Thursday, January 1, 2015

Russian Sherlock Holmes 2013 Episode # 1 "221B Baker Street" - Recap and Review


Russian Sherlock Holmes John Watson in the new Russian Sherlock Holmes 2013 TV Series

There have been many adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle's iconic creation, Sherlock Holmes. The Guinness World Records lists Holmes as the most portrayed fictional character of all time with 75+ actors having played the Bohemian detective.

The portrayals of Sherlock Holmes have varied based on the adaptations. We have seen Victorian Holmes (Vasily Livanov, Jeremy Brett, Peter Cushing, Douglas Wilmer). We have also seen many contemporary Holmes (Basil Rathbone, Benedict Cumberbatch, Arthur Wontner).

There have also been some interesting ones like the Robert Downey Jr. version set in a steampunk England. There have been animated versions (The Great Mouse Detective, Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century to name a few).

When I heard about the latest Russian adaptation, I was not sure if we really need a yet another series based on the world's foremost fictional detective. Will it turn out to be another run-of-the-mill,  insipid and boring shows that are made just to capitalize on the current popularity of Sherlock Holmes (like CBS Elementary) without any understanding or affection for the original stories? The answer is a resounding NO.

Russian Watson Andrei Panin new Russian Sherlock Holmes 2013 TV Series Episode 1 221 B Baker Street

Andrey Kavun, director and one of the credited writers, differentiates this show from others by putting the focus squarely on Dr John Watson. As played by the late Andrei Panin, we get one of the best Watsons ever brought to life on screen. 

Right from the opening credits (set to a nice soundtrack), it is Dr Watson who takes the center stage with his voice-over.

The first episode “221B Baker Street” is based on A Study in Scarlet, The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton and The Adventure of Black Peter with a minor plot element taken from The Adventure of the Three Gables.

In the opening scene, Dr Watson lands in London with the intentions of starting a private practice and becoming a writer.

While walking down the streets he witnesses a man getting stabbed. He tries to save the man's life, but is interrupted by a young man who is more intent on solving the mystery. This person of course turns out to be Sherlock Holmes (Igor Petrenko).

After giving his eye-witness statement to Inspector Lestrade (Mikhail Boyarskiy) at the Scotland Yard, Dr Watson is approached by Holmes with the offer to share the famous lodgings at 221 B Baker Street.

Dr Watson starts noticing that his roommate has his own quirks and follows him on one of his late night errands. Soon, Dr Watson finds himself rescuing Sherlock from a potentially deadly attack from a gang of ruffians.


Russian Sherlock Holmes Igor Petrenko using magnifying lens in the new Russian Sherlock Holmes 2013 TV Series

Shortly, Lady Emma Neligan (Olga Volkova) visits Sherlock at 221 B Baker Street to retrieve some papers in his possession. She is being blackmailed by Piter Kerri (Aleksandr Ilin), who has knowledge of the letters written by  her niece, Luiza Barnet (Elizaveta Boyarskaya) to her lover, Rodzher Smit (Dmitriy Lysenkov).

Piter's wife, Jessica is working for Lady Emma and is suspected to have helped her husband in acquiring the letters. Piter demands a ransom to keep this fact hidden, to prevent Luiza's impending marriage to a man of high standing.

The resulting investigation involves Sherlock solving the mystery behind Piter's murder, for which Dr Watson himself becomes the prime suspect.

Canonical References

1. Sherlock requests Dr Watson to stop using the French perfume “Le Jovial” -  Sherlock Holmes states in The Hound of the Baskervilles: “There are seventy-five perfumes, which it is very necessary that a criminal expert should be able to distinguish from each other, and cases have more than once within my own experience depended upon their prompt recognition”.

The show is obviously influenced by the Guy Ritchie movies. Igor's portrayal is remarkably similar to that of Robert Downey Jr. In addition, the show makes reference to other Sherlock Holmes adaptations as well.


Russian Sherlock Holmes and John Watson Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin

The boxing match between Sherlock and John is a reference to a similar scene from the critically acclaimed Russian series starring Vasily Livanov and the late Vitaly Solomin. Another nod is the old man disguise adopted by Petrenko's Holmes. Still the most obvious one is Petrenko's version wearing glasses consistently - Vasily Livanov's version too wore spectacles, but on rare occasions.

There is a hilarious tip of the hat to Basil Rathbone, that caught me out of the blue and brought a big smile to my face. I will leave it to the readers to discover this for themselves.

The relationship between Sherlock and Scotland Yard is quite unfriendly. Lestrade and his men surprise Sherlock by being present at 221 B and push him around. This reminded me of BBC Sherlock and specifically, A Study in Pink which had a similar scene.

The late Andrei Panin proves to be one of the best Watsons - right along with Vitaly Solomin, Jude Law and David Burke/Edward Hardwicke. He represents the simplicity and integrity of John Watson very well.

The latest Russian adaptation has superb production values. The sets, costumes, cinematography and the soundtrack - all are top notch.

The show has a light tone and a strong sense of humor.

Highly recommended to fans of Sherlock Holmes.

Click here to read all my posts related to Russian adaptation of Sherlock Holmes.

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Image Sources: Channel One Russia, Central Partnership, Lenfilm Films Studio

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9 comments:

  1. I enoyed this post and agree with you on Panin's performance as Dr. Watson. I know you are probably aware of this already, that links to the entire new Russian Holmes series can be found in my essay on the history Soviet Sherlocks, "From Watson, With Love" at: http://www.nplh.co.uk/uploads/7/3/3/6/7336521/from_watson_with_love.pdf In that essay I state that: Sherlockian Alexander Orlov informed me, "I don’t think there will be new seasons of the Petrenko-Panin series. First of all, Panin is dead, and the show has received mostly negative coverage in the Russian press and among viewers due to jealousy from fans of the Livanov-Solomin series." This is too bad, as it was a much alternative than "Elementary".

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    1. Thanks Howard for stopping by and the comment.

      I agree: This is a far superior alternative to Elementary. With a more Canonical performance by Igor Petrenko, I would have put this in my top 3 adaptations....Still, it is worth a look.

      B2B.

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  2. How does a technological ignoramus like me see these obscure but great versions? Are they on YouTube? I'd love to see the Livanov version too.

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    1. Hi GK,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Click here to watch the new Russian series on Youtube.

      Click here to watch the Vasily Livanov series online.

      Hope you enjoy them. Looking forward to your feedback.

      B2B.

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    2. Great stuff! Will check them out!

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  3. Do you know where to find subtitles for the new Russian series version. I have the videos but couldn't find subtitles for other than 1st episode

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    Replies
    1. Click here to watch the new Russian series with subtitles.

      B2B.

      Delete
    2. Thanks. YouTube doesn't work here so but I could access it and the up-loader was able to provide me with a link for subtitles
      Thanks Anyway

      BTW.. Nice series. Just wanted to say that I don't see any reason to why they didn't air more episodes. No one would object if they replace an actor or replace a role.

      Delete
    3. You are most welcome.

      Regarding the show having only so much episodes, I believe that the director's original intention was to make only these.

      There have been instances when actors have been replaced, like in the Granada series - Edward Hardwicke took over as Watson after David Burke's departure after the first season.

      Perhaps the reason why the director did not go for a different actor is because Andrei Panin's performance as Dr Watson got much more public approval than Petrenko's portrayal of Holmes. I personally love Panin's Watson and he is the single most important reason I like this series.

      RIP Panin.

      B2B.

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