You might have heard — Granada Television is about to revive Sherlock Holmes for British television, rolling the clock back and looking at Holmes and Watson in the early years of their partnership. A Holmes mailing list I subscribe to has been filled with messages the past few days bemoaning this, saying on one hand that it’s a disgrace to Jeremy Brett’s memory, saying on the other that Holmes was never young. While I can understand all too well both impulses, I think that adhering to them too slavishly does a disservice to both Holmes as a character and to Brett as a person.
There’s a line in a recent Doctor Who novel (Father Time, it was) where one of the characters looks at the Doctor and realizes that she can’t picture him as a child or being young, that the Doctor was always an adult. In a sense, that’s how it is with Holmes, too, since when we meet Holmes for the first time he’s already been in practice as a consulting detective for a few years, and matters progress from there. But Holmes must have come from somewhere, things must have happened to make Holmes the person that he is. Which is some of what Young Sherlock Holmes gave us.
Starting with the beginning of the Holmes/Watson partnership isn’t a bad idea. Hell, Doyle did that himself. And consider, Holmes himself was less than thirty when he met Watson. Brett might well be Holmes in his prime and his later years, but there’s the whole beginning part of the partnership that can be used and exploited.
And Brett was a great Holmes. That doesn’t mean that others shouldn’t attempt the role. Okay, maybe not Matt Frewer (though I admit, I haven’t seen either of his films, so I shouldn’t really complain about them).
Of course, I think I might have come up with a great choice for a retired Holmes. Hell, he almost looks the part now. Think Peter Davison as a retired Holmes.