BBC Radio: The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes - A Scandal In Bohemia Review

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Andrew East reviews the BBC Radio adaptation of A Scandal In Bohemia.

A Scandal in Bohemia is the first short story that was published in The Strand magazine (and collected together as one of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) and, as such, holds a unique position. It is also apparently Conan Doyle’s fifth favourite story. As Holmesian stories go, though, it is something of an oddity. The whole caper revolves around a King seeking Holmes’ help in retrieving a compromising photograph of him with Irene Adler, a rather scandalous woman who has enviegled herself into high society. This in itself is a relatively unique situation, but coupled with the fact that Holmes, ostensibly, fails to solve the case in the way he intended and is outwitted by Adler, it seems an odd choice of an opening story. It would be like RTD launching the new series of Doctor Who with Love & Monsters.

This BBC Radio adaptation is very good. Clive Merrison and Michael Williams are great as Holmes and Watson. Sarah Badel plays Irene Adler with a rather odd accent. In early scenes I took it to be Irish, and then it seemed more American, before finally ending up as something sort of European. It was a bit distracting to be honest, but her performance was good. Andrew Sachs was almost unrecognisable as the King of Bohemia, but gave a good performance.

For all this story’s uniqueness, there are some classic Holmesian tropes. Holmes dresses down as a working class labourer to infiltrate Adler’s household. His ruse to make Adler reveal where she has hidden the photograph was classic Holmes and a rather exciting sequence.

Historically, we are presented with the King of Bohemia. The Kingdom of Bohemia was a real place. Sited in Central Europe it was sometimes known as the Czech Kingdom and is, in modern times, part of the Czech Republic. At the time A Scandal in Bohemia is set, the area was actually part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. However, Conan Doyle, whilst choosing to base his kingdom in a real place, diverted from real history in the fact that, as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bohemia itself had no monarchy, so the King who enlists Holmes’ services is an entirely fictitious creation.

A pleasant story, although one which isn’t a favourite of mine in the Holmes canon (that I’ve read/heard/seen) simply due to what I see as a relatively inconsequential mystery. The significance of ‘the Woman’ is of course important to the Holmes canon, although I didn’t get a real feel of Adler being Holmes’ equal. I’m also not entirely convinced by the implication that Holmes had feelings for her, due to her ability to outwit him, but maybe that is more to do with the script and performances of the audio adaptation rather than the original intention of Doyle in the short story.

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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