A few Spoilers - DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN EPISODE
It pains me as I write this to think that we are over half way through Sherlock series two already, the anticipation and the long hiatus between the first series was agonising, but so far we have been rewarded with a cracking opening episode and now another equally gripping story. The Hounds of Baskerville, written by Mark Gatiss is an obvious adaptation of Conan Doyle’s most popular Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, which tells the story of the diabolical hound stalking a family on the tors of Dartmoor. Mark Gatiss’ take on the story is incredibly twenty-first century, and with hundreds of previous adaptations staring numerous actors as Sherlock Holmes, it needed to separate itself from what has gone before whilst remaining true to the original source material. In this version of the classic tale, Holmes is experience a period of stagnant torment and is struggling to find a case, however it is not long before Henry Knight (Russell Tovey) stumbles into 221B Baker Street seeking his assistance regarding his father’s death twenty years ago and appearance of the footprints of a gigantic hound. Upon journeying to Dartmoor Sherlock and John are confronted with a community gripped by the mystery concerning a legendary and monstrous hound, as well as encountering hidden terrors at the military base know as Baskerville, including animal experimentation and scientific trickery.
The episode is unlike any of the other Sherlock episodes that we have seen before, and sits in the series very much like the original story rests in the Sherlock Holmes canon, being both unique and memorable. The concealing of the hound until the very end, like the novel, added dramatic tension to the scenes that built and built until the finale, and when the beast arrived all our anticipation paid off. The visual of Dartmoor and the Gothic vibe that the episode evoked was mesmerising, and for the first time watching Sherlock, I was a tad nervous and filled with suspense. In moving away from the familiar settings of London, all our characters emotions are pushed to the limit, including even the rational minded Sherlock, who we see act in a manner that we have never experienced before, with fear. All these features made the episode a refreshing change from the conventions of the show, establishing that the series has the ability to expand beyond what we have seen before.
For me the importance of this episode was enabling the story to relate to the fears and doubts of a contemporary audience. The inclusion of contemporary ideologies regarding conspiracy theories is a prominent feature of this episode, enabling ‘the legend of the Hound’, as it was presented in the original story, to be depicted in a potentially realistic manner that is suited to a twenty-first century audience. The idea of the unknown, and having the truth withheld from us is a frightening prospect, and Gatiss presents this beautifully in this episode, playing with our minds and tormenting us with the mysterious and the unfamiliar. Despite the update, the fans of the original will find this episode awash with references to the original, including characters references and names, and even a few red herrings that will mislead most Sherlockians and Holmes enthusiasts. These differences are the most brilliant parts of the episode, as the story needed to be reinvented to a standard that did not tarnish the original but retold in a unique and energetic manner that would satisfy those unaware of Conan Doyle’s original novel.
Considering when I heard the plot I had my doubts, overall I though the episode was brilliant. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are still sensational as Holmes and Watson. The humour between the two is as excellent as ever and this episode highlights the fact that they are, as always, the best of friends regardless of their quarrels and their differences. For me I cannot say it was better than the previous episode as it was entirely different; however it is indisputable that this is by far the most memorable and intriguing episode to date, and Mark Gatiss has created a truly memorable piece of television writing. The only disappointment with the episode is the knowledge that we are over half way and coming to the climatic conclusion in The Reichenbach Fall, where we will see Moriarty returning to face Sherlock in the final showdown. Will they survive? Who will suffer most? I think that those who know the story know the truth about what happens, but this is a new interpretation of the story, and next week we could well be watching the last appearance of Sherlock Holmes. Who knows?