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 referred 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 Gray 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 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
First Series (1984)
- A Scandal in Bohemia
- The Dancing Men
- The Naval Treaty
- The Solitary Cyclist
- The Crooked Man
- The Speckled Band
- The Blue Carbuncle
Second Series (1985)
- The Copper Beeches
- The Greek Interpreter
- The Norwood Builder
- The Resident Patient
- The Red Headed League
- The Final Problem
The Return of Sherlock Holmes
First Series (1986)
- The Empty House
- The Priory School
- The Second Stain
- The Musgrave Ritual
- The Abbey Grange
- The Man With the Twisted Lip
- The Six Napoleons
- The Sign of Four (feature length adaptation, 1987)
Second Series (1988)
- The Devil's Foot
- Silver Blaze
- Wisteria Lodge
- The Bruce-Partington Plans
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (feature length adaptation, 1988)
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (1991)
- 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 (1994)
- The Three Gables
- The Dying Detective
- The Golden Pince-Nez
- The Red Circle
- The Mazarin Stone
- The Cardboard Box
Provides Examples Of:
- 0% Approval Rating: Everyone claps when Holmes beats up Woodley in The Solitary Cyclist.
- 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
- Action Prologue: The opening of "The Final Problem". Holmes dodges carriages, masonry, and ruffians, all bent on killing him. Eesh.
- Adaptation Decay: Invoked in "The Copper Beeches" when Holmes lectures Watson on emphasizing the details of crimes rather than Holmes' deductions—since crime is ubiquitous, he thinks that the logic is the key feature of his adventures.
- Adaptational Villainy:
- The eponymous Eligible Bachelor becomes a true villain, which he was not in the original story.
- Moriarty becomes the mastermind of "The Red-Headed League" as a nice bit of foreshadowing before the next episode, ''The Final Problem"
- The titular "Norwood Builder" is an actual murderer, who killed a tramp to provide a corpse so that he could Fake The Dead, which didn't happen in Doyle's original story.
- Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: In both the original story and episode "The Priory School" Holmes snarkily taunts the Duke, first over his reluctance for Holmes to investigate his son's disappearance, and later when demanding payment for solving the case before telling the Duke the solution. In the story, Holmes does so as a strategy, because he has already deduced the Duke has recovered his son and is shielding the kidnapper. The episode changes this but keeps the snarking, making Holmes seem needlessly cruel.
- Affectionate Pickpocket: Mycroft combines this with Percussive Pickpocket in "The Greek Interpreter", sharing a close handshake with the Kemp after an amiable dinner and then pretending to be shaken by the train into pulling him close, lifting his revolver.
- After-Action Patch-Up: Watson for Holmes after the chase in "The Final Problem". Well, he is a doctor after all.
- After Action, Villain Analysis: Sherlock Holmes, remember? Of course there's going to be villain analysis when all's said and done.
- Aloof Big Brother: Averted with Mycroft in this adaptation who's rather close to Sherlock and has a rather jovial attitude compared to other incarnations.
- 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.
- Also, the episodes run in a very different chronological order than the stories/don't have much chronology at all, and both Holmes and (especially) Watson are many years older than they were in most of the stories, since the series takes place over the course of only a few years, while the stories take place over the course of more than two decades (even when not counting a handful of outliers that stretch it to nearly four decades).
- And Now You Must Marry Me: Woodley and (originally) Carruthers' plan in "The Solitary Cyclist". Holmes, Watson, and Carruthers arrive too late to prevent the priest proclaiming "man and wife." However, Holmes points out that even if they hadn't hired a defrocked priest to do the job, England does not recognized forced marriages and in fact treats the matter as a serious felony.
- Professor Moriarty to Sherlock naturally.
- Mycroft gets one too in the form of Count Negretto Sylvius.
- Artistic License Biology: From the original text, the "swamp adder" in "The Speckled Band." There was and is no snake with that common name, although the cobra is considered the most likely candidate.
- Asshole Victim: Mortimer Tregennis, to the point where Holmes and Watson actually let his murderer go free. Milverton's killer gets the same treatment.
- 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.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Watson, as is fitting and proper.
- Big Bad / Diabolical Mastermind / Evil Genius: Moriarty. He even gets an extra appearance in the series, courtesy of a Fandom Nod.
- Big Word Shout: "HOOOLMES!"
- Watson, of course. It's really heartbreaking, because, of course, he doesn't get an answer.
- Bilingual Bonus:
- In "The Red-Headed League," Holmes makes two separate quotes in Latin and then French.
- "The Greek Interpreter" is made of this trope. Lots of Greek spoken here - even Holmes can speak modern, conversational Greek!
- "The Six Napoleons" is an interesting case; in the original story, Pietro Venucci is killed between scenes and his sister Lucrezia is mentioned once. In the Granada adaptation, Lucrezia has her own subplot, having several conversations with her father in Italian.
- "A Scandal In Bohemia" is one of the only dramatic Holmes adaptations where Irene Adler's name is pronounced as it would be in German. (ee-REN-uh AHD-ler)
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Dr. Grimesby Roylott. Actually it's pretty ill-fitting clothing, as he's abusive to his stepdaughters—however, he makes no objections to their courtships and even has Helen's fiance over to the house. He just plans to murder them with a poisonous snake so he doesn't lose their money.
- Bittersweet Ending: The end of "The Final Problem". The "sweet" part comes in when Watson demonstrates just how much Holmes has meant to him.
- Book-Ends: "The Copper Beeches" opens with Holmes complaining bitterly about Watson's writing. It ends with Watson reading out his narrative of the titular case and Holmes declaring it an admirable account.
- Boxing Battler: Holmes demonstrates his classical pugilistic prowess on a few occasions.
- 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. And it is hilarious. The look on Watson's face is what really perfects the whole scene.
- At the beginning of "The Solitary Cyclist", Holmes is about to perform a chemistry experiment that a case he's investigating hinges on when Violet shows up with the focus case of the episode. At the end of the episode, Holmes once again attempts the experiment, saying that the reaction it creates will determine the result of the case. The reaction in question is the room filling with smoke, Holmes and Watson shoving their heads out a hastily opened window to get breathable air, and someone in the street below calling the fire department. This was apparently the chemical reaction that Holmes was expecting.
- Brief Accent Imitation: Holmes as a tramp in "The Norwood Builder".
- 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.
- *Click* Hello: Wilson Kemp gets one from Mycroft during "The Greek Interpreter." With his own weapon.Mycroft: I believe this is your revolver, sir.
- The Coats Are Off: In "The Solitary Cyclist", Woodley slaps Holmes across the face. Holmes proceeds to calmly remove his hat and coat, hang then up and then lay a serious beatdown on Woodley.
- 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).
- Cool People Rebel Against Authority: It doesn't get much better than this...Holmes: You don't mind breaking the law?
Watson: (stoutly) Not in the 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.
- Costume Porn: The detail and authenticity of the clothing is just astounding. Irene Adler's dresses are utterly gorgeous.
- Crazy Jealous Guy:
- In the later years of his marriage, Colonel Barclay angrily demands of his wife Kitty that she assure him she has only ever loved him.
- Oldacre of "The Norwood Builder." He was once engaged to young McFarlane's mother, but she broke it off after realizing his two-faced cruelty and married a kind man. On her wedding day, Oldacre sent her picture back with the face burnt off.
- 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".
- Darker and Edgier:
- 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!)
- Deadpan Snarker / Gentleman Snarker / Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Brett's Holmes lives and breathes this trope, as befits the original stories.
- Death Glare: If Moriarty's doesn't freeze you over, nothing can.
- Disposable Love Interest: In a bit of canon revisionism, Watson doesn't propose at the end of "The Sign of Four."
- 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.
- Disney Villain Death:
- A Victorian example - Moriarty falling into the Reichenbach Falls.
- James Wilder in The Priory School. Also Death by Adaptation.
- Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Holmes's veritable collection of pipes. In one episode, Watson says that he should have known Holmes was in a bad mood by the particular pipe he's chosen.
- As noted above, the one time he smokes the infamous calabash is on the trek through the Swiss Alps.
- Double Entendre: A non-sexual version when Holmes and Watson discuss the horse and trap ordered to transport Violet home in "The Solitary Cyclist".
- 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.
- Enfant Terrible: In "The Copper Beeches," Violet's new charge as governess greets her by trying to hand her a dead bird.
- 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 other adaptations.
- Evil Redhead:
- Mr. Woodley in "The Solitary Cyclist", a predatory ruffian who assaults Violet and later attempts to forcibly marry her.
- The handsome young Moriarty agent in the Mona Lisa backstory in "The Final Problem".
- Evolving Music: The violin solo that is the center piece of the theme song is reorchestrated to be more intricate every season.
- Exact Words: When arriving at Charlington to protect Violet in "The Solitary Cyclist", Watson asks who would want to harm her on such a fine morning.Holmes: I hope nobody.
Watson: Then why did you bring your revolver?
Holmes: You talked about my hope, not my expectations.
- Face Death with Dignity: Holmes's attitude towards Moriarty throughout "The Final Problem," and his farewell note to Watson.
- Failed a Spot Check: Holmes upbraids himself for not accounting for the earlier train out of Surrey and arriving too late to get between Violet and her attackers on the way back to the station.
- Fair Cop:
- In "The Norwood Builder," Lestrade is from the point that Holmes tells him he doesn't have all the evidence.
- In "The Red-headed League," Athelney Jones is this all the way.
- Fanservice: The bathing girl from The Six Napoleons, and the nude model from The Final Problem don't seem to serve any other purpose.
- Fate Worse than Death: Carruthers calls the plan to marry Violet Hunter "the worst fate that can befall a woman," and it's why he wants to put another bullet in Woodley when Watson pronounces the wound non-fatal—Holmes assures him, however, that the marriage is in no way legally binding.
- Faux Affably Evil:
- Wilson Kemp again. The man just doesn't stop smiling, even when he's threatening terrible things!
- Moriarty starts out as this when he confronts Holmes at 221B. His attitude pretty quickly spirals down from there.
- Flashback: Used extensively, as per the Canon.
- Forensic Accounting: In "The Norwood Builder," Watson searches through Oldacre's documents while Holmes examines the rest of the property and discovers that there are a number of papers which should be there but aren't.
- The lithograph that hangs over the fireplace mantelpiece at 221B Baker Street is entitled The Upper Cascade of the Reichenbach. It's there throughout the series, but it gets a nice lingering close-up in "The Final Problem".
- 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" by adding Moriarty into the mix.
- Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Wilson Kemp, once more. He is perhaps the creepiest villain in the entire series, what with his constant grin, wicked snicker, sudden outbursts of rage, and a vocal delivery that has hints of Peter Lorre.
- Get Out!: At the end of "The Blue Carbuncle," the terrified and guiltstricken culprit begs Holmes for mercy. Holmes tells him, somewhat disgustedly, simply to get out (meaning that he will not report the crime).
- 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 Snake until 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".
- And again (albeit briefly) at Lestrade's "little cock-a-doodle of victory" after finding evidence further incriminating Holmes's client of murder in "The Norwood Builder".
- 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.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Holmes and Watson.
- 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.
- Hollywood Darkness: in "The Empty House", the titular building is much more well lit than its pitch black book counterpart.
- Iconic Outfit: Averted; Holmes is usually dressed in a suit and tophat. He only wears the deerstalker when he has a case out in the country and the dress is appropriate.
- Identical Stranger: This is the reason for Mr. Rucastle's strange interest in Violet Hunter as a governess.
- Ill Boy: Percy Phelps, the client in "The Naval Treaty" is an old school friend of Watson's. Watson remembers him as a delicate boy, and when he becomes their client he's just recovering from a nervous breakdown that's lasted almost ten weeks.
- Implacable Man: Mycroft during the climax of The Mazarin Stone. No matter where Count Sylvius turns, Mycroft is walking toward him.
- Impoverished Patrician: Roylott of "The Speckled Band" is the scion of an ancient Saxon family and had a rich wife, but the investments that formed his income have tanked, leaving him desperate not to lose funds.
- 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.
- Insufferable Genius: Jeremy Brett plays this to perfection.
- Interface Screw: The screen goes blurry when Watson faints in "The Empty House."
- It's What I Do: Holmes's general attitude to praise after having solved a case.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Holmes. He has his definite Jerkass moments, but it's equally clear that he has a good heart, and cares about justice and his clients' well-being as more than a simple exercise of intellect.
- 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.
- Laser-Guided Karma: After repeatedly threatening people with the mastiff, Rucastle gets mauled by his own guard dog at the end of "The Copper Beeches". Watson even seems to hesitate for a few moments before shooting the beast.
- 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.
- Love Makes You Crazy / Evil: Sophy Kratides in "The Greek Interpreter," courtesy of the script writers going for Darker and Edgier.
- Mad Doctor: Dr. Grimesby Roylott in "The Speckled Band." He doesn't actually use medicine for evil, but Holmes believes anyone clever enough to be a doctor is particularly dangerous when they turn to evil.
- Manly Tears: Watson, upon finishing Holmes's note at Reichenbach. Holmes also sheds some at the end of "The six Napoleons" after Lestrade tells him that Scotland yard really appreciates his work.
- 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".
- In "The Greek Interpreter," Mycroft places a missing persons notice in the paper after hearing Mr. Melas' story. This, of course, alerts Kemp and Latimer that Melas has betrayed their secret and they abduct him at gunpoint.
- Noble Male, Roguish Male: Watson and Holmes (though "roguish" in a gentlemanly sort of way).
- 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.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: The series' hypothesis about Watson. Here, he sometimes gets bits and pieces of Holmes' dialogue from the original stories, and can do the occasional Sherlock Scan with Holmes giving him just a few nudges in the right direction.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Inspector Gregson in "The Greek Interpreter," intensified from the original story.
- 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.
- Old, Dark House:
- Roylott's ancient Saxon seat in "The Speckled Band." He keeps it surrounded with his dangerous menagerie from India and allows Roma to live on the property (thanks to Values Dissonance this is a mark of his wickedness).
- The Copper Beeches in Hampshire. Actually it's occupied and well-kept, but the goings-on within are quite sinister. In this story, Holmes expresses his belief that all country manor houses are liable to be more dangerous than the city. In crowded places, aggravated neighbors will report screams, but in the quiet isolation of the country, criminals can act with impunity.
- 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.
- One Steve Limit: Averted with Violet Smith in "The Solitary Cyclist" and Violet Hunter in "The Copper Beeches."
- Only Sane Man: It seems that Watson sometimes considers himself to be this. It's a justified belief.
- Orphaned Punchline: shows up in The Copper Beeches."...The piece of cod surpasseth all understanding."
- Overshadowed by Awesome 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.
- Peek-a-Boo Corpse: At the very end of "The Musgrave Ritual."
- Plot Hole: In "The Mazarin Stone", Count Sylvius visits a jeweler asking if the title gem can be cut ... only for it to be established the Count had no intention of ever having the stone cut.
- Pre-Asskicking One-Liner:
"Everybody here will bear witness to the fact that I am acting in self-defense."
- An appropriately Holmsian one in "The Solitary Cyclist", after Woodley backhands Holmes and Holmes calmly removes and hangs up his coat.
Woodley: You're too late. She's my wife!
- Carruthers gets a good one at the end of the same episode. It was meant to be a Pre-Mortem One-Liner, but the gunshot proved non-fatal.
Carruthers: No, she's your widow. [BANG]
- 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.
- Promoted to Opening Credits: In the adaptations of the canocial stories featuring Mycroft - "The Greek Interpreter" and "The Bruce-Partingon Plans" Charles Gray was billed as a guest star. But when he was brought in to fill in for Watson and Sherlock for two episodes during "The Memoirs" season he was billed in the opening titles.
- Rapunzel Hair: Violet Hunter is very proud of hers in "The Copper Beeches". One reason she consults Holmes is that she finds her employer's demand that she cut it to be very odd.
- The Reveal: "Watson, do you mind if I smoke a cigarette in your consulting room?"
- Revenge by Proxy: Attempted in "The Norwood Builder." Oldacre wills all his money to John Hector McFarlane and then fakes his own death so that the young man will be framed for murder, since his mother had refused to marry Oldacre years ago.
- Right Behind Me: Holmes is asking the barman at Surrey about the gentlemen at Charlington Hall and is just getting to the man with the red mustache when who should walk in behind him, bu the red-mustached Woodley. Holmes is not at all abashed, even when Woodley backhands him.
- Rule of Drama:
- Occasionally invoked by Holmes, who has a flair for it. After solving the case in "The Naval Treaty", he invites Percy Phelps to breakfast and offers him a covered tray—when Phelps demurs for lack of appetite Holmes resorts to asking Phelps to help him. Beneath the lid: the treaty poor Phelps has been literally fainting over for the past two months. Holmes subsequently has to apologize for almost inducing another attack of nerves.
- There's also the way he reveals himself to Watson after faking his death in "The Final Problem." The poor doctor faints dead away.
- 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!
- Scary Shiny Glasses: Wilson Kemp and Charles Augustus Milverton.
- 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 and only one 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.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: In "The Crooked Man," Colonel Barclay was noted to sometimes go quiet and distant when discussing old campaigns. This is not uncommon for soldiers of long service, but in his case it's lingering guilt.
- Sherlock Scan:
- It is Sherlock Holmes, after all.
- 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 Holmes' 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.
- Shoot Out the Lock: Watson shoots out the lock to the turret room in "The Copper Beeches" when Rucastle locks him, Holmes and Violet Hunter there.
- 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.
- Sinister Minister: The defrocked priest Williamson from "The Solitary Cyclist" happily performs a force marriage and keeps a gun in his Bible during the ceremony.
- Smart People Play Chess: Dr. Roylett. His stepdaughter's fiance promises to try and improve his own chess game for his next visit to the estate.
- 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.
- Spot of Tea: In "The Norwood Builder", Watson returns home to find Holmes in utter despair over the case and refusing to eat. Watson's first move is to pour him a cup of tea.
- Streisand Effect: In-universe in "The Crooked Man". Major Murphy makes every effort to keep the press away from the matter, which only makes clear to them that there's a big story.
- Taking You with Me: When Moriarty 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. There's an illustration of this in the original books.
- Unexplained Accent: Wilson Kemp, a British almost Dickensian name, played by George Costigan, a British actor. So What the Hell Is That Accent?? Sounds like Jim Broadbent in Blackadder.
- Up Through the Ranks: The victim in "The Crooked Man", Colonel Barclay, began as a private sergeant who gained officership during an uprising in India. His second-in-command notes that his rise through the ranks subsequently has been unusually rapid.
- The Uriah Gambit: In "The Crooked Man". This is how Colonel Barclay came to marry Nancy, and the reason she shouts "David" during their argument—she's not talking about a lover, she is calling him David for sending her other suitor to be killed (the Uriah).
- Variations on a Theme Song:
- "The Resident Patient" runs the credits over a humorous scene with Holmes's violin practice disturbing Watson as he tries to start writing up the adventure.
- "The Red-Headed League" uses a more sinister and brooding variation on the usual theme for the end credits, to mark Moriarty's introduction to the show.
- "The Greek Interpreter" plays the theme tune not on strings, but on a Greek bouzouki.
- Villain with Good Publicity:
- Averted to an extent with Moriarty. In "The Red-Headed League", Inspector Jones knows exactly what Holmes is getting at, when he starts to realize that it is one of Moriarty's scheme. But the Inspector also notes that Scotland Yard really doesn't know much about Moriarty or what he even looks like, only that "his name echoes and re-echoes throughout the underwold."
- Played straight with Count Negretto Sylvius, a close friend of the Royal Family. Only Sherlock and Mycroft know what kind of man he really is.
- Villainous Breakdown: Moriarty, when he jumps Holmes at Reichenbach. The man is downright scary.
- Wicked Stepmother: "The Speckled Band" has a wicked stepfather who dominates his stepdaughters, kills one, and plots to kill the other so their marriages don't take away his portion of their mother's inheritance.
- Worthy Opponent: Moriarty regards Holmes as this. Holmes's canonical reciprocation is curiously left out.
- You Do Not Have to Say Anything: In "The Norwood Builder," Lestrade arrives to arrest McFarlane before he can tell his story. Holmes asks him to do so, but advises him that everything he says will be entered into evidence since the police are there.