Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sherlock Holmes on BBC Radio

Michael Williams (left) and Clive Merrison (right)
as Holmes and Watson on BBC 4's Sherlock Holmes Series
Sherlock Holmes has always been tailored for radio. Since the days that Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce starred on screens as the detective duo, they also lent their voices to the roles on radio. Since then there have been countless radio broadcasts featuring the world's greatest detective. Perhaps some of the best emerged from BBC 4's series which emerged during the late 1980's, and holds the distinction of adapting every single one of Doyle's stories and novels.

While perhaps lacking the same atmosphere of the Big Finish audio dramas which followed some twenty years later, the BBC adaptations have a more authentic Doylean feeling. Adapter, Bert Coules transferred a great deal of Doyle's original dialogue into the audio adaptations.

Perhaps the BBC series' greatest assist is the performances provided by Clive Merrison and Michael Williams. Merrison is one of the greatest actors ever to take on the role of the detective. Merrison may be a bit cold in his performance, causing his overall performance to come across as rather prickly, but for the most part he delivers a very solid performance. The same applies for Michael Williams, the late husband of actress Judi Dench. Williams' performance is a perfect balance of intelligence and humaneness which really comes across as the perfect portrait of Doyle's original character. In addition to the two recurring cast members, a number of guest stars turn in wonderful performances. Judi Dench appeared as Mrs. Hudson during the dramatization of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and Desmond Llewellyn (famed for playing Q in the James Bond films) turns up in "The Adventure of the Three Students."

Following the brilliant run, the BBC returned with another series. Following the tragic passing of Michael Williams, Andrew Sachs (best known for his role on "Fawlty Towers") took over the role of Watson opposite Clive Merrison. In "The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," Bert Coules adapted a number of the stories that Doyle eluded to during the short stories (i.e. "Colonel Warburton's Madness which acts as the series' first installment). Again, a number of wonderful guest stars shared the mic with Merrison and Sachs including "Doctor Who"'s, Tom Baker.

All in all, BBC 4's Sherlock Holmes adaptations are some of the very best offerings out there. These underrated adaptations and pastiches really deserve a wider audience and should be widely appreciated. The entire Arthur Conan Doyle canon has been transferred onto CD for posterity.

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