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Series / The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson

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Элементарно, мой дорогой Ватсон

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson (Приключения Шерлока Холмса и доктора Ватсона) is a series of Sherlock Holmes adaptations made for Soviet television between 1979 and 1983, plus a theatrical feature in 1986. It is commonly known as "Russian Sherlock Holmes" in Western fan circles, although the Baker Street scenes were actually filmed in Latvia. It stars Vasily Livanov as Holmes and Vitaly Solomin as Dr. Watson. All episodes were directed by Igor Maslennikov.

The series is generally true to the Doyle stories, but is more of an Adaptation Distillation than a straight page-to-screen conversion. The combination of the Victorian British setting and the Russian sensibilities of the creators give the series an interesting blend of cultural influences. Livanov, Solomin, and many of the supporting actors give memorable performances - Livanov was even awarded an Order of the British Empire for his portrayal of Holmes - and the opening theme is insidiously catchy. Among Sherlock Holmes fans aware of the series, it is still considered one of the, if not the, pre-eminent adaptations of Conan Doyle's work. Another point in its favour is that it is not as political as some Soviet productions were - Holmes and Watson are not portrayed as proto-Marxist-Leninists, launching into Author Filibuster, and despite the rich opportunity to do so, the inequalities of Victorian life are not presented as flaws of modern-day capitalism. They did miss a trick by not having Holmes and Watson meet Karl Marx, however.

The series is a cultural icon in Russia. The films are less well known in the West than the English-speaking Holmes adaptations, but the complete series has been made available on YouTube, with subtitles, by Lenfilm.

The Series

  • Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (1979)
    • Part 1, "Acquaintance", adapts the introductory scenes from A Study in Scarlet and "The Adventure of the Speckled Band".
    • Part 2, "Bloody Inscription", adapts the mystery from A Study in Scarlet, with the pocket watch scene from The Sign of the Four at the beginning.
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (1980)
    • Part 1, "The King of Blackmail", adapts "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton", with the Diogenes Club scenes from "The Greek Interpreter".
    • Part 2, "Deadly Fight", adapts "The Final Problem".
    • Part 3, "The Tiger Hunt", adapts "The Adventure of the Empty House".
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: The Hound of the Baskervilles (1981)
    • 2-part adaptation of the eponymous novel.
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: The Treasures of Agra (1983)
    • 2-part adaptation of The Sign of the Four, with the beginning of part 2 being an adaptation of "A Scandal in Bohemia".
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: The Twentieth Century Approaches (1986)(theatrical feature)
    • Part 1 adapts "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb" and "The Adventure of the Second Stain".
    • Part 2 adapts "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans" and "His Last Bow". Notably, the conclusion tries to thread all these stories together, when they were unrelated in the canon.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Adaptation Name Change: The boat from The Sign of the Four was renamed from "Aurora" to "Diana", because for the Soviets, the original name had associations which would have made the use of that name for the villains' ship highly inappropriate.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Livanov's Holmes, while still restless, eccentric, and at times a bit of a Troll, is more gentlemanly and less troubled than some incarnations of the character.
  • Artistic Title: Each episode begins with a montage presenting the opening credits through various methods of classical cryptography, such as holding a paper over a flame to reveal a message in invisible ink or covering it in dust then shaking it off to see what parts it has stuck to.
  • Bowdlerise:
    • Holmes doesn't use cocaine in this adaptation (thanks to Soviet censorship) although he still smokes like a chimney.
    • Watson's military service takes place in the unspecified "East," not Afghanistan - probably because the Soviet Union had its own military activity in the area at that time.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Holmes is a bit nicer than usual in this version, but still decidedly eccentric.
  • Canon Welding: The Twentieth Century Approaches blends together multiple stories from the canon, creating an arc in which Col. Stark/Fritz from "The Engineer's Thumb" and Eduardo Lucas from "The Second Stain" were the same person, and both him and Hugo Oberstein from "The Bruce-Partington Plans" were working for Von Bork of "His Last Bow".
  • Entertainingly Wrong: Watson's belief in the first episode that Holmes is a criminal mastermind. He does have the right skill set for it and he knows all kinds of disreputable people.
  • Everybody Smokes: At least most of the men seem to, although in Holmes and Watson's case this is true to Doyle canon.
  • Eye Remember: Holmes conducted some experiments to verify the trope. Baloney, according to him.
  • Evil Cripple: It takes some time to notice, but Moriarty can't move his neck.note 
  • Faint in Shock: Watson faints when Holmes reveals himself alive and well
  • Fatal Flaw: Moriarty's love for the dramatic.
  • Food Porn: The big Victorian breakfast scene in the first episode. Did the camera really need to linger on the table for that long?
  • Friendship Moment: Many. Holmes and Watson are particularly affectionate in this version, possibly due to Russian social norms for close friends, and Solomin and Livanov have excellent chemistry.
  • Genius Bruiser: Holmes. Dr. Roylott (villain of the Speckled Band story) comes to Watson and Holmes, demands they stop the investigation and threatens them by bending an iron poker. After Roylott storms out, Holmes rather casually straightens it out. And of course he is a former boxing champion.
  • Genius Slob: Holmes. It appears to be a matter of principle with him: he doesn't even let Mrs. Hudson dust his things.
  • Iconic Outfit: The cape and deerstalker make their inevitable appearance, though in the more correct context this time, as a back-country outfit it was in the first place.
  • Identical Twin ID Tag: In "Acquaintance", Helen Stoner's twin sister Julia only appears in one scene, and it's always clear which is which, but to make sure they're visually distinguished by their hairstyles, with Helen's hair being conspicuously shorter than Julia's.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Holmes, in the scene with Watson's pocket watch. His chain of deductions regarding Watson's alcoholic older brother winds up hitting a few sore spots and provokes a Dude, Not Funny! reaction from Watson. To be fair to Holmes, Watson did ask Holmes what he could infer from the watch.
  • Large Ham: Nikita Mikhalkov, one of the hammiest persons in Soviet cinema, as Henry Baskerville.
  • Leitmotif: DAAA da da da da-da-da-da-da!
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: Holmes and Moriarty although it turns out Moriarty decided to cheat by bringing in Moran with a gun.
  • Master of Disguise: Holmes, as per usual. Though Livanov's distinctive voice is kinda of a giveaway.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Vitaly Solomin's Watson is quite easy on the eyes if you like boyishly handsome blond men in tweed, and Holmes is rather dapper in his own way.
  • Obviously Evil: This version of Moriarty is incredibly sinister looking.note 
  • Older Than They Look: Solomin's Watson is quite boyish looking for someone who, given the age of the actor at the time of filming, is probably around forty.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Russian version of Lestrade is more funny and friendly than usual.
  • Saved by the Platform Below: That's how Holmes survives the battle with Moriarty. An Invoked Trope, since he took the time first to study the potential battlefield.
  • Sherlock Scan: Used straight quite often, naturally, but also subverted for comic effect. Just after Holmes manages a series of astute conclusions about Watson's disreputable brother based on his watch, he gives an incredibly detailed description of a random passerby. Watson, now thoroughly bemused, is willing to accept the results - at which point Holmes reveals the object of the scan to be his own brother, Mycroft.
    • The second scan in the series (first being Holmes' deduction about Watson's military service) is performed by Mrs. Hudson of all people.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Holmes, sort of. He is smart, and he does play chess, but the context (a friendly game with Watson) is more in line with the Russian view of chess as a normal recreational activity.
  • Spared By Adaptation: In the original books, Watson's wife dies during the time Holmes was faking his death. In the series, she isn't introduced until much later, and is still alive in the last part.
  • Stoic Spectacles: Holmes wears little round reading glasses in a few scenes.
  • Take That!: To Arthur Conan Doyle, of all people. In the episode incorporating "The Speckled Band," Watson correctly points out that snakes are deaf, and so the whistle-training on which the plot depends couldn't possibly work. To which Holmes responds, "I did not know that!"