Sherlock Holmes was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) and made his debut in 1887. Possibly the most famous fictional detective, Holmes is famed for his intense and astute mind, solving cases through the application of logic to details he has seen or heard, but which have been dismissed or overlooked by others. Holmes occupies rooms at 221B Baker Street, London; in addition to smoking a pipe he is also known to sample cocaine, which he injects in a seven percent solution. There are four novels and fifty-six short-stories featuring the character, almost all narrated by his friend and biographer, Dr. John Watson.
 
Holmes appeared in movies and radio plays early on in the twentieth century, but the first television adaptation was made in the USA in 1937. The NBC production of The Three Garridebs starred Louis Hector; a later production of The Speckled Band in 1949 featured Alan Napier, who would later achieve fame as Alfred the butler in Batman. It was Hollywood, of course, that blessed Holmes with arguably his most famous screen portrayal by Basil Rathbone, in a series of movies made between 1939 and 1946.
 
There were no television adaptations made in Britain until 1951, when John Longdon played Holmes in The Man With The Twisted Lip (Vandyke Pictures), followed by Andrew Osborn in The Mazarin Stone for the BBC that same year. 1951 also witnessed the first ever television series based on Holmes stories. The six BBC plays featured Alan Wheatley and Raymond Francis as Holmes and Watson, with Bill Owen as Inspector Lestrade. Alas, nothing remains of these productions in the BBC archives.


Click for larger image Sherlock Holmes
1964, BBC
This major BBC drama was heralded by the Radio Times as the first "full-dress, nation-wide television series in this country." The star Douglas Wilmer bore an uncanny resemblance to Sidney Paget's illustrations of Holmes, as seen in Strand Magazine in the 1890s. So great was the level of concentration needed in his performance, Wilmer revealed that playing Holmes had starved him of the things he loved. The Speckled Band was made as a pilot and transmitted on 18/05/1964 to great acclaim; it was repeated on 25/09/1964 and twelve more films were made, starting with The Illustrious Client (20/02/1965). Nigel Stock's performance as Watson in this series was universally praised, but some critics felt Wilmer had not penetrated the rôle enough and needed to be more brooding and meditative.
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Click for larger image Sherlock Holmes
1968, BBC
Peter Cushing succeeded Douglas Wilmer as BBC TV's Holmes, in one of the corporation's earliest colour series. Cushing was an aficionado of the character and had already played him once before, in Hammer Films' 1959 version of The Hound of the Baskervilles. The BBC teamed him with Nigel Stock as Dr Watson, with sensational results. The intriguing cast of this lavish production of Hound - filmed on Dartmoor for the first time ever - includes Ballard Berkeley as Sir Charles Baskerville. He is now so well known as the absent-minded major in Fawlty Towers, it's startling to see him give such a tortured performance.
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Click for larger image The Hound of the Baskervilles
1982, BBC
This Sunday afternoon classic serial version of Hound was produced by Barry Letts and directed by Peter Duguid. The Dartmoor location work is excellent, as is the Carl Davis score, but they are the only impressive aspects of this four-parter. In his first leading TV rôle after Doctor Who, Tom Baker seems to be as stiff and uncomfortable as the solitary cyclist's saddle; his performance was supposedly inspired by that of American actor William Gillette. Meanwhile, Terence Rigby's Watson is plain dull. Shortly after the serial was transmitted, it was revealed in the Radio Times letters pages that the hound was too docile; it only "attacked" Nicholas Woodeson once a string of sausages had been tied around the actor's neck!
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Click for larger image The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
1984-5, ITV/Granada
Click for larger image Granada struck gold with their definitive series of Holmes dramatisations, produced by Michael Cox and June Wyndham-Davies, and starring Jeremy Brett with David Burke, later Edward Hardwicke, as Watson. The production expertise that won Granada plaudits for Brideshead Revisited was applied here with great efficacy, winning awards and international acclaim.

Click for larger image The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
1984-5, ITV/Granada
Click for larger image Having kicked off on 24/04/1984 with A Scandal in Bohemia, Granada's first two series concluded in The Final Problem (29/09/1985). Holmes faces up to a deadly stalemate with Professor Moriarty (the brilliant Eric Porter) at the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. Cue a breathtaking fall performed by stuntmen Alf Joint and Marc Boyle, reviewed in The Daily Mirror at the time as "the most frightening TV sequence ever made."

Click for larger image Sherlock Holmes
1991-94, ITV/Granada
Click for larger image Series three and four were entitled "The Return of Sherlock Holmes", while series five in 1991 became "The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes." Granada followed up with three two-hour movies, before the final series of "Memoirs" in 1994. Check out the 19 year-old Jude Law in our Casebook clip, the opening scene of Shoscombe Old Place (07/03/1991).

Click for larger image The Hound of the Baskervilles
2002, BBC
This visceral adaptation by Allan Cubitt, directed by David Attwood, has a beautiful cinematic quality and a terrific pace. In striking contrast to previous versions of the story, Holmes and Watson (Richard Roxburgh and Ian Hart) are portrayed as young and athletic men in their mid-thirties, supposedly closer to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original vision. When we first see them, they're wandering out of a sauna wearing only towels! The hound itself is created for the first time using state of the art animatronics and animation and therefore appears, at last, as the monstrous vision it really should be. While there is much in this production to commend it, I personally find Roxburgh's performance a major disappointment. His vision of Holmes is so unmemorable, guest stars John Nettles and Richard E. Can't, as Mortimer and Stapleton, steal the film. First shown on 26/12/2002.
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