Adaptation Overdosed: Holmes might very well take the ultimate crown here. The Other Wiki says he is the most frequently portrayed character in the history of cinema, having been played (by some counts) by over 75 different actors in 211 films. In a book on the subject, Holmes scholar Ronald B. DeWaal lists an astonishing 25,000 Holmes-related productions and products. Or just look at the Franchise page for our list.
Artist Disillusionment: Doyle initially killed off Sherlock Holmes in "The Final Problem" because he got sick of writing the series and wanted to focus on other works. Before that, he also tried to shoot down the publishers' demand by raising the price - this attempt was unsuccessful as they were still willing to pay it.
In the original novels, Holmes never actually uttered the exact phrase "Elementary, my dear Watson". He uses the phrase 'elementary' on occasion, and often refers to Watson as 'my dear Watson' but never combines the two. The phrase actually comes from a P. G. Wodehouse novel.
Nor did he ever cry, "Quick, Watson, the needle!" That phrase probably comes from parodies of Gillette's 1899 stage play.
Likewise, the deerstalker cap and Inverness coat are never mentioned in the stories proper, and while Sidney Paget did at times draw him wearing one or the othernote a deerstalker in "Silver Blaze", an Inverness coat in "The Blue Carbuncle", he never put them both together. Nor would Holmes, despite his recurrent flakiness, have worn such a countrified outfit in the middle of Londonnote It would have been the equivalent of wearing Elmer Fudd's "hunter" outfit in the middle of Times Square.
Lampshaded in the 2009 Sherlock Holmes Versus Jack the Ripper game, in which at one point Sherlock asks Watson to "bring [him] that old deerstalker [he] never wear[s], but everyone seems convinced [he] wear[s] all the time".
And played with in the second season of Sherlock BBC, where Sherlock pulls on a deerstalker cap in an attempt to avoid paparazzi, and merely ends up with the press considering him the "man with the funny little hat" with pictures to back it up.
Parodies of Sherlock Holmes stories often have titles in the form "The Case Of...", but the titles of (most of) the actual stories are in the form "The Adventure Of...". Only one story title ("A Case of Identity") even uses the word "case".
"The game's afoot!" seems to have become something of a Catchphrase for Holmes, despite the fact that he utters it once in the entire canon.
Creator's Favorite Episode: When Arthur Conan Doyle finally ended the series, he wrote a list of what he considered its twelve best stories. Doyle listed "The Speckled Band" as the best of them all, and fan polls agreed with him.
Genre Popularizer: Other detectives had come before, but Holmes is arguably responsible for popularizing the detective story in its modern, standalone form.
Magnum Opus Dissonance: Conan Doyle respected Holmes enough to avert dropping a bridge on him in "The Final Problem", feeling the character deserved to go out with a bang. He did, however, resent that the character was so large that nothing he, Doyle, ever wrote would ever be able to crawl out from under Holmes's shadow.
"The Crooked Man" is essentially a rehash of The Sign of the Four, albeit with a sympathetic suspect and a mongoose's footprint instead of a cannibal's. The BBC Radio adaptation even had the prime suspect in both played by BRIAN BLESSED.
"The Three Garridebs" recycles the premise of "The Red-Headed League", with an unusual surname taking the place of an unusual hair colour.
"The Stockbroker's Clerk" is also very similar to "The Red-Headed League", with a naive clerk rather than a naive pawnbroker as the villains' mark.
In "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle", Sherlock determines that a man is intelligent by his hat size, reasoning that a man with a big head has a large brain, and therefore is smarter than average. While there is some dispute among modern scientists as to whether there's any correlation brain size and intelligence, any correlation would be subtler and less pronounced than the one Holmes claims.
Brain Fever, which is not real, appears in several stories.
In several stories Holmes attributes things like personality and interests to genetics.
The science in "The Creeping Man" is flawed, to say the least, unless you consider the effects of the "potion" to be psychosomatic, and Professor Presbury a highly suggestible lunatic. However, the idea of using serums taken from animals for rejuvenation and invigoration was taken quite seriously by many scientists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and Dr. Lowenstein was probably based on a real life scientist Serge Voronoff.
The biology in "The Speckled Band" is also flawed. Snakes do not work that way. In particular the plot revolves around snakes being attracted by high pitched sounds; in this case a whistle. Snakes do have inner ears and can pick up ground-borne vibrations and low frequency sounds but are extremely unlikely to be able to hear a whistle.
Torch the Franchise and Run: The reason for the downer ending in The Final Problem. Doyle had simply gotten tired of writing Sherlock Holmes stories and wanted to move on to do historical novels. He managed to ignore the backlash for a decade before going back to writing Sherlock Holmes stories when it became clear that his historical novels just weren't selling, but not before producing the classic that is The Hound of the Baskervilles two years before returning to writing Sherlock Holmes stories full time.
Tourist Bump: In the stories, the famous detective resides on 221B Baker Street in London. As of 1990, the real Baker Street features a Sherlock Holmes museum, which was even given the official address of 221B by permission of the City of Westminster.
Unintentional Period Piece: This series practically defines the England of the late nineteenth century for most readers. The state of politics and science nails the period down, and decades of fans have generally been able to pinpoint the exact years that most of the stories were set in (it helps that several of the stories have years tacked onto them; "A Scandal in Bohemia" begins in March 1888, "The Adventure of the Crooked Man" takes place 30 years after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, "The Final Problem" is dated May 23, 1891, etc.).
Word of Dante: Holmesian fanon (known amongst fans as The Game, since long before the existence of the internet) is varied and has many varied sources from many mediums. The three main sources, however, are William Stuart Baring-Gould's The annotated Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, and Leslie Klinger's The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes.
Similarly, Mycroft Holmes and the Diogenes Club have been expanded by later pastiches (notably The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes) into the Head of the Secret Service and one of its fronts respectively, when in the original canon they're little more than what Doyle presents them as (a Brilliant, but Lazy low-level civil servant and a club for reclusive eccentrics).
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 long coat.
California Doubling: Victorian London was recreated at Granada's studios in Quay Street, Manchester, which later formed a central part of the Granada Studios Tour tourist attraction, before that venue's closure in 1999.
Creator Couple: In the adaption of The Eligible Bachelor, the role of Lady Helene is played by Anna Calder-Marshall, the wife of David Burke. Unfortunately, the episode is filmed after Burke left the role of Watson.
Dawson Casting: In The Sign of Four, Thaddeus and Bartholomew Sholto were supposed to be thirty years old, although Ronald Lacey was 51 when he played them.
While Edward Hardwicke was bald and wore a wig for the role of Watson.
Plus, Jeremy lost several pounds to acquire Holmes' slender look.
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.
The excessive expenses involved in the production of "Silver Blaze" and "The Devil's Foot" having dried up the series' budget, producers Michael Cox and June Wyndham-Davies believed that this episode could provide two hours of entertainment at a lower cost than the last episodes initially planned, if it were to be turned into an economy. This austerity policy led to the suppression of captivating but costly sequences such as the one in which Holmes and Watson chased the spy following Sir Henry in London. Even worse, it led to the filming in the studio of scenes where the set is essential and which require space, such as the final attack of the monster, thus depriving us of the spectacle of the immense moor gradually invaded by an evil fog and especially of the exciting race of Holmes and Watson flying to Sir Henry's rescue. The financial shortage even forced director Brian Mills to reuse shreds of previous episodes that turned his film into a disconcerting patchwork.
Due to lack of money, the intended director, John Madden, could not be hired. He was replaced by Brian Mills who failed to create a fantastic atmosphere that was truly engaging.
The Hell Hound, the stumbling block in many adaptations before the era of computer-generated images, was here only a Great Dane coated with phosphorescent material, unable to provoke the slightest shiver of fear.
Cox notes that there's a lot of mumbling by the actors, as if they lack confidence in what they're saying.
Unfinished Episode: Though it is, to date, probably the single most comprehensive screen adaptation of the Holmes canon, the series nevertheless left nineteen stories unadapted after Jeremy Brett's sudden death in 1995. These stories comprise two of the novellas and seventeen of the short stories - A Study in Scarlet, "A Case of Identity", "The Five Orange Pips", "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb", "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet", "The Adventure of the Yellow Face", "The Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk", "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott", "The Adventure of the Reigate Squire", "The Adventure of Black Peter", "The Adventure of the Three Students", "The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter", The Valley of Fear, "His Last Bow", "The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier", "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs" (Although the main theme of this story is present in "The Mazarin Stone"), "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane", "The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger" (Although elements of this story are present in "The Eligible Bachelor") and "The Adventure of the Retired Colourman".
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. Though it should be noted that Holmes did eventually give up cocaine in the original stories, in The Missing Three-Quarter, which this series did not adapt.
What Could Have Been: According to Michael Cox, the show's producer, the opening sequence of "The Second Stain" was supposed to have a scene where Watson visits Holmes in his house at Sussex during his retirement where he would ask his permission to publish the story as seen with the set pictures of Holmes in his beekeeper outfit. However, the producers and director had to delete the beekeeping scene because it doesn't jive with the episode's narrative. The footage of the scene in question was locked in the studio's archives but it was never found.
Other television adaptations:
Missing Episode: Two episodes of the Douglas Wilmer series ("The Abbey Grange" and "The Bruce-Partington Plans") and ten out of the sixteen Peter Cushing episodes are missing.
Old Shame: Peter Cushing later said that he would rather sweep Paddington Station for a living than go through the experience of again, blaming the rushed production schedule for the shortcomings of his performance:
Whenever I see some of those stories they upset me terribly, because it wasn't Peter Cushing doing his best as Sherlock Holmes - it was Peter Cushing looking relieved that he had remembered what to say and said it!
The part interested me very much because Id never really, I felt, seen it performed to its full capacity. Theres a very dark side to Holmes, and a very unpleasant side to him. And I felt that this was always skirted round which made him appear rather sort of hockey sticks and cricket bats and jolly uncles a kind of dashing Victorian hero. He wasnt like that at all. He was rather sardonic and arrogant, and he could be totally inconsiderate towards Watson. I tried to show both sides of his nature.
Cushing also looked forward to portraying the detective correctly.
What are the things that spring to mind about Sherlock Holmes? The way he keeps saying, "Elementary, my dear Watson," and the number of times he puffs that meerschaum pipe. But they are both untrue![
The BBC's 1964 anthology series Detective included an adaptation of "The Speckled Band" starring Douglas Wilmer as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Stock as Dr. Watson. The Conan Doyle estate granted the BBC the rights to adapt a further four Holmes stories in 1965, with an option to choose another eight from among those for which the rights were not already claimed. Wilmer, a huge Conan Doyle fan, jumped at the chance to play Holmes on a regular basis, but soon regretted the decision, later saying the writers ranged from "brilliant" to "deplorable". He found some of the scripts so poor that he re-wrote them himself, sometimes having to stay up until 2am to finish them before shooting began. The production also struggled with a tight schedule and an even tighter budget, precluding the possibility of any effects shots.
Despite the troubled production, the series drew audiences of 11 million, and in 1968, the BBC began planning a second series. Stock signed on as Watson, but Wilmer refused to return as Holmes when he was told the rehearsal schedule would be cut. After John Neville proved unavailable and Eric Porter was passed over, the producers cast Peter Cushing, another Holmes enthusiast who had played the role once before (in Hammer Horror's 1959 film of The Hound of the Baskervilles)note It was Hammer's adaptation that prevented the BBC from acquiring the rights to the story during Wilmer's tenure as Holmes; the rights only became available in late 1965. and was delighted at the prospect of showing Holmes' darker side. Sadly, after shooting of the two-part adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles ran over schedule and over budget due to persistent rain during location shooting, the series once again fell victim to time and money problems. Plans for guest villains including Sean Connery, George Sanders, Peter Ustinov, and Orson Welles had to be scrapped for financial reasons, while "The Dancing Men" was forced to air before final editing could be completed. Cushing enjoyed working with Stock, but was disgusted with his own performance and later told Wilmer that he would rather sweep Paddington station for a living than go through filming again. The series still drew audiences of 15.5 million, but plans for a third series based on The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes by Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr were ultimately abandoned.
The 1965 season was going to adapt "The Three Garridebs", "The Priory School", The Golden Pince-Nez" and "The Sussex Vampire", while the 1968 season was going to adapt "The Red Circle".
Had the third series commenced, the plan was to dramatise stories from The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes, a short story collection written by Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr, but was not eventually made.