Sherlock Holmes Vs Dracula Review

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Andrew East continues his journey through the audio adventures of Sherlock Holmes.


This latest addition to my journey through some of the Sherlock Holmes audio adaptations is a bit of an oddity. Neither a BBC Radio Clive Merrison production, nor a Nicholas Briggs-fronted Big Finish release, this appears in my marathon purely because it happened to be broadcast on Radio 4 Extra a while ago. I mean, who can resist a story entitled Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula?!

It features John Moffatt as Holmes and Timothy West as Watson and does exactly what it says on the tin. In fact, it’s so simply just the title that very little actually happens in the story and the required climax never really happens because Bram Stoker had already written it…

Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula unashamedly takes Holmes and Watson and inserts them into a few of the events seen in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It even has the front to suggest that Stoker knew of Holmes and Watson’s involvement in the supernatural goings on of Dracula coming to England but was dissuaded to include them in his story at the behest of Van Helsing!

The beginning of the story is very similar to that of The Tangled Skein (which is unsurprising as they are both based around events in Stoker’s novel). Most obviously is the woman on Hampstead Heath preying on young children. However, where The Tangled Skein went for action (Holmes actually encountering the woman) Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula prefers a lot of talk and a lot of filling in events that have happened off screen. That’s not to say there is no action, there is an exciting confrontation aboard a boat in the latter third of the story, but it is certainly not in proportion to some rather lengthy dialogue scenes which rather had my mind wandering.

The plot diverges from The Tangled Skein though as that previous audio was more interested in tying in various plot strands from The Hound of the Baskervilles, such as the girl’s school and Stapleton’s fate at the end. Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula basically sees Holmes and Watson chasing Dracula off the shores of England so he can meet Van Helsing in the latter parts of Bram Stoker’s novel.

Rather than being grounded in historical detail, this story is placed directly into the continuity of Stoker’s novel. The discovery of the Demeter and the captain’s log detailing the gradual disappearance of the crew is verbatim from the novel. A large dog is, indeed, seen leaping ashore from the ship. The ‘bloofer’ lady stalks Hampstead Heath in both the novel and this audio. At this stage in the novel, the characters Jonathan and Mina Harker arrive and they are completely absent from the audio. It is at this point that the events of the audio diverge from the novel (with the climax on the boat) and eventually tail off as Dracula returns to Europe with Van Helsing on his tail.

The most surprising element of this audio, though, was some unexpected Doctor Who links. First off, Aubrey Richards plays Van Helsing. He is, of course, most famous to Doctor Who fans as the Controller in Day of the Daleks. Even with a distinctly unplaceable ‘European’ accent as Van Helsing, Richards’ delivery is so similar to his performance as the Controller is was actually a little freaky. Also, we have Timothy West as Watson. Although not having appeared on TV, West has frequented Big Finish on a number of occasions, as has his son (and confessed Doctor Who fan), Samuel West. This was not too surprising, but when the incidental music from The Web of Fear started playing in a scene, I almost stopped in my tracks (I tend to listen to audios whilst walking to and from work). It was unmistakably the music from the scene where Julius Silverstein is stalked and killed by a Yeti. It’s actually a piece of stock music called ‘Space Time Music (Part 2)’ by a musician called Wilfred Joseph. But then, even this was surpassed by the delicious tones of one Nicholas Courtney coming through my headphones! Unmentioned in the opening credits (which only detailed the actors playing Holmes, Watson, Dracula and Van Helsing) it was a huge surprise to have him come into the play, albeit briefly, as the iconic Inspector Lestrade. It is only a brief scene, and he suffers at the sharp end of Holmes’ tongue, but it brought a lovely extra element to my inclusion of this obscure audio in my marathon.

As a story, this is a little disappointing as it just kind of tails off when the ‘English’ part of the original Dracula ends, leaving Holmes and Watson little else to do. The way Dracula was tied into The Hound of the Baskervilles in The Tangled Skein was far more satisfying as this seems merely an exercise in inserting Holmes and Watson into the early parts of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It would be interesting to see how the original novel of this is structured as, if it is like this audio adaptation, it is probably a little bit dull. But the Doctor Who surprises and links made this a worthwhile little diversion.

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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