A special offer allowed me to fill in the gap in my Big Finish Sherlock Holmes collection. Back in their second season they brought us an adaption of the story which apparently killed off Holmes, and the story in which Conan Doyle relented and brought him back. The Final Problem and The Empty House were adapted by Nicholas Briggs and directed by Briggs and Ken Bentley.
Let me get the basics out of the way quickly. This is another splendid production with Briggs and Earl hitting the right notes as Holmes and Watson. Alan Cox who actually played Watson in the Young Sherlock Holmes movie makes a suitably evil Professor Moriarty. And the sound design and music are up to Big Finish's usual high standards.
The problem with the Final Problem is the story itself. Conan Doyle was fed up with writing Holmes stories at this point and determined to kill off his character. And he doesn't hang about with it. It takes no time at all for Holmes to fill Watson in on the details of the evil of Moriarty and then they are off to Switzerland for the final showdown above the Reichenbach falls. There is no detection at all, none of Holmes' usual deductions, and no evidence presented to support his assertion that Moriarty is the most dangerous man in London. It lacks any of the usual features of a detective mystery and is just presented as a series of events leading to the terrible fall.
The Empty House fares no better. Once Holmes has explained his escape and return to Watson he wastes no time in identifying the "second most dangerous man in London", and no sooner done so than he is apprehended. The locked room mystery that is presented at the start of the story is solved by the revelation that there was an open window all along. A fact that rather cheats with the locked room concept and provides a solution that would have been obvious if we had been given all the facts to begin with.
These two stories which mark the brief absence of Holmes from his fictional Victorian world are rather dull as examples of detective fiction. They don't represent Conan Doyle at the height of his powers, and no matter what Big Finish do they can't make them any more interesting. 3 out of 5 stout walking stocks, and those 3 marks are just for the production team.