“You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive”

Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes

With these immortal words the public were introduced to the most famous of double acts: that of Mr Sherlock Holmes and Dr John H. Watson. They remain as popular as ever with the Victorian setting enhancing rather than diminishing their appeal.

 Since their appearance in 1887, they have been portrayed by formidable actors. Many swear by Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, although the latter’s portayal of Watson as a bumbling, aged idiot has its critics.

A more impressive couple on Granada TV were Jeremy Brett with firstly, David Burke and then Edward Hardwicke. Unfortunately, Brett became too obsessed with the role and along with the demands of work made him severely ill. The need to shoot around his later absences made some of the later TV episodes disappointing and confusing. However, it must be stressed that they are still more than watchable.

The definitve pair  has to be (and I will brook no opposition) …

… that of Clive Merrison and Michael Williams in the dramatisations for BBC radio. I will brook no other rivals. This is the only time that  the same two actors have performed in all 56 short stories and 4 novels. The production values are superlative, the acting wonderful and the fleshing out of the original stories done with great skill. These are tales to be listened to over and over.

Now the library has been buying the collected editions starting with The Adventures and The Memoirs. Instead of each collection of short stories being split up into three separate CD packs, borrowers can now luxuriate and thrill to nine hours of prime mystery and spellbinding atmosphere.

One fan wrote ‘One of the few broadcasts that I can listen to again and again. The whole thing is a joy. Good stories beautifully transcribed for the radio. Superb actors with such lovely voices. Maybe these should be used as ‘master classes’.

Most were dramatised by Bert Coules and it is a tribute to his skills that his own creation The FurtherAdventures of Sherlock Holmes were broadcast by the BBC. This time, as Michael Williams had sadly died, Andrew Sachs played Watson. Unlike most Holmesian tributes, these are intelligent and veer dangerously close to being as good as the originals.

The original four disc sets are also still obtainable from the library, but we don’t appear to have any of the longer novels with this pair as stars. There is an opportunity to recommend items to be bought here.

3 thoughts on ““You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive”

  1. rebecca 28 August 2008 / 4:23 pm

    No brooking from this quarter!

  2. Joyce 29 August 2008 / 2:07 pm

    I say old chap aren’t you being a little hard on Jeremy Brett. Brett’s much loved wife died while he was filming Sherlock Holmes and later he was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. The medication to treat that resulted in his altered appearance.
    I think he was an outstanding Holmes, by turns pensive and brooding then fired with maniacal energy. So stick that in your meerschaum pipe and smoke it!!!!

  3. Mark 29 August 2008 / 2:36 pm

    i knew all about brett’s difficulties. I did say ‘unfortunately’ and my main beef was with the tv company who insisted on filming even when he was so ill. The bi-polat thing actaully adds to his appeal as i think Holmes veers between two extremes of moods.
    If we could have the production values of the bbc with Brett’s face then we would have great improvment. Still say Merrison and Williams creates the best image in my imagination though.

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