The minute you hear the hooves clopping and see the Baker Street sign, you know the case is about to begin.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes 1984-1985, developed for television by John Hawkesworth, starred Jeremy Brett as the famous pop culture icon Sherlock Holmes, David Burke as our storyteller and adventurer Dr. Watson, and Rosalie Williams as the supportive and loving Mrs. Hudson.
Hearing the orchestral theme music play as I get glimpses of the period always excites me. Why watch if you are not going all in with a variety of tea and pastries? Which has become a sort of ritual when I watch the series.
Sherlock Holmes is the name used for the show that aired from 1984 to 1994, but the title for seasons one and two is actually 'The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.' Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 'A Scandal in Bohemia' is the first short story and the third of his works featuring the world-famous detective.
It follows Holmes and Watson, hired by the King of Bohemia, who has tasked the duo to retrieve a photo from a former mistress. In this first episode, Brett and Burke and director Paul Annett masterfully set the tone for the live-action series based on the classic adventures. Annett also directed 'The Solitary Cyclist' and 'The Copper Beeches.'
'A Scandal In Bohemia' instantly grabs your attention once Irene Adler enters the scene with her houseman preventing an attempted robbery. Played by the beautiful and very talented Gale Hunnicutt.
To quote Dr. Watson's description of Holmes's feelings toward Irene Adler, Gale Hunnicutt is "The Woman." Her credits include Tales From The Crypt, Dallas, and Target, the crime drama she co-starred with Gene Hackman and Matt Dillon.
The intelligence, strength, smile, soft glances, and intuitive nature felt very true to the character described in the book. She could destroy the King of Bohemia's future marriage, and yet without anger, he describes Adler with affection, "more beautiful than any other woman of note, more resolute than any man," as if he was still in a trance from his last encounter.
'A Scandal In Bohemia' is where readers first meet Irene Adler. While only appearing once in the book, Adler is one of the most memorable characters in the Sherlock Holmes story. Hunnicutt's work as Irene is a jump-off-the-page performance.
Dr. Watson's reaction when he sees Holmes's disguise mimics my expression when I see Jeremy Brett in costume. Brett has seventy-six credits to his name, which include starring alongside Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda in War and Peace.
His stage experience is visible in this episode, where he plays a fictional character (Holmes) who twice wears a disguise to become someone else.
Holmes is a multi-talented character with what, at times, looks like super-human abilities. In this episode, Brett shows you how talented he is by displaying the skills and techniques of the world's greatest detective.
Brett's version of 'A Scandal In Bohemia' allows you to see a Sherlock Holmes, who is rude and seems to lack empathy, but later shows his flaws and a softer side to the character I know from the books. Jeremy Brett offers the viewer a realistic version of Holmes. I could read the book and see Brett as Holmes in each chapter.
David Burke's portrayal of Dr. John Watson is the most memorable and one of my favorites. My other favorite is Edward Hardwicke, who will later replace Burke in what I felt was a seamless transition. Burke wanted to be closer to his family and accepted an invitation to join the Royal Shakespeare Company with his wife, Anna.
Burke is a master at using his character to draw the viewer's attention to important factors within a scene. When Watson and Holmes meet the King in the rooms of 221B, it is Burke's performance that helps the viewer understand proper etiquette and first puts Holmes's rudeness on display.
I have read books and watched Batman movies where there is no Robin and the story worked, but Burke proved in this first episode that there is no Sherlock Holmes without Dr. Watson. The atmosphere is understood and the story is best seen through the eyes of Watson.
It is important to note that this telling is not identical to the book. But I read a statement from David Burke's IMDB bio where he said Jeremy Brett "carried his book of Sherlock Holmes stories around with him, almost like a Bible."
"He would concern himself, in the nicest possible way, with making sure everybody was dressed correctly and that the action mirrored what it said in the book."
Jeremy Brett: (Quote taken from IMDB bio) "To me, the Sherlock Holmes stories are about a great friendship. Without Watson, Holmes might well have burnt out on cocaine long ago. I hope the series shows how important friendship is."
(On playing the "definitive" Sherlock Holmes) "I've done 33 Sherlock Holmes stories and bits of them are all right. But the definitive Sherlock Holmes is really in everyone's head. No actor can fit into that category because every reader has his own ideal."
I'm grateful to Jeremy Brett for realizing this fact and for the respect that Brett, Burke, and the entire ensemble showed to the characters and story.
The period is romantic, with each scene displaying beautiful costumes and the perfect interior and exterior backdrops.
This version of 'A Scandal In Bohemia' made me want to see more from these two actors. It won't take long for the director and actors to connect you to a classic story and its famous characters.
I have watched many versions of Sherlock Holmes on television and in the movies, but out of all of them, Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes is the one I always come back to every year since the age of twelve.
Each scene is the turn of a page while I sit back, sipping on my tea with the feeling of excitement at what happens next.
You made it this far, thanks for reading, and if you watch this series, let me know what your thoughts are.
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