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Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The (1984-85)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The (1984-85)
2 series of 13x60 min episodes total
Production CompanyGranada Television
ProducerMichael Cox
Developed for television byJohn Hawkesworth
Original stories bySir Arthur Conan Doyle
Music byPatrick Gowers

Cast: Jeremy Brett (Sherlock Holmes); David Burke (Dr Watson); Rosalie Williams (Mrs Hudson); Eric Porter (Professor Moriarty)

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The adventures of the legendary Victorian detective and his faithful sidekick Dr Watson.

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The early 1980s formed a period of rich renaissance for British television. Sumptuous, big budget productions, in particular Granada's Brideshead Revisited (ITV, 1981) and Jewel in the Crown (ITV, 1985), proved that lavish, lovingly made series were critically and financially viable. This climate ensured that Granada's early Sherlock Holmes adaptations were beautifully crafted, well-scripted and exquisite in appearance.

Michael Cox was the series' first producer and the man who convinced Granada to create what he termed 'the definitive series' of Sherlock Holmes stories, with all the meticulous planning and high production standards this entailed. He ensured that Jeremy Brett donned the deerstalker, and his electrifying performances guaranteed that for millions he became the television Sherlock Holmes. He captured the character's darkness, enigma, humour and addiction to stimulation, whether from investigating cases or injecting cocaine. He insisted that Doyle's Holmes formed the template of his depiction, but added theatrical flourishes of his own and a hint of sexual magnetism which created a figure of immense fascination and Puckish fun.

Watson was played by David Burke for the first thirteen episodes and thereafter by Edward Hardwicke, son of the famous thespian, Sir Cedric Hardwicke. Both actors eschewed the hackneyed image of Holmes' Boswell as a bumbling simpleton, astounded by his 'master's every utterance, and both molded a vigorous, intelligent and loyal companion.

For several years the productions were critically and popularly acclaimed. After the first thirteen stories were broadcast, the plaudits they garnered lent the cast and crew confidence and the following two seasons, entitled The Return of Sherlock Holmes, formed the most effective collection of episodes. Daring direction, adept acting and sharp, entertaining scripts had reviewers searching for superlatives and the ratings and overseas sales of the show were healthy.

But by the fifth series in 1991, the best of Doyle's original works had been plundered, budgets were being cut and Brett fell seriously ill. This affected the power of his portrayal and his original vision of Holmes was blurring. The critics disapproved and the show never again reached the levels of success enjoyed in its early days. Even Brett was dissatisfied and although the odd episode, notably the final story, 'The Cardboard Box', contains moments of strength, this was a series which, like its lead, faced terminal decline.

Nevertheless, Granada's adaptations remain among the most important, innovative and, at times, brilliant reworkings of Sherlock Holmes ever produced.

Gavin Collinson

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Video Clips
1. Introduction (0:41)
2. Mr Holmes's Stimulus (2:58)
3. A new client (2:51)
4. Irene (2:02)
Complete episode: 'A Scandal in Bohemia' (52:28)
Brett, Jeremy (1933-1995)
Hawkesworth, John (1920-2003)
TV Literary Adaptation
TV Sleuths