Holmes, his friend Watson (or his brother Mycroft) work to solve the mysteries of The Three Gables, The Dying Detective, The Golden Pince-Nez, The Red Circle, The Mazarin Stone, and The Cardboard Box. —Kathy Li
The end of an era.........
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes marks the end of the Granada Sherlock Holmes series starring the unsurpassed Jeremy Brett. Collectively the series ran for ten years and in its time picked up a huge following from devoted Doyleans to the general public seeking a good evening drama to pass an hour with. The performances of Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and Edward Hardwicke as Dr. Watson (who took over the role from David Burke in The Return of Sherlock Holmes) were and are widely celebrated as the best Holmes and Watson, Brett mastering the darkness of Holmes, as well as his warmth for his friend Dr. Watson, his astute deduction and extraordinary charisma. Edward Hardwicke (my personal favourite Watson) ably followed on from David Burke's previous characterisation, making the character intelligent, observant and loyal to his best friend Sherlock. The Granada series was the most faithful, most detailed Sherlock Holmes production ever made, almost without exception Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories were respected to the letter. The Memoirs series however was beset with problems during its production, and had the misfortune to directly follow on from a shaky era in the Granada franchise. Following the previous series 'The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes', Granada departed from the usual fifty minute episode format for the programme and instead were commissioned to produce three two hour feature length episodes from the material that was left of the original Doyle stories. Although 'The Master Blackmailer' was widely celebrated by fans of the series, as it remained generally faithful to the original, the following two feature episodes 'The Last Vampyre' and 'The Eligible Bachelor' based on two more of Doyle's weakest short stories received harsh reviews from the critics and Holmes devotees alike, due to its general abandonment of Doyle's original text. This damaged the reputation of the Granada series and it was only due to a gap in the schedules that producer June Wyndham Davies was able to go ahead with a new six part series, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, which much to the delight of Jeremy Brett, who began to dislike the two hour adaptations, returned the series to its original fifty minute format. Brett had also ensured that the series went back to maintaining its faithfulness to Doyle's stories due to his insistence that he would never play the role again unless the programme was loyal to Doyle's writings. The return to the original format helped the programme get back on track, but sadly the writers were still stuck with the barrel scrapings of the short stories. What the production team produced with this material is, in my view, nothing short of inspiring, the Granada Sherlock Holmes series as a whole is of such outstanding quality that it is difficult to imagine a better television drama, let alone a better adaptation of a cultural icon. Memoirs however does suffer slightly from the production problems that occurred which producer June Wyndham Davies fought so hard to deal with during the course of the series. The first episode produced 'The Golden Pince Nez' had to be made without Edward Hardwicke as Watson, he was unavailable as he was working on a feature film at the time so he was replaced by the wonderful Charles Gray as Mycroft Holmes, a role he had played twice before in the Granada series. This was a minor hurdle, but worse was to come. Jeremy Brett's health had greatly declined after The Casebook series and during Memoirs he was very unwell. A sufferer of manic depression and a heart condition, during 'The Three Gables' he collapsed on set and his hospitalisation delayed filming for some time. He later became even more unwell after 'The Dying Detective' so for the adaptation of 'The Mazarin Stone' (which due to shortage of material includes material from another short story 'The Three Garridebs') Charles Gray returned to the series as Mycroft Holmes, Mycroft's part filling in entirely for Sherlock as Brett was once again hospitalised. Jeremy Brett returned to the role for 'The Cardboard Box' the finale of the series, which is arguably the finest episode of the production. Unsurprisingly this would mark Jeremy Brett's final appearance as Sherlock Holmes. Despite its production problem's The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes continues the high standards that we would expect from a Granada production. The visuals are stunning, with the excellent directors Peter Hammond and Sarah Hellings chosen to helm the series. 'The Mazarin Stone' despite its affected production looks marvellous on screen, the final sequence in which Mycroft closes in on Count Sylvius is beautifully shot, the final ethereal presence of Jeremy Brett's Holmes in a dark night mist provides an excellent conclusion to an uneven narrative of cobbled together short stories. Crucially also, the series is generally faithful to the original text, something which had been lacking in the previous two feature length episodes. I give this series ten out of ten for overcoming all odds and maintaining a high level of quality as fantastic television drama. I'd recommend the series to all Holmesians and fans of good television, every episode has something to offer. Despite his illness Jeremy Brett gives another superb performance as Sherlock Holmes, a part which he made his own, and arguably brought to life better than any other actor. Edward Hardwicke is equally brilliant as Dr. Watson and one feels sad that no more episodes were made. But perhaps, with the best material gone, it was for the best. What we have left is truly special. The Granada Sherlock Holmes series, is, in my view, one of the finest television drama series ever made. With such a brilliant series still shining vibrantly in our memories, one wonders why so much of todays television is so shockingly poor. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes marks the end of a wonderful era for Sherlock Holmes, that may never be bettered.
- Mar 5, 2009
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