Big Finish: Sherlock Holmes - Holmes And The Ripper Review

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It’s Holmes, it’s the Ripper and it’s one of the early Big Finish Sherlock Holmes releases. Andrew East investigates...

I’ve really enjoyed Big Finish’s Sherlock Holmes releases but I have to say that Holmes and the Ripper is possibly my least favourite. There is something about it which didn’t quite feel Holmesian enough. Bearing in mind I’ve listened to Holmes facing off against Dracula – twice – it’s saying something that this story didn’t quite convince me as true Holmes territory.

There are two aspects which didn’t quite fit for me. The first was the links to the ‘lodge’ that Holmes belongs to. Holmes hobknobbing with the Prime Minister and other luminaries didn’t feel right to me. It seemed to contradict the solitary figure that Holmes is usually presented as. Someone who is respected by the establishment, but is an enigma; someone who doesn’t fit into the world of gentlemen’s clubs where secret deals are made and potential scandals hushed up. It is, to all intents and purposes, the Freemasons, and it just didn’t feel to me like something Holmes would be a part of.

The second aspect which sat uncomfortably with me was Holmes’ relationship with Kate Mead, a psychic who comes to him with information about the Ripper murders. He very quickly falls for her and, again, this didn’t feel like something Holmes would do. Subtle references are made to the last woman he fell in love with, Irene Adler, but even that wasn’t as overt as the romance is here. Kate is performed well by India Fisher, but when the two of them left at the end of the story for a romantic holiday together, I did feel the script had gone a little too far. I’m aware that Holmes is human and isn’t quite the parallel to the Doctor that people sometimes think he is, in terms of his asexuality, but the romantic aspect of this story felt too unlike Holmes for me.

Holmes and the Ripper began life as a stage play and I think those roots are betrayed somewhat by the script. There are some jumps between scenes which don’t flow as well as Big Finish’s audios usually do. It felt, as a story, to be disjointed. It was almost like being able to tell where the stage version would have paused between scenes, dimming the lights before the next. Characters seemed to jump from one place to another without the flow I am used to from other Big Finish audios. It’s been a while since I listened to the adapted Doctor Who stage plays and I wonder if this was something I noticed listened to them or not, but it certainly seems to be an issue with this adaptation.

The performances, though, are all good with Nicholas Briggs and Richard Earl, yet again, proving to be an excellent Holmes and Watson.

Historically, this ‘explanation’ for the Ripper murders takes the ‘Freemasons’ route linking it with the Royal family – but most of the conclusions reached in this drama (which tie in closely with those presented in the Michael Caine TV mini-series about Jack the Ripper and the Johnny Depp film, From Hell) are generally dismissed nowadays.

The Ripper’s ‘last’ victim, Mary Kelly, features as does Prince Albert Victor or ‘Eddy’ (a Ripper suspect); the Lord Salisbury, the Prime Minister; Sir Robert Anderson, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police; Sir William Gull, a doctor and prime Ripper suspect; and John Netley, a cab driver linked to the Ripper murders.

Whilst it seems an obvious thing to have Holmes investigate the Ripper murders, it isn’t a match which – in this particular instance – works for me.

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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