Almost from his very beginning, Sherlock Holmes has been as much at home in drama as on the printed page. And one of the landmark achievements in that long history of Holmes being brought to life was the first dramatization of the entire Canon.
With Clive Merrison as Holmes, Michael Williams as Dr. Watson, and Bert Coules as head writer, BBC radio completed the task in eight years, seven months, and seventeen days, and just under nine hours, starting Oct. 9, 1989 and ending on May 26, 1998. So Coules reports in his excellent 221 BBC, part of the Musgrave Monograph series from the Northern Musgraves Sherlock Holmes Society.
The 1998 monograph, later expanded into a book available from Wessex Press, is fascinating to me as an author. Coules writes in it about the challenges and decisions involved in adapting specific episodes. For example, he added a touching scene at the end of the “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” in which Watson invites himself to Baker Street for a late Christmas Eve meal so that famously unemotional Holmes won’t have to say the words.
The series has long been regarded as a high-water mark in Sherlockian drama, not only because of its ground-breaking nature but also because of the high quality of the scripts and the acting. So I’m pleased to say I recently inherited from the late R. Joel Senter, Sr. (via his wife Carolyn) the entire series on cassette tape, as well as a copy of the monograph.
But who has a cassette player anymore? Well, the Senters covered that, too. Long ago they gave me this art deco radio that also plays cassettes.
Fortunately, that’s not the only way to enjoy this BBC Sherlock. The shows are available from Amazon and Audible. Click here for a link to Bert Coules website, where you can learn much more about the historic series and order the episodes as well as 221 BBC.