright creepy, at times.
Lestrade fits this trope for most of "The Norwood Builder". True, he's doing his job, but he comes across as a definite Smug Snakeuntil Holmes reveals the true perpetrator.
Gory Discretion Shot: We don't actually see Harold Latimer get torn apart by an oncoming train, but you know it happens when the door he was hanging from swings shut, devoid of Latimer and quite a bit of the window glass.
From Watson's reaction, the victim is in an unsightly state at the beginning of "The Empty House," but all we see is the bloody sheet covering him.
Held Gaze: Brett's Holmes is pretty good at this, conveying a lot of emphasis with his big hazel eyes.
Heroic BSOD: Holmes's reaction to Irene's departure in "A Scandal in Bohemia".
Heroes Want Redheads: Both Irene Norton nee Adler and Violet Hunter are redheads (if you count "chestnut" as red), and Holmes does seem to have some sort of attraction to them both.
Homage: Holmes and Watson's first scene in "The Resident Patient," which is a retelling of a Doyle-written parody called "Watson Learns the Trick". In both versions, Watson is trying to apply Holmes's methods to deduce what is wrong with the detective. He has a bit more success in the Granada scene.
Insistent Terminology: "Private [or "Unofficial"] consulting detective," thank you very much - as stated by Holmes in "A Scandal in Bohemia" and then by Watson in "The Red-headed League" as a possible Call Back.
Keet: Jeremy Brett's version of Holmes comes across as a very energetic, excitable, theatrical person trying desperately to maintain a facade as aloof and serious. Unfortunately, he had to tone it down in the later series because of his ill health. Then again, Jeremy Brett was a real-life example. He's waaay more light-hearted and flamboyant in interviews.
Last Name Basis: Between Watson and Holmes, though it is briefly averted in "The Devil's Foot" after Watson drags Holmes out of the room.
Manly Tears: Watson, upon finishing Holmes's note at Reichenbach.
Master of Disguise: Okay, so Brett can't disguise his voice very well, but, doggone, it's deplorably difficult to recognize him as that groom in "A Scandal in Bohemia"!
He also uses a clergyman get-up twice in the run.
Mr. Fanservice: Jeremy Brett is easily one of the prettiest Holmeses ever to grace Sherlockiana with his presence. David Burke is scarcely less easy on the eyes, one of the youngest and fittest Watsons yet at the time. Colin Jeavons' Lestrade is also pretty cute, as is the youngish actor who plays Athelney Jones in "The Red-headed League" (Granada would later use a much older actor for the same character).
Nerves of Steel: Holmes and Watson. Yes, they share a lot of heroic characteristics.
Nice Hat: Guess what kind of hat Jeremy Brett's Holmes is best known for. It's the hat you're most likely to see in promotional and cover photos. Can you guess? A sharp, black top hat!
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Basically the gist of Holmes's remonstrance to Watson after Watson's attempted reconnaissance in "The Solitary Cyclist".
Not So Stoic: Do you know the only time Holmes ever looks like he's losing his cool? When he's facing Moriarty in 221B. Jeremy Brett's subtle expressions and gestures indicate that Holmes is rather unnerved, especially when he pulls his robe tightly around him and falters slightly while making his parting shot at Moriarty.
Offstage Villainy: Moriarty. The only crimes we see him masterminding are the Red-headed League and the Mona Lisa theft - the rest are left to the imagination.
Older Than They Look: Jeremy Brett and David Burke usually look no older than forty, though they were about ten years older when the episodes were filmed. To turn this thing on its head, Holmes and Watson themselves ought to be Younger Than They Look, as neither of them would have been older than their thirties in most of these episodes.
Old Friend: Athelney Jones' introductory attitude towards Holmes.
Only Sane Man: It seems that Watson sometimes considers himself to be this. It's a justified belief.
"...The piece of cod surpasseth all understanding."
The Other Darrin: Between the first and second series, Edward Hardwicke replaces David Burke as Watson. (Burke actually suggested Hardwicke to the producers.) The distinction is quite sharp - The Final Problem uses Burke, but Holmes returns to Hardwicke in The Empty House (they even reshot a few scenes with Hardwicke for flashback purposes). Overall, David Burke came across as much younger, more naive Watson, albeit one who resembled the original illustrations. Edward Hardwicke, however, was older, more distinguished, and more ex-military. Most fans agree Hardwicke was the more memorable Watson.
Overshadowed by Awesome / Sidekick: Watson's a pretty intelligent, capable soldier, but he always stands in Holmes's shadow.
In real life, this was one of the reasons David Burke left the show, as he felt that he didn't really do much of anything.
Precision F-Strike: Holmes rarely swore in the canon, and Brett as Holmes swore even less. Thus, his spat-out "g-dd—n" after seeing the sniper across the street in "The Final Problem" carries a motherload of weight.
The Reveal: "Watson, do you mind if I smoke a cigarette in your consulting room?"
Running Gag: Holmes waking Watson up at all hours of the night and morning, much to Watson's annoyance.
Holmes' loose intepretation of housekeeping, usually to Mrs. Hudson's dismay.
Watson's appetite vs. Holmes' lack of interest in food.
Scare Chord: Used in "The Empty House" when Lestrade shows the corpse to Watson.
Scare 'Em Straight: Jeremy Brett's performance in climax of the "The Blue Carbuncle" is probably infamous for this - dashed if Holmes isn't going all out for scaring James Ryder straight!
Scenery Porn: Not just the detail of 221B and the Baker Street set, either, though Granada is very notorious for that. There's plenty of gorgeous countryside scenery, and the Granada crew was the first to film the climatic fight between Holmes and Moriarty on location at the honest-to-goodness Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland.
Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Holmes's retort to Watson's mild remonstrance at the end of "The Blue Carbuncle." After a startling outburst, Holmes explains that he "may be commuting a felony, but I am saving a soul."
Signature Laugh: Not only is it one of the most adorable things about Brett's Holmes, it's one of the things his fellow actors remember the best about him.
Sharp-Dressed Man: Holmes. He's almost never without his sharp black getup, so much so that Jeremy Brett called it the "damaged penguin" look.
The makers would occasionally give Watson some of these to demonstrate that he wasn't the bungler of previous adaptations and had taken on some of Holme's methods — a common variant would be for Holmes to make his usual lofty pronouncements about a visitor to 221B Baker Street and then for Watson to then politely explain to the appropriately astonished visitor exactly how Holmes reached his conclusions.
Shipper on Deck: Averted. In the original version of "The Copper Beeches," Watson remarks at the end of his narrative that he was disappointed that Holmes didn't get romantically involved with Violet Hunter. At the end of the Granada version, Watson is reading his tale aloud to Holmes, and so the only hint we get as to any romantic sparks between Holmes and Ms. Hunter is the way he can't seem to help touching her hair.
Shout-Out: To Paget's original illustrations, amazingly enough. Keen-eyed fans can spot moments where Paget's illustrations for the story are reproduced exactly, down to the furniture, and each person's position, pose and gesture. The illustrations to each story are usually displayed in a montage during the closing credits.
In The Final Problem Moriarty's plot to steal the Mona Lisa in order to sell multiple copies to several bidders (which does not appear in the original short story) seems to have been inspired by the Doctor Who story City of Death.
Smoking Is Cool: Brett makes Holmes smoking a cigarette look so utterly graceful, it shouldn't be legal!
The Smurfette Principle: There tends to be only one or two females present in each episode - sometimes not even that.
Sour Supporter: Inspectors Forbes and Gregson, of "The Naval Treaty and "The Greek Interpreter" respectively.
Taking You with Me: When Moriartly literally pulls Holmes off the cliff with him in "The Final Problem's" version of the Reichenbach fight ("The Empty House" shows us an entirely different conclusion).
Throw the Dog a Bone: The original ending of "The Crooked Man" has Holmes casually giving Watson the chapter and verse of King David's Uriah Gambit. In the Granada adaptation, Watson looks it up and catches Holmes out for looking up the reference beforehand, although the clue that tipped him off — he'd marked the page with a recent receipt — is so obvious as to look like a deliberate giveaway.
Troubled Fetal Position: Holmes could be seen sitting with his knees close to chest at times when he has to go into deep thought.
Wag the Director: Holmes kicks his cocaine habit in "The Devil's Foot" because Jeremy Brett became concerned about the example the character was setting for younger viewers.note Instead Holmes buries a used cocaine syringe about an inch deep in the sands of a public beach.
Worthy Opponent: Moriarty regards Holmes as this. Holmes's canonical reciprocation is curiously left out.
alternative title(s): The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes; The Return Of Sherlock Holmes; The Casebook Of Sherlock Holmes; The Memoirs Of Sherlock Holmes; The Last Vampyre; The Eligible Bachelor; The Master Blackmailer