Sunday, May 13, 2012

TV Review: Sherlock - "The Hounds of Baskerville"


Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and Watson in The Hounds of Baskerville
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson
Holmes is in between cases and as is his wont, starts craving for artificial mental stimulants. Watson does his best to dissuade Holmes from his drug intake and is relieved when Henry Knight arrives at 221 B with his case.

The case in question is arguably the most popular novel in the Sherlock Holmes Canon: The Hound of the Baskervilles. As was the case with A Study in Scarlet, the canonical novel has been updated for a modern adaptation.

Henry has recurring memories of his father being killed by a hound 20 years ago. Henry returns to the place of his father's demise and claims to have seen the footprints of a gigantic hound. Holmes is quite dismissive of Henry's beliefs in the existence of a hound, but his interest is nevertheless piqued and takes up the case. Holmes and Watson soon arrive at Dartmoor and Watson does some sleuthing of his own in a local café.

Instead of the Baskerville Hall, we have a military complex. Barrymore, Lyons, Frankland and Stapleton work at the complex. Dr Mortimer though still remains the same except for the fact he is now a she (a trait shared with the character of Stapleton). The escaped convict Selden does not directly appear in the episode but does contribute to a cheeky moment.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes faces the Hound in The Hounds of Baskerville
Sherlock comes face to face with a nightmare

Sherlock uses Mycroft’s credentials to sneak into the military complex. Sherlock and Watson discover that there is a lot of research and testing going on, that may or may not be related to the hound. Soon their adventure is cut short and the cheerful Dr Frankland comes to their rescue by (wrongly) confirming Sherlock’s identity as Mycroft.

There is a little mystery involving Dr Stapleton as well, that confirms Sherlock’s suspicions that there is some genetic testing going on at the complex.

Soon Sherlock encounters the cause of Henry's fear and is forced to reevaluate the case. Sherlock copes with the emotion of fear and overcomes it soon enough to solve the mystery. Mark Gatiss has done a fine job of reworking the original story.

There are quite a number of clues spread throughout the episode that astute viewers would have noticed. I will not reveal the resolution, except to note that readers familiar with the canon will be reminded of The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot.

Russell Tovey as Henry Knight in The Hounds of Baskerville
Russell Tovey as Henry Knight
Cumberbatch gets to display his acting chops as the character of Sherlock evolves further in the second season. Freeman provides ample support as Watson. Russell Tovey makes an impressive Henry Knight, the man who has been scarred for life after witnessing his father getting killed. Rupert Graves has a bigger role in this episode and as always delivers a nice performance.

Mark Gatiss is a gifted writer and has a fine command over the language. From the reworking of the episode title to renaming Sir Henry Baskerville to Henry Knight and the term HOUND, Gatiss has woven a fine web of word play.
Now on to the trivia section. I caught the following references to the original stories:
1.   The Adventure of Black Peter (Holmes’s appearance at 221 B with a harpoon)
2.   The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle (Holmes placing a bet with a local guide to get some information)
3.   The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter ("Mycroft is the British Government")
4.   The Sign of the Four (“When you have eliminated everything that is impossible, the remaining however improbable must be the truth”)
5.   The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot  (I will leave it to the readers to figure this one out)

The episode is easily the best of the season and returns Holmes to his Doylean roots. This is my favorite episode so far after A Study in Pink.

Click here to read all my posts about BBC Sherlock.

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27 comments:

  1. Very useful - I know I always miss the little references Moffat and Gatiss put in re: other stories they don't film, so it's great to see you list them here. Thanks for the heads-up!
    :)

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  2. Devil's Foot: hallucinogen in the story, also the scene at the end seems to be a reference to the Granada adaptation of DEV with the drugged visions Holmes has.
    I still maintain that "The Mind Palace" could be the biggest dance craze of 2012.

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    1. You are spot on with your deductions about Devil's Foot!

      Have you tried the Russian adaptation with Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes.

      Cheers!

      Delete
  3. I really liked this episode. Right now, it's favorite of series two. And DEFININTLY better than "A Scandal in Belgravia"...

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    1. Agree with you on this being the best of series two.

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    2. Whereas for me, this is the disappointing one of the 5 I've watched!

      The "memory palace" technique has an ancient lineage and many names. More info here, if anyone's interested. The concept also used in Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose.

      Love, C.

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  4. The "Mind Palace" to me seemed to go back to Sherlock's "brain attic" thing. It didn't bother me, since I know it's actually a legitimate metacognitive strategy.

    I was terribly afraid through the whole episode that it would turn out to be a mutant dog. I was very relieved when it wasn't. :)

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    1. That the "hound" would turn out to be a mutant dog, I mean. Not that the episode would. ;)

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    2. Thanks for the info about "Mind Palace". The visual presentation instantly reminded me of the scene in 'Minority Report' though.

      Mark Gatiss combined the elements of 'The Adventure of the Devil's Foot' to give a nice update to the story.

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  5. It was my least favourite of the new run and the first that seemed to struggle with a modern retelling. The strength of Sherlock is its modern take and this felt old fashioned. Still good solid entertainment and Cumberbatch was ace as usual. I actually liked his Mind Palace even if it's been done elsewhere (what hasn't?). Looking forward to series 3!

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    1. I actually liked this episode and it is one of my favorites!

      Thanks for stopping by.

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  6. Thanks for the review and the details. I had to watch this episode twice to understand (lol). But the vids you posted don't work or maybe it's my computer...
    :-)

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    1. You are welcome Zoe :)

      I just checked the videos and they do work. Let me know if they still do not work for you.

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    2. They're working now, it was my computer -_-

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  7. Though it seems, generally, that this episode may not be in the top, I enjoyed it too. Spotted the references though I didn't realize the harpoon until I read Black Peter after viewing Hounds...it made me smile then.

    Trivia and/or question to add: I noted Sherlock's reference to John as a 'conductor of light'. I am 99.9% sure that is a reference from canon, but have not been able to find it again as of yet. Anyone know?

    The Mind Palace was the only thing that bothered me visually. Typically, I like the visual effects, but thought it was too showy this time, but the idea is superb and I could completely imagine Sherlock using those techniques.

    Nice review!

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    1. Thanks Valerie!

      As for Sherlock referring to John as 'conductor of light' - it is from 'The Hound of Baskervilles'.

      I agree with you about 'The Mind Palace'. It is highly probable that Sherlock would use such memory techniques. Nevertheless, the way it was presented was extremely gimmicky.

      Cheers!

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  8. I wish I could write as well as you. You clearly know your stuff, you also made me chuckle a couple of times in this and other reviews.

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    1. Thanks Joshua for your compliments. Coming from a film critic, they are highly appreciated :)

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  9. Thanks for visiting my blog and checking out my review for this episode.

    A well written, thoroughly researched post. (Loved the references to which of the classic Holmes stories served to inspire "Hounds").

    Looking forward to Series 3.

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    1. You are welcome and Thanks for the compliment :)

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  10. John says: It's not possible for the victim to have done it; this is a reference to The Norwood Builder, where the supposed victim fakes his death to vindicate another.

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    1. Nice catch. Thanks for stopping by.

      B2B.

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