As Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss continue to state their love for Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories in the modern update of the famous Baker Street sleuth, I decided to get myself in the mood by watching the old Granada series. I remember watching it when it was first on in the 1980s and 90s. My youth almost behind me, I caught up again with the Jeremy Brett version, wondering aloud if it had dated. I needn’t have worried they were excellent.
Granada’s production ran for almost 10 years and was only cut short by Brett’s death at 61. Outside of several feature length episodes, such as the ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ and ‘The Sign of Four’, most of the episodes were grouped together under Conan Doyle’s short story collection. First of all there were ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ (1984-85), then ‘The Return of Sherlock Holmes’ (1986-88), ‘The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes’ (1991-93) and finally The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes’ (1994). Unlike the BBC’s production, Granada made sure to set the episodes during the time Conan Doyle wrote them, when Queen Victoria was still on the throne.
Just by watching the programmes you can tell that this was a high quality production. The actors they cast, the detailed period costumes, plus the location filming, all these show that money was spent to get as close to realising the Holmes stories as humanly possible. So far I’ve mentioned only Brett but it would be mistake to think it was a one man show, two actors played Dr John Watson during the 10 years the series ran. David Burke played Holmes in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, before leaving to spend more time with his family. He was replaced by Edward Hardwicke who played the role until the series ended. Both were equally great, with Burke somewhat more humorous and Hardwicke gruffer.
The bulk of the series was shot in Manchester, and if you’re familiar with the city it’s possible to identify certain areas that feature in the background. For instance near the beginning of the Final Problem, Holmes is in Paris and heads towards the entrance of the Louvre. To my eyes it more resembled the inner courtyard of The University of Manchester. One of the most featured highlights of the series was the Baker Street backlot set that was built by Granada and was part of a studios tour until 1999.
If you haven’t already seen them then see if you can track down the series on the internet. They’re well worth your time.