40 Years Later, Jeremy Brett is Still the Best Sherlock Holmes

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2024/03/30/40-years-later-jeremy-brett-is-still-the-best-sherlock-holmes.html


He also played Doctor Watson on stage in 1980 in Los Angeles opposite Charlton “from my cold dead hands” Heston as Holmes.

The episodes from 1994 are a bit sad to watch, you can see Brett wasn’t at all well by then.
Still, the whole series is a gem that I revisit every now and then.

(I think Robert Stephens did a good job in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.)


I feel that Jeremy Brett is to Sherlock Holmes, what David Suchet is to Poirot. A couple of great actors, in love with their roles. Neither of them exactly looked like the classic idea of their characters, and yet they brought so much individuality and verisimilitude to their parts, that they are totally iconic.


My favourite as well. Brett was brave enough to capture that mix of obsession and self-centeredness that other actors avoid in order to make Holmes and themselves seem more likeable and relatable.


Came here to agree with the headline. I finally got around to reading the entire Doyle “Holmes” oeuvre a few years back, and boy … adapting some of them for the screen must have been a colossal challenge. What a great series – Brett was indeed the best.



Brett Holmes is Best Holmes.


Bet he was a great Gorey Dracula, too, also!

That’s some mighty fine cape work!

I loved that they always tried to reproduce Paget’s illustrations, too.


Cleaning day. I don’t know about you, but this seems like a perfectly legit way to go about it to me.


Jeremy Brett. Dorian Gray. I can’t even handle this.
Wow. I agree with that. Essential neurons have just opted out.


“Trying to be Sherlock Holmes is like trying to catch an arrow in mid-flight. I used to say that I would not cross the street to meet him. I now know that I only said that because of my fear of rejection. In the past, I have arranged to meet him at the Savoy for tea, but neither of us turned up. He always seems to be one field ahead of me, forever escaping with speed and grace my endeavours to meet him face to face.”

— Jeremy Brett, October 1993 (from the foreword to The Television Sherlock Holmes)

(So this is why I always end up feeling Holmes is more real, not less, whenever Brett talks about him.)




I have started re-watching these after reading all the Holmes stories again and they are so, so good. Part of what makes them so awesome is that they strip away all the decades of pop culture baggage that other Holmes adaptations carry – no more buffoonish elderly Dr. Watson, pipe-puffing, deerstalker-wearing Sherlock Holmes, etc – and get to the heart of the source material. Plus, the evocation of late-Victorian England in the shows is just spot on. It’s like time travel. I have to go watch one now.


I couldn’t agree more. Such an interesting interpretation of the character - the obsessive analysis, the moodiness, and an effeteness which I’ve never seen in another Holmes. Complex, nuanced, masterful.

And definitely someone who would be a total P.I.T.A. to have as a friend or associate.


For me it was Basil Rathbone. That’s what my dad had playing. I’m checking out season 1 of Jeremy Brett’s from the library at your suggestion, and hopefully I will draw my daughter away from the Cumberbatch years (that she has just discovered) as I fall asleep on the couch. I’ve always really enjoyed Elementary too.


Agree. But which of his two Watsons was the best?

The bad trip sequence in “The Devil’s Foot” is one of my strongest childhood TV memories:

But I think my favourite episode is “The Red-Headed League”, partly because of Richard Wilson and Tim McInnerny.


Some of them are just terrible!


I agree the Jeremy Brett was the absolute epitome of Holmesishness.

The anchor to the entire run, of course, is Jeremy Brett.

Yes, but the underpinning is Conan Doyle. Not mentioned here.

The Man with the Twisted Lip (1986): John Hawkesworth, who wrote the lion’s share of the series …Twisted Lip* is one of his best, careening through opium dens in Victorian London’s seedy east end. At face value, the plot deals with hidden identity, but is altogether more prescient in mirroring class struggle in the UK.

It’s bit odd to write notes about certain episodes as if the screenwriter/director created the story. Brett’s depiction and the wonderful plots all rest on Conan Doyle’s talent.


I feel there are plenty of examples of terrible adaptions of stories. Doyle’s stories are fun, but it hardly seems right to disregard the work of everyone one involved in bringing them to the screen. :man_shrugging:


I feel like the deference to Conan Doyle is obvious. This article is more about the TV show, per its anniversary, and its star. But thanks! Shout-out to Victorian London and the queen as well. Why not.

Given your adherence to source material, I appreciate that you didn’t call me out for giving my dad credit for hardcore naps. He got it all from my grampa.


My God, those Dracula cape flairs are amazing. Thank you for this.


Oh - don’t get me wrong, I do not disregard that, at all. But the tone of the article struck me as if the writer was not aware of the books, only the TV series/scripts. (Which I am sure is not the case.)


Well, I guess not that obvious to me. (Particularly in the paragraph I quoted from - it gives the impression that the plot was the scriptwriter’s.)

I was not adhering to anything, and have no need to call anyone out for napping. I do it myself. I’m sure I’ve slept through Brett’s Holmes too (and there is a full box set of that series on DVD in our house).


And the best Watson. Edward Hardwicke was excellent.


I was going to promote The Red-Headed League as well, particularly this scene: