In his foreword to Bantam's "Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories," Loren Estleman called the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson literature's warmest, most symbiotic and most timeless: rightfully so. Not surprisingly, film history is littered with adaptations of Conan Doyle's tales and Holmes pastiches (using the protagonists but otherwise independent storylines). Yet -- and with particular apologies to the fans of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce canon -- none of these prior incarnations can hold a candle to the ITV/Granada TV series produced between 1984 and 1994, starring Jeremy Brett as Holmes and first David Burke, then in near-seamless transition Edward Hardwicke as a refreshingly sturdy, pragmatic, unbumbling Dr. Watson.
Jeremy Brett was the only actor who ever managed to perfectly portray Holmes's imperiousness, bitingly ironic sense of humor and apparently indestructible self-control without at the same time neglecting his genuine friendship towards Dr. Watson and the weaknesses hidden below a surface dominated by his overarching intellectual powers. The series takes the titles of its four cycles of shorter episodes -- "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," "The Return of Sherlock Holmes," "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes" and "The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes" -- from four of the five short story collections featuring London's self-appointed only "consulting detective" (published 1892, 1905, 1894 and 1927, respectively). While not all episodes correspond exactly with the original story collections, and the series's premise - Holmes's and Watson's shared tenancy of rooms at 221B Baker Street - was no longer true even at the beginning of the "Adventures," particularly the first two cycles ("Adventures" and "Return") are must-haves for any mystery fan.
"A Scandal in Bohemia" ... or, Holmes and "The Woman," a/k/a Irene Adler. Can she be moved not to reveal her scandalous secret relationship with a European potentate?
"The Dancing Men" (actually from "Return"): Primitive stick figure drawings on sheets of paper pasted to the door of her new English home greatly worry a young, newly-wed American. Then a murder occurs, and she finds herself the chief suspect ...
"The Naval Treaty" (from "Memoirs"): Holmes comes to the aid of a distinguished civil servant in trouble over a vanished international treaty.
" The Solitary Cyclist" (from "Return"): On her way through a wood near her home, a young woman repeatedly finds herself pursued by a mysterious man riding a bycicle. Who is he, and what are his intentions?
"The Crooked Man" (from "Memoirs"): A classic "locked room" mystery, whose solution is linked to the secrets a crook-backed stranger knows about the victim's and his wife's past.
"The Speckled Band": Also a "locked room" mystery, in which Holmes is called to solve the murder of a young woman who inexplicably died the night before her wedding ... and save her now soon-to-be-married sister from a similar fate!
"The Blue Carbuncle": A gem with a darkly colorful history involving murder and blackmail goes missing, and Holmes and Watson find themselves pondering ethical and legal questions galore as they set out to hunt for the jewel in wintry London.
"The Copper Beeches": Holmes to the rescue of a young woman yet again - this time, helping her determine whether or not to accept a lucrative position as a governess that comes with a series of strange demands on the part of her prospective employer.
"The Greek Interpreter" (from "Memoirs"): The first one of the select number of cases where Holmes's investigation is initiated by his equally intelligent, mysterious brother Mycroft (Charles Gray), now in the British government's service in a position of his own creation. The brothers' challenge is to find an abducted young Greek who tried to communicate his distress to the interpreter secretly brought in to interrogate him.
"The Norwood Builder" (from "Return"): Attorney gets to draw up rich self-made-man's will, and inherits the lot when the client dies. Obvious whodunnit, right? Well, so, of course, thinks Scotland Yard's Inspector Lestrade (Colin Jeavons) - but Holmes disagrees.
"The Resident Patient" (from "Memoirs"): Another rich benefactor meets his untimely end, this time after having enabled a young doctor to establish his practice and live in his very own house. Again, Holmes rushes to the beleagured chief suspect's aid.
"The Red-Headed League": Speaking of leagues, this is a strange one indeed, consisting only of red-headed men. But what is their purpose - and why would they hire a man only to sit in their office and copy pages from a dictionary?
"The Final Problem" (from "Memoirs"): Holmes's seemingly deadly dive into Reichenbach Falls in what Conan Doyle originally conceived as his final clash with evil mastermind Professor Moriarty ... except that it wasn't so deadly after all!
Stories from "Adventures" used in other cycles:
"The Man With the Twisted Lip"
"The Boscombe Valley Mystery"
Adapted as a stand-alone movie-length feature entitled "The Eligible Bachelor":
"The Noble Bachelor."