It may be unfair of me to review Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking. Not only did I fall under the spell of Mr. Jeremy Brett in PBS’s previous Holmesian offerings, but I’ve actually read the stories they’re based on.
I’m going to anyway.
You see, the fact that my having read some Sherlock Holmes makes my review biased is a disturbing one. This Holmes, ostensibly set in 1902 Edwardian England, is actually shot forward into modern America. Specifically, Silence of the Lambs-era. In a bid to spark viewer interest in what they must consider a dying property (despite having bothered to do it at all), the production has assumed a PBS viewership made up of paperback-literate couch potatoes who think they’re sophisticated. At least, that’s the explanation I’ve come up with.
Rupert Everett is this outing’s Holmes, whom we first encounter in an opium den. “Oh,” I thought. “They’re ripping off ‘The Man With the Twisted Lip,’” which is one of my favorites and involves Holmes going undercover in an opium den and Watson getting all pissy about it. But no! Holmes is actually an effete, dissolute vampire, subsisting on drugs and coffee and given Everett’s rather pouty reception of the soon-to-be-wed Watson, perhaps missing some other essential protein to his diet he hasn’t gotten daily dose of since Dr. W moved out of Baker Street.
Everett’s not bad. I’m not suffering from Brett withdrawal—he’s dead, and if there’s to be a new Holmes it obviously won’t be him, and I’m not exclusive in my Holmes watching. But he’s a bit too much Rupert, and the plot of this scurvy little tale doesn’t help any. It’s a case of sexual dysfunction, of fetishistic murders of delicate pre-Raphaelite debutantes, of that new “science” called psychology. The solution of this case seems based mostly upon the dubious information Holmes gleans from an abnormal psych textbook Watson’s fiancé, a completely un-Canonical American psychoanalyst with the inexplicable prefix of Mrs.. Holmes, were he to see this, would be appalled on nearly every count.
These touches of the modern third-rate sexual thriller are somewhat understandable, if not excusable. It does beg the question, however, of why making this a Holmes case at all? Is name recognition enough? Because this script was not written for the Holmes fan, or even dabbler. It is so full of copped dialogue from actual stories (or clichéd misquotes) that anyone with a passing familiarity with them would be mightily confused as to why Holmes is suddenly quoting this or that tale, completely out of context. One would expect that these touches of Doyle would be nods to the readers, but if that was the case, why adulterate the source so violently? The whole thing closes with Holmes finding common ground with the obsessed murderer, on the grounds that “it’s an addiction.” Bravo, Holmes, finding your enlightened stoner side so easily. He probably had to in order to avoid dying of boredom, as there certainly isn’t anything here worthy of Holmes’ abilities. Which, come to think of it, we must rely on prior knowledge of the character to accept. Watson fares rather better in the investigative vein here, which was nice to see despite Ian Hart’s suspicious moustache.
I’m not a purist. I accept—nay, encourage—intelligent wranglings of canon. I write fanfic, after all. But to squander an intriguing character on such material is a waste and an insult. Not only to Holmes or Doyle or whoever, but to me, the viewer. As Holmes would say, this is all just “ineffable twaddle,” and he would be dismayed at having his named linked to it.