AUDIO DRAMA
Sherlock Holmes
His Last Bow
Volume Two

Starring: Clive Merrison and Michael Williams
BBC Audio
RRP: 17.99
ISBN 0 563 51013 7
Available 18 July 2005


Holmes is struck down by a rare tropical disease, and death seems imminent. His only hope lies in a planter from Sumatra, whose expert knowledge comes at a price...

Previously released on audiocassette, and now available on CD for the first time, this volume collects the Radio 4 dramatisations of The Dying Detective, The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax, The Devil's Foot and His Last Bow. Each of the four discs within the pack contains a single 45-minute episode - so perhaps it would have been more user-friendly to label the discs with the titles, rather than CD 1, CD 2, etc.

However you label it, The Dying Detective is a most unusual case. Holmes (Clive Merrison) never leaves his study during the course of the story, since he is laid up with the symptoms of a tropical illness. Yet he still succeeds in capturing a murderer. Merrison's performance as the ailing detective makes a stark contrast to his usual assuredness.

This is a memorable and riveting episode, even though the concluding twist is a little predictable.


At Holmes' request, Watson travels to Switzerland in search of a missing aristocrat, but the trail leads back to a funeral parlour in London...

You may wonder why Sherlock Holmes is getting coverage on a science-fiction website. Well, apart from the fact that we review a lot of things that aren't strictly sci-fi (generally because we like them!), there is enormous sci-fi crossover appeal in the character, particularly for fans of Doctor Who.

The good Doctor, an eccentric, super-intelligent, anti-establishment figure, usually accompanied by a more down-to-earth companion, owes a great deal to Holmes. The detective's adventures were pastiched in the Tom Baker story The Talons of Weng-Chiang and the Seventh Doctor actually met him in the novel All-Consuming Fire.

One-time Who writer Peter Ling dramatises The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax, in which - as in The Hound of the Baskervilles - Holmes dispatches Watson (Michael Williams) to investigate the case in this stead.

In both this and the next story, The Devil's Foot, an outwardly scary and seemingly evil man proves to be not so bad after all. Such repetition might indicate that Conan Doyle was running out of ideas by this point.


Watson enforces a relaxing holiday on Holmes to cure his exhaustion. But the eerie Cornish coast provides the opposite effect when death strikes a local family...

The Devil's Foot is also repetitive in its use of an ailing Holmes, so soon after The Dying Detective.

However, there's more crossover appeal here for Doctor Who fans, who can relish the presence of Geoffrey Beevers as Roundhay. He played the emaciated Master on TV in The Keeper of Traken and on audio in Dust Breeding and Master. Clive Merrison himself is, of course, no stranger to Who fans, having appeared in The Tomb of the Cybermen and Paradise Towers (it's not very often that those two stories are mentioned in the same breath!).

The casting of Patrick Allen, well known for his stern vocal roles in the comedy series The Black Adder and The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer, as Sterndale provides some unintentional humour. As do Holmes and Watson's almost pornographic gasps of exertion as they hike along the Cornish coast. This after Holmes' unforgettably gay line in The Dying Detective: "Quick, man, if you love me!"


Holmes is lured out of retirement to help his country on the eve of World War I...

His Last Bow is, like The Dying Detective, a refreshing change from the norm. Not much actual detection takes place, but instead we are presented with an intriguingly non-linear narrative that flashes back and forth around the events surrounding Holmes' recruitment by the British government.

This, of course, is not actually Holmes' last bow, any more than The Final Problem was his final problem. The famous consulting detective - and the ever-reliable Merrison - would return in The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes.

Richard McGinlay

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