BBC Radio: The Memoirs Of Sherlock Holmes - The 'Gloria Scott' Review

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Andrew East begins a journey through the audio adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

I’ve always been fond of Sherlock Holmes. I watched the Jeremy Brett series avidly (and remember in particular the episodes, The Solitary Cyclist and The Dancing Men). I also remember as a child enjoying the Basil Rathbone films, particularly The Voice of Terror. I adore Moffat and Gatiss’s Sherlock. A very good friend of mine is a massive Holmes fan – its equal in his affections to Doctor Who – and so, through the years, I’ve absorbed enough knowledge about the Great Detective to feel I have a good grounding in this world.

My friend is a huge fan of the BBC Radio series starring Clive Merrison but I had never got around to listening to this series, or the Big Finish Sherlock Holmes releases featuring Nicholas Briggs. Until now. To make things a little different, I’ve tried to listen to the stories in chronological order from the point of view of Holmes rather than the order these have been produced in.

The Adventure of the Gloria Scott is, ironically, not particularly representative of what popular culture would expect from Sherlock Holmes. It is, chronologically, Holmes first case. It features as part of The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes collection and sees Holmes recounting to Watson the events surrounding an incident which he considers to be the first time he exercised his deductive skills (he’s obviously forgotten all about the Pyramid of Fear).

Holmes accompanies a university friend home and is present when his father is confronted with an acquaintance from the past. A tale then unfolds of criminals, mutiny on a prison ship and changed identity. To be honest it isn’t the most absorbing of Holmesian mysteries. This is possible because of the rather odd story-telling device. The whole story is one huge flashback. This, in itself, wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that, within this flashback there are other flashbacks and even flashbacks within those flashbacks! It isn’t confusing, but it isn’t particularly interesting. Holmes deductive skills are present and correct and, in a story which is the supposed first use of these, there are a couple of short set pieces where he uses them. I think the issue I have is that the mystery isn’t particularly exciting. There isn’t a murder or a theft. It’s about a past life coming back to haunt a man.

Based on this one story I feel that Clive Merrison portrayal of Holmes is good. Less condescending than Cumberbatch or Brett. A slightly more human take. Michael William’s Watson is harder to appreciate as he does very little. He seems the right side of bumbling (a mistake many a film Watson was cursed with) as he tries to solve Holmes’ mystery before he reveals what actually happened. His failed attempts are mildly amusing. The rest of the cast are serviceable but none are particularly outstanding, although the characters are not interesting enough to give rise to any special performances.

An interesting curio and I look forward to more from the canon but not the most exciting of mysteries.

A primary school teacher and father of two, Andrew finds respite in the worlds of Doctor Who, Disney and general geekiness. Unhealthily obsessed with Lance Parkin’s A History, his Doctor Who viewing marathon is slowly following Earth history from the Dawn of Time to the End of the World. He would live in a Disney theme park if given half the chance.

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