Jeremy Brett: The Return of Sherlock Holmes

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Following the successful first season of Sherlock Holmes mysteries starring Jeremy Brett, a second season was inevitable. After all, the Arthur Conan Doyle wrote over fifty short stories and four novels featuring his famous detective and the first season only scratched the surface. The first season ended with the infamous story of The Final Problem, in which Sherlock Holmes appeared to have died along with his nemesis Professor Moriarty. The Return of Sherlock Holmes opens with The Empty House, in which it is revealed that all is not as it seemed.

The primary difference in this season from the first, of course, is that Dr. Watson appears to have undergone an even more radical change than Sherlock. That is because David Burke was replaced by Edward Hardwicke. Burke apparently wished to spend more time with his family and work on the stage, but it was he who recommended Hardwicke to take his place. Edward Hardwicke’s Dr. Watson is a little jarring at first; he appears to be older than Burke and carries more gravitas. He isn’t quite as comical as Burke, though he does occasionally provide some light relief. It’s difficult to choose a preference because both men provide substantially different but equally enjoyable interpretations.

Jeremy Brett, however, picks up right where he left off. His Sherlock Holmes is a performance of titanic proportions. If William Daniels’ performance as Dr. Craig on St. Elsewhere was unquestionably the greatest acting on American television during the 1980’s, then Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes was his British counterpart. Both Holmes and Dr. Craig share a great deal. They are both the best at what they do, they are both arrogant and proud, and they neither have much capacity for putting up with the confederacy of dunces with whom they must contend.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes starts off with the story behind what really happened when Holmes appeared to go over the falls with Moriarty. Next up is The Abbey Grange in which Sherlock must investigate the story of a woman who tells a story of murder that doesn’t sound quite right. The ending of this episode is an excellent example of how Sherlock Holmes is not the cold, calculating machine he is usually portrayed as. Watch as Jeremy Brett plays with the suspect and revel in the gamut of emotions he goes through, from manipulative detective to proud psychological profiler to bewildered judge and jury.

Among the other highlights of The Return of Sherlock Holmes is The Six Napoleons. The opening of this episode is unusually action-packed and violent, but effectively lays the foundation for an unusual Holmes mystery that involves the Italian Mafia. This episode is also worthwhile as an incisive illustration of the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and police inspector Lestrade. Lestrade’s growing impatience with Holmes’ seemingly inexplicable fascination with the plaster busts so vital to the plot is worth a look alone.

One of the most famous Sherlock Holmes stories is Silver Blaze, about the disappearance of a racehorse. It is mostly renowned for Holmes’ observation about the dog. Watch it and you’ll see why it’s such an interesting observation. The Devil’s Foot features one of the oddest stories in the Holmes canon, and one of the most infamous sequences in the television series’ history. Holmes has a drug-induced hallucination and it is truly a surreal little scene.

There are eleven episodes included on The Return of Sherlock Holmes and each of them are worthwhile additions to your bingeing queue. Stream them and decide for yourself who you prefer as Dr. Watson. One thing is guaranteed, however. After watching Jeremy Brett perform his magic, you’ll never fully accept anyone else as Sherlock Holmes.