Monday, April 9, 2012

TV Review: The Granada Adaptation of Sherlock Holmes

Jeremy Brett in The Granada Adaptation of Sherlock Holmes
Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes

The Granada adaptation is popular all over the world for its authentic portrayal of the Sherlock Holmes Canon.

Jeremy Brett is a good physical match for the role. Brett’s Holmes does chase the dragon and due credit has to be given to the series makers for making the decision to show Holmes as he is without any sugar-coating. Brett also maintained a 77-page file on Sherlock Holmes, detailing the mannerisms and habits of the detective. Brett’s dedication to the role is legendary and is the subject of an excellent book by David Stuart Davies.

The Granada adaptation scores a home run with Dr Watson as well. Both David Burke and Edward Hardwicke play Watson as the kind of competent doctor and ally, Sir Doyle had described in the canon. This is another proof of the series maker’s dedication and respect to the canon. Burke remains my favorite for the simple reason that he is more of the age of the canonical Dr Watson. Hardwicke is also good as Watson, but I always imagined Dr Watson as being considerably younger, especially after being spoilt by Burke and Vitaly Solomin (Russian adaptation).

Jeremy Brett and David Burke as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson in the Granada Adaptation
Brett and Burke as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson

Brett shares excellent on-screen chemistry with both Burke and Hardwicke.

One of my favorite characters is Mycroft Holmes, the elder brother of Sherlock. To quote Sherlock, “He is the British Government”. Mycroft is the superior to Sherlock not only in age, but in the powers of observation and deduction. Charles Gray is pitch perfect as Mycroft not only in terms of physical appearance but in his body language as well. 

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Mycroft is one of the founding members of Diogenes Club, home to some of the most unsociable and misanthropic men and even speaking is banned in certain areas inside the club. The scene in the The Greek Interpreter episode where Burke’s Watson silently walks through the Diogenes Club, observing the unsociable inhabitants is an instant classic.

Jeremy Brett and David Burke as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson at 221 B Baker Street in the Granada Adaptation
The famous lodgings at 221 B Baker Street

In addition to the Diogenes Club, the props and sets in the other episodes also are painstakingly done recreations of their Victorian-era counterparts. As an icing on the cake, few of the episodes even have the original Sidney Paget drawings shown during the end credits.

The music by Patrick Gowers is an asset to the series and complements the mood nicely.

As an avid fan of Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories, I have seen various adaptations of the world's premier fictional detective. The Granada adaptation is one of the best adaptations with its loyalty to the canonical stories, the sets and costumes.

Unfortunately, Brett suffered from bipolar disorder and this greatly affected his performance in the later seasons. Some of the scripts (especially the feature-length episodes) lacked in quality.

Still the first two seasons are a recommended watch for fans of the Sherlock Holmes Canon.

Click here to read all my posts about the Granada adaptation.

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Image Source: Bending the Willow: Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes by David Stuart Davies 

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  1. I agree with the fact that Granada was one of the few adaptations that depicted Holmes's cocaine habit. One of the things (among many others) that bothered me so much about the Case of the Silk Stocking, though, was that Holmes is shown smoking opium, which he detested in canonical stories if I remember correctly. It just struck me as very wrong for the characters somehow.

    On the other hand, the choice of Guy Ritchie to make Holmes's drug of choice alcohol is equally bizarre, just not as jarring for some reason.

    1. Alcohol is actually by far the more jarring & uncharacteristic drug.
      Cannonically, Holmes' main chemical partners aside from those produced in his own body in properly high doses when on a case are Morphine, Cocaine, & Nicotine, with an added less intense relationship with Caffeine.
      Now Morphine is an abstract of Opium -- yes, it has q very different quality than the whole form of its source, & yes, Holmes clearly finds it more elegant & more elegantly suited to his own biochemistry, but he does take Opium from time to time, in relatively mild doses.
      Alcohol, unlike any standard Opiate, Cocaine, or Nicotine, all of which enhance & guard from decay the sensory & mental processes & clairify the thought, is a toxic, brain-damaging drug, which would be very unlikely to suit Holmes' biochemistry as far as it is indicated to us from his drug choices & behaviour, or be tolerated by him in view of his primary addiction to Work -- to which any serious dalliance Alcohol would both in moments & after much time be detrimental.

    2. Thanks Philoreia for stopping by and the comment.


  2. Thanks Rick for stopping by!

  3. I enjoyed the first couple of seasons of this series, but I really started to dislike it the longer it went on. It started deviating a lot from the source material, Brett put on an enormous amount of weight and his voice changed (it became hard to understand him, and he no longer "looked" the part), and it got "smutted up" in a few instances. Sitting through "The Last Vampyre," or whatever that abysmal episode was called, was one of the worst two hours of my life. I wish they had done better, or ended before Brett got sick.

    1. Same here. I too enjoyed the first season. Unfortunately, it went downhill from there.