The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes
Volume Three

Starring: Clive Merrison and Michael Williams
BBC Audio
RRP: 17.99
ISBN 0 563 51077 3
Available 18 July 2005

Holmes has retired to the Sussex countryside to keep bees. But old habits linger, especially when there is a mysterious death to be solved...

In my review of His Last Bow - Volume Two, I referred to the connection between Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who. In fact, there's also some crossover appeal for fans of Star Trek.

Most famously, Data took on Sherlockian characteristics in the Next Generation episodes Lonely Among Us and Elementary, Dear Data. In addition, Spock has quoted Holmes on at least two occasions, in the comic-strip story The Enterprise Murder Case (issue #6 of the Marvel series) and the movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, in which the Vulcan suggests that Holmes (or perhaps Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) was an ancestor of his. Leonard Nimoy himself played the great detective in a touring production of the Sherlock Holmes stage play.

Perhaps as payback for this, writer Bert Coules adds some cheeky Trek elements to his dramatisation of The Lion's Mane. Holmes (Clive Merrison) uses Spock's famous catchphrase: "Fascinating", and - more remarkably - the term: "Infinite diversity in infinite combinations", a philosophy embraced by Vulcan society.

Coules also sneaks in the "Open channel D" catchphrase from The Man From U.N.C.L.E., as well as making some post-modern references to William Gillette's performance in the original Sherlock Holmes stage play and a typo in the short story The Empty House.

All of this takes place during newly written scenes featuring Dr Watson (Michael Williams) as he visits the retired Holmes. Dedicated Sherlockians will know that Watson did not appear in Conan Doyle's original version of the story, which was supposedly written by the detective himself. It always seemed out of character for Holmes to glorify his account in the same way that he always criticised Watson for doing. It is therefore commendable that Coules instead chooses to have Holmes recount the events of the case to Watson, challenging the good doctor to solve it, as a treat for his old friend.

The Lion's Mane is an extremely inventive and enjoyable adaptation.

Mrs Merrilow has the perfect lodger: a gentle woman who keeps to herself and pays her rent regularly. But why won't she show her face...?

We step back in time for the next three stories, back to the days when Holmes was still in residence at 221b Baker Street.

The Veiled Lodger concerns another lion, a real one this time, as used in a circus act. Combining such weird and wonderful elements as the circus and the hideously scarred woman of the title, this is an enjoyable tale.

However, once again Holmes decides to operate above the law by allowing a criminal to escape conventional justice. This is a plot device that had already been overused by this stage in the Conan Doyle canon, and would be used again in the next story, Shoscombe Old Place...

The connection between a dog and a bone has never been more important than in this case, which leads Holmes and Watson to a creepy old crypt...

In addition to Doctor Who and Star Trek, there's also a degree of crossover appeal between the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and those of James Bond. Both are investigators, though Bond's methods differ greatly from Holmes' and, unlike Holmes, he does not ordinarily operate on a freelance basis. Both have "issues" with women, though their sexual proclivities could scarcely be more different: whereas Holmes distrusts women and has little or no sexual interest in them, Bond is a womaniser who finds it impossible to hold down a lasting relationship.

Like Holmes, Bond became a British literary institution. Like Conan Doyle before him, Ian Fleming attempted - unsuccessfully - to kill off his creation, at the end of From Russia, With Love. Bond later met his apparent death at the hands of this own Moriarty, Blofeld, in You Only Live Twice, only to return from the dead, like Holmes, in The Man with the Golden Gun.

There has also been a certain physical similarity between the actors who have played the two characters over the years. Jeremy Brett was considered for the role of Bond prior to the casting of Roger Moore, who himself went on to play both characters. Timothy Dalton was set to star in a 1993 movie entitled Sherlock Holmes Vs Dracula, but the film never went into production.

There's a further Bond connection in Shoscombe Old Place, which features Desmond "Q" Llewelyn in a small role as the boozy verger, Palfreyman. (Presumably he's usually on the verger intoxication - geddit? Oh, please yourselves!)

Once again, the apparent villain (Donald Pickering) turns out to be not such a bad sort after all, but that aside this is an entertaining mystery.

Holmes and Watson investigate a theft for a retired art-supplies dealer, but Holmes has cause to wonder whether his own working life is almost at an end...

The Retired Colourman guest-stars George Cole as Josiah Amberley, the miserly art-supplies dealer of the title. This is a lively and witty adventure, with much fun being made of Amberley's penny-pinching ways. Watson has cause to become amusingly exasperated at both Amberley and Holmes.

The theme of retirement extends beyond the colourman. During the course of this story, Inspector Lestrade (Stephen Thorne) announces that he is going to hang up his handcuffs, while Holmes himself considers whether it is also time for him to bow out. Younger detectives have learnt from his methods and are ready to succeed him. The tale concludes with Holmes heading off for his beekeeping retirement, thus making for a poignant and entirely fitting conclusion to the last in the series of 18 volumes of CDs.

The final disc also contains a brief interview with Adrian Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur's son and literary successor, recorded in 1945.

Richard McGinlay

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