HOUN

“An instant afterwards he gave a little cry of satisfaction, and, following the direction of his eager eyes, I saw that a hansom cab with a man inside which had halted on the other side of the street was now proceeding slowly onward again.”

Illustration by Richard Gutschmidt for Der Hund von Baskerville, Stuttgart: Robert Lutz, 1907.

And now, my dear Watson, we have had some weeks of severe work, and for one evening, I think, we may turn our thoughts into more pleasant channels. I have a box for ‘Les Huguenots’. […] Might I trouble you then to be ready in half an hour, and we can stop at Marcini’s for a little dinner on the way?
—  Holmes asking Watson on a theatre and dinner date at the end of HOUN. Adorable.
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I really am an actor, you know. In London I had a small part in a radio drama. Yeah, we still have those across the pond. Sherlock wrote me a letter when he was ten, saying I alone of all the cast…

Elementary 1x06, Flight Risk

A few years after that “small part in a radio drama” that young Sherlock so enjoyed, Roger Rees (the actor who plays Alistair Moore in Elementary) played a much larger role in a radio drama: Sherlock Holmes himself, in the 1988 Bert Coules production of “Hound of the Baskervilles.” It’s available on the BBC’s website right now, and will be for the next 10 days. (That is, sometime around the end of November.)

(According to amindamazed​'s Elementary Timeline, the story that Alistair told to Joan took place in 1985 or 1986. But allowing for Elementary’s usual sloppiness with dates, I’m half-inclined to believe that Elementary intended this story to be a direct nod to Roger Rees’ own go at Sherlock Holmes.)

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A small sample of the play I went to on Tuesday - surprise, surprise, a Hound of the Baskervilles spoof! Only three actors in the whole shebang: Holmes, Watson and Sir Henry Baskerville, with the rest of the parts divided up between them. It was a bit odd seeing a tall Watson playing opposite a much shorter Holmes, but I’m guessing that was intended as part of the humour.

The staging was simple but effective, the permanent moor set being behind the curtain/proscenium arch, and Baker Street / Baskerville Hall depicted by cunning lighting and two different fireplaces. I was greatly impressed by the Holmes actor, having the lion’s share of the minor roles, including Stapleton, ‘Miss’ Cecille Stapleton (why’d they change her name?), the butler and his wife, which meant he had to do a lot of very quick costume changes. This was especially impressive when it came to the beginning of the second act, when the actors discovered to their annoyance that some audience member had been tweeting rude comments about Sir Henry’s acting slowing the whole performance down. Thus the decision was made to recap the first act… in fast forward!

My favourite bit, though, was in the portrait gallery. They’d been breaking the fourth wall all the way through the performance – as you’d expect in a comedy! – although they did do very well at keeping straight faces for most of it. However, when Holmes and Watson were examining the Baskerville portraits, with the Sir Henry actor portraying each one with a single picture frame and different expressions, at one point he was trying so hard not to laugh, that the picture frame was literally shaking! Holmes promptly ad libbed, dead pan: ‘We seem to be having a small earthquake.’ Watson promptly responded: ‘Yes, but perhaps we’d better get back to the script, if you can remember where we are.’

My only complaint was over the Hound itself. They kept it the original big, scary dog as in the original tale, using mime and SFX – but I wanted to see the little corgi-type lap dog they had on the posters!

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I dreamed I was watching an alternate version of Granada HOUN where Sir Henry (played by Richard E. Grant) was the real villain, and used the mystery of the Hound and Sir Charles’ death to lure Watson and eventually Holmes to Baskerville Hall to capture them for some reason.  Watson looked absolutely miserable (thinking he failed Holmes) and Holmes looked shocked and deadly pale (cursing himself for not seeing through Sir Henry’s charade and thinking he failed Watson).

Evil Sir Henry then chained them up outside in his backyard in the pouring rain.  I woke up feeling very worried that they would catch pneumonia.

For some reason I have the “you are a conductor of light” line stuck in my head from HOUN. I know in BBC Sherlock, a similar line was uttered so I decided to look at a side-by-side comparison (for no reason other than I’m trying to distract myself from how hungry I am. Someone pls make me supper).

BBC: “You’ve never been the most luminous of people, but as a conductor of light, you are unbeatable. Some people who aren’t geniuses have the most amazing ability to stimulate it in others.”

ACD: “Really, Watson, you excel yourself,” said Holmes, pushing back his chair and lighting a cigarette. “I am bound to say that in all the accounts which you have been so good as to give of my own small achievements you have habitually underrated your own abilities. It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it. I confess, my dear fellow, that I am very much in your debt.”

One thing that really strikes me is how different the tone is. In canon, Holmes speaks with clear affection for Watson when he tells him how vital he is. He subtly chastises him for underrating his own intellect, but nevertheless continues on to outright say “It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light”. BBC Sherlock still has an edge of… rudeness. As if, even with how much he likes John, he can’t bring himself to offer him any solid, irrefutable compliments. (Even in a speech he’s giving in apology!). Sherlock still bluntly proclaims, “you have never been the most luminous of people”. While Canon Holmes says Watson MAY not possess the same genius as Holmes, himself, BBC Sherlock flat out says John DOESN’T.

I know Watson doesn’t come close to Holmes’ observational skills, but still. Something I thought was interesting.

…I’m gonna go roll around in my Holmes/Watson feels now.