BBC One’s hit series Sherlock tread old ground yesterday as it aired a remake of Doyle’s most famous Holmes adventure, The Hound of the Baskervilles. A lot of expectation (and, in some cases, dread) preceded the episode, which has been re-dubbed The Hounds of Baskerville by its writer Mark Gatiss. The apprehension is understandable, since this particular story has been rehashed on the screen over twenty times to varying degrees of success (not to mention its print adaptions–like this comic with Mickey Mouse). But luckily for us Holmesians the worry was misplaced. Sherlock delivered an excellent rendition, which I will delve into shortly; but first…
Something terrible has happened to Henry Knight; Sherlock and John investigate the truth about the monstrous creature which apparently killed their client’s father. A hound from hell? What seems like fantasy in Baker Street is a very different prospect in the ultra-secret army base that looms over Dartmoor. (courtesy of BBC)
I would first like to point out that this episode has a much different feel to it than the previous one, A Scandal in Belgravia. Perhaps it is the difference in writers or the change from a London setting, but watching this episode I did not feel the same frenetic energy that the other possesses in such quantity. The pacing was slower, letting the mystery of the spectral hound build around conversations (of which the best parts were lifted straight from the Doyle canon) rather than copious amounts of action involving American gun-slinging CIA agents. Russell Tovey (of Being Human and Doctor Who fame) contributes a lot to the tone with his portrayal of the haunted Henry Knight; his rendition of the Baskerville tale sends shivers up the spine even with it being truncated and frequently interrupted. Even the originally uninterested Holmes is held in thrall as he utters some of the canon’s most iconic words: “Mr Holmes, they were the footsteps of a gigantic hound!”
The transformation of the Baskerville curse to a government conspiracy theory was also excellently done. A ghost story would have been much harder to accept as a plausible explanation than a genetically enhanced dog. I’ll admit I felt the littlest inkling of doubt about the same time as Mr Holmes, wondering if what Henry Knight’s claims were indeed a reality. I’ll also admit that I had not begun to guess at the real explanation behind Knight’s apparent hallucinations (except in vague, ill-defined ways), despite the fact that the culprit was pretty obvious, even with a cleverly done red-herring.
Once again I applaud Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman for their dynamic performances as Holmes and Watson. I was especially intrigued with Cumberbatch’s interpretation of what a mental breakdown would look like for the brilliant detective, which was both humorous, frightening, and pitiable. I can only imagine what he will come up with as he faces off against his nemesis Moriarty for (presumably) the last time in next week’s episode, The Reichenbach Fall.
Other things I enjoyed: what little I saw of DI Lestrade, Watson’s botched attempts at picking up women, and breaking into a top-secret government base with only a key card and a poker face.
For other opinions on the show, I highly recommend checking out the Baker Street Babes Podcast. You can also find out when Sherlock series 2 is airing in your country by consulting Sherlockology on tumblr.