Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Review - "The Adventure of the Perfidious Mariner"

The latest in Big Finish's series of Sherlock Holmes audio dramas does not disappoint. Despite some changes made to the set formula of their audio dramas, "The Adventure of the Perfidious Mariner" stands out as an enjoyable - though flawed Sherlockian audio recording.

1912 - Sherlock Holmes has retired to the Sussex Downs to carry out his life desire of keeping bees. His peace is disrupted by Dr. John Watson, who Holmes has not spoken with in some time. Watson is a broken man, his wife having perished during the fateful voyage of the RMS Titanic. Then almost by happenstance, H. Bruce Ismay, manager of the White Star fleet, the company who owned the Titanic. Ismay has come begging Holmes to help him. At first the detective is reluctant to sole another mystery but Ismay's problem is of great interest to the detective. Ever since the sinking of the Titanic, Ismay has been haunted by a ghost. Following two brutal murders, Ismay is at his wit's end and requests Holmes' help in bringing an end to the phantom.

Going into "The Adventure of the Perfidious Mariner," I did not know quite what to expect. I was aware that the story was to take place during Holmes' twilight years, so things would be very different than they were during Big Finish's other Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Nevertheless, author Jonathon Barnes has managed to craft a story which feels very authentic, and despite the different setting, the recording still felt like a Big Finish Sherlock Holmes drama. The same goes for the acting. Nicholas Briggs is still in top form as Holmes, though perhaps a bit more reserved and quiet than he was before. The same applies to Richard Earl's Watson. Earl is totally convincing as the distraught Watson, bereaved by the loss of his wife. In my opinion, this is Earl's best performance as the doctor.

What's more is that Jonathon Barnes was successful in adding to the Sherlockian mythos. Barnes has decided to show Holmes as questioning his own abilities following a mistake he made during a case. This insight into the mind of Holmes is a wonderful character study, while not humanizing him too greatly. He also cleverly weaves in other references to the canon which were quite nice. Overall, Barnes makes for a fine pastiche writer - although not a perfect one.

My biggest nitpick with the story is that it felt too rushed. "The Adventure of the Perfidious Mariner" is only about an hour in length, which is different from Big Finish's other Sherlockian turns. The first part of the drama is occupied by building up the background between the now estranged Holmes and Watson. As interesting as this was, it made the rest of the audio drama, which contained the mystery, feel far too rushed. "The Adventure of the Perfidious Mariner" could have probably benefited from a second part, allowing for more character development and more time to develop the mystery.

Overall though, "The Adventure of the Perfidious Mariner" was an enjoyable audio drama from Big Finish, but not as exciting as some of their others. The acting was spot on and the character development as fantastic. Overall, I would give this recording a 3.75 out of 5. With confirmation that Big Finish is preparing another Sherlock Holmes series, it seems as though the detective is in good hands.

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