My first introduction to Sherlock Holmes (and the excellent Michael Caine) came at a young age with the viewing of “Without a Clue”. Until then I knew nothing of the great detective and while ” Without a Clue” was funny to watch it didn’t represent an accurate interpretation of the character,with Holmes being more of a slapstick detective and Watson played by Sir Ben Kingsly been the brains behind the great detective.
As I grew older I learned about the character, however unfortunately it was a rather stereotypical, cold character that had little behind the image of the cap and cowl and pipe. Too perfect and flawless. What has grown around the character is an image that is brilliantly intelligent on the outside but lacking any soul on the inside.
When I discovered the Granada series starring Jeremy Brett all my previous views of the various incarnations of Sherlock Holmes were completely shattered. I must admit at first I found it strange that Brett’s Holmes was nothing like the one I had grown up knowing. But the fact was that Brett’s Holmes and the series itself was closer to the source material than any had been before.
Jeremy Brett had previously been up for the role of James Bond, first for “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and second for “Live and Let Die” which Roger Moore eventually got. I personally think Brett is far more suited to Holmes or a Bond based closer on the books. He himself had a strong desire and a big hand in adhering to Holmes Canon, basing his Holmes characterization on the actual stories written by Doyle and fighting the writers to preserve the source material even when minor changes were made.
To quote Brett’s own words, he is a “becomer”. He became Sherlock Holmes in this series and lived with the Character as part of him even though it wasn’t necessarily a character he would want to know face to face. He plays Holmes with such energy as the character himself holds when in the midst of solving a crime. Leaping over couches, throwing papers about. What you see on screen is Sherlock Holmes.
The relationship between Holmes and Watson is a beautiful one, a wonderful friendship that wipes away the caricature of the bumbling Watson and smug Holmes in previous television and film media. Holmes is confident and Watson appreciates the man’s intelligence and skill but also is critical of his lacking abilities in other departments. Watson is a battle of wits for Holmes at times and the conversation between the two can often end in stalemate with each holding his respective view intact.
Doctor John Watson was played by David Burke in the first two series with his final performance as Watson being rather fittingly “The Final Problem”. Burke played Watson as a kind hearted and competent friend with a strong Gentleman Manner and a sense of wonderment with equal dismay at Holmes manner of intellect and cold heartedness. At times he would stand up to Holmes which presented a delightful argument of each others values and beliefs.
When Burke left the series he suggested Edward Hardwicke as his successor. Hardwicke’s Watson was equally kind and Gentlemanly and sounds very much like Burke. When he took over the role he did his best to honor the Watson that Burke had portrayed, even wearing lifts in his shoes to match his height. Both on and off screen Hardwicke and Brett were the best of friends and even starred together in the Stage play “The Secret Of Sherlock Holmes”. Hardwicke played Watson for the remainder of the series.
For too long I had the wrong image of Sherlock Holmes in my head which had put me off knowing more about the character. But now thanks to the devotion of the leading man anytime I think of Sherlock Holmes it will be of his Holmes and not the past incarnations. Jeremy Brett will forever be my Holmes.
Favorite Quote: “What is the meaning of it, Watson? What is the object of this circle of misery and violence and fear? It must have a purpose, or our universe has no meaning, and that is unthinkable. But what purpose? That is humanity’s great problem, to which reason so far, has no answer.” – Sherlock Holmes – The Cardboard Box