Sunday, April 14, 2013

Big Finish - Holmes and the Ripper

In 2010 Big Finish produced their own version of the stage play Holmes and the Ripper by Brian Clemens, directed by Nicholas Briggs.

From the Big Finish synopsis: Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson are drawn into one of the darkest plots ever to shake the foundations of England. There are freemasons, conspiracies and intrigues at the highest level of the establishment. But for Holmes, there is a uniquely personal element to this new and terrifying case.

Holmes and Watson up against the perpetrator of one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in criminal history? Sounds too good to miss doesn't it? Brian Clemens has had a long and illustrious career in television writing, probably best known for The Avengers. This is a stage play he wrote although I can't find out if or when it was originally produced. All the usual suspects from Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution are here: John Netley, Sir William Gull, Walter Sickert, the Freemasons and the British Royal family. Alan Moore covered much of the same ground in From Hell. Clemens adds a new character, a medium called Kate Mead who becomes something of a romantic interest for Holmes.

So there are lots of characters, lots of suspects and the creepy backdrop of those gruesome murders in the shadowy alleyways of Victorian London. But this didn't quite do it for me I'm afraid. The problem was that Holmes and Watson didn't sound right. There is nothing wrong with Briggs and Earl's typically excellent performances, but the writing didn't seem to get the characters the way that Conan Doyle originally wrote them, or how they have been portrayed in other Big Finish plays. Holmes does little of his usual intuitive deduction and seems to fall under the spell of Mrs Mead for too easily. Meanwhile Watson is written as much more bumbling and noisy than usual. He is less of the thoughtful and loyal retired soldier, and more like the Nigel Bruce version from the Basil Rathbone films which didn't work for me. The plot has to take some liberties with known facts. Obviously we can't have Holmes and Watson alter actual history so this results in some far fetched scenes where our detectives visit crime scenes and then leave them abruptly before the police arrive.

The cast are all fine and I enjoyed hearing India Fisher as Kate Mead. The direction and sound design are lovely with lots of atmospheric noises from those foggy London streets. I should also add that the theme music for these Sherlock Holmes stories is a lovely piece of music composed, I think, by Simon Slater and Jamie Robertson. I enjoyed it but the character problems kept jarring against me. So it gets another middling 3 out of 5 bloody knives. Series three of Sherlock Holmes is on the way so I may wait for that unless any of the second series stories tempt me first.

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