The Great Holmes Debate - Team 3 and a shift of position

The Great Sherlock Holmes Debate has gained a third team (see here) and this has forced me to look again and add to my initial thoughts (see here).

In that post I provided my thoughts on the great Sherlock Holmes debate. Those of you who have read it will know that despite it being, in my opinion, a close call - I came down on the side of the modern BBC adaptation.

However, we now have a new team in the form of the ‘Traditional Adaptations’. This camp covers the adaptations (radio and screen) that are both true to the spirit of the canon (like BBC’s Sherlock - BBCS) and in the right era (like Warner Bros - WBS). In other words this camp represents the BBC’s (Victorian) screen and radio adaptations along with the iconic Granada series with Jeremy Brett.

I have declared on more than one occasion my reverence for Brett and my equal reverence for faithful (as much as possible) Victorian adaptations. I wrote a whole chapter on the subject in my first book Eliminate the Impossible.

Please understand that I take nothing back from my earlier post as it dealt with the only two options on the table at the time and is still representative of my opinion of those adaptations.

However, now that they have arrived, the traditional camp must get my vote. To not reallocate my vote, now that this option is available, would be to go against my long established position.

I confess to having little familiarity with the various radio incarnations of Holmes. While I have listened to one or two of the Basil Rathbone broadcasts I have not listened to those produced by the BBC. The primary reason for this being that, for me, a radio adaptation of Holmes is as inadequate as a silent movie of Holmes. Both forms are missing a vital ingredient. The former is missing the visuals and the latter the audio. Before the mobs start massing at the gates I reiterate that this is my personal view and I accept that others love the radio adaptations. I also promise that I will get round to giving them a go.

For me the Granada Holmes series from 1984-1994 still stands as the best and most faithful interpretation of Holmes to ever grace the screen. I will be the first to concede that the series slipped from its initial high standards as time went on but this was largely down to the declining health of Jeremy Brett combined with the fact that the producers used up all the most adaptable stories in the first three or so series. This led to some questionable decisions such as the padding out of stories such as The Sussex Vampire and The Noble Bachelor (into The Last Vampyre and The Eligible Bachelor respectively) and the merging of others such as The Mazarin Stone and The Three Garridebs.

However, if you base your opinion on the first two series with David Burke as Doctor Watson and Edward Hardwicke’s appearances up to and including The Sign of Four and The Hound of the Baskervilles, it is hard to deny the level of canonical fidelity and attention to detail. You might argue that including Granada is inappropriate due to the time that has passed since the series first aired. I would counter that the repeated showing of the series (in the UK on channel ITV3) permits it to be included.

So I now place myself in team 'Traditional' which will surprise no one who is familiar with my writing (or indeed this blog). However I should not be seen as hostile to BBCS because I am not.


  1. You should give the BBC audio series a listen, in my opinion Clive Merrison and Michael Williams are the best Holmes & Watson. Bert Coules does an amazing job with the canon and they're incredibly atmospheric. His 'Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' are probably some of the best pastiches written, he really captures ACDs spirit and style. Highly recommended :))

  2. I will do so the next time they are available to hear.