The Empty House (TV episode 1986)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
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The Empty House

The Empty House (episode No. 14) is the 1st episode of season 3 of the Granada series: Sherlock Holmes (The Return of Sherlock Holmes), starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and Edward Hardwicke as Dr. Watson, aired on Granada TV on 9 july 1986. 51 min.

The episode is an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's short story : The Adventure of the Empty House (1903).

When Conan Doyle threw his hero into the depths of Reichenbach falls, it was with the firm intention to leave him there for ever. But when he changed his mind, he had to explain why Holmes had, in fact, pretended to be dead. This enterprise was a tricky one, for what was the use of feigning his death, since Colonel Moran, Moriarty's closest friend, knew the detective had survived the fight? Yet, Patrick Allen's interpretation conveys such impressive strength and fierce hatred, that it gives Holmes' decision to vanish into thin air some plausibility. But what makes this episode credible and moving is, above all, Brett's and Hardwicke's shrewd and sensitive acting. Hardwicke suggests with accuracy and naturalness a forlorn and nostalgic Watson, living with the memory of his friend and their happy days gone by. And when he shines with happiness and laughs for joy at Holmes' reappearance, he is utterly convincing and wins the viewer's sympathy. As to Brett, his change from a repulsive and grumpy old bookseller into a handsome and radiant Holmes is worthy of the fantastic transformation which ends Beauty and the Beast. But above all, Brett did his best to convey Holmes' calculating coldness while letting us catch a glimpse of the suppressed sensitivity the actor thought concealed deep in the apparently detached detective's heart. When his Holmes, for instance, explains Watson would not have been able to write so convincing an account of his death if he had not been convinced it was true, he looks satisfied with his trick and unaware of his cynicism. But at Reichenbach falls, while hidden by a rock he listened to Watson's desperate cries, he nearly ruined his plan by answering him: a revealing scene devised by Brett, which doesn't appear in the script. Colin Jeavons, here a friendly Lestrade, comically vain or flabbergasted, and Rosalie Williams, motherly Mrs Hudson and unexpected woman of action, contribute to the benign humour and the warm atmosphere which add their appeal to the pleasant sight of Holmes and Watson, at last reunited, sharing a new adventure and triumphing together over a dangerous and horrible villain.




Plot summary (spoiler)

Called by Lestrade, Watson examines Ronald Adair's body. The evening before, the young aristocrat had played cards with Colonel Sebastian Moran and lost a tidy sum. He was at home, counting the money he owed him, when he was shot dead. Without a clue, Lestrade can say nothing to the coroner except Adair was murdered by person or persons unknown. But when Watson leaves the court, he collides with an old bookseller who behaves aggressively. Back to his surgery, he sees him entering. The old man apologizes to the doctor and proposes him some books to fill his bookcase. Watson glances at the poorly stocked shelves, turns round…but instead of the decrepit and cranky bookseller, sees a tall and handsome gentleman smiling at him: it's Holmes! Watson faints from the shock but soon regains consciousness, eager for his friend to reveal how he has escaped death. Holmes tells him that, thanks to a Bartitsu hold, he succeeded in throwing Moriarty into the abyss, but found advisable to make people think he was dead too. If he did not let Watson into the secret, it's because he thought that, more sensitive than Mycroft, he would not be as good as him at pretending. But on the very evening of their reunion, a hard task awaits Holmes and his friend. Concealed in an empty house whose windows look onto their Baker Street lodgings, they lie in wait for a visitor, lured by a dummy in Holmes' image set in the detective's living. Soon Moran, right-hand man of the late Professor Moriarty, sneaks into the house, adjusts his airgun and shoots the dummy. Holmes pounces on his fearsome enemy, whom Watson finally succeeds in knocking out before he finishes strangling his friend! Moran murdered Adair because the young gentleman had found out that he cheated at cards, and he planned to inflict the same fate on Holmes to avenge his bosom friend Moriarty. The colonel handed over to Lestrade, Holmes and Mrs Hudson can celebrate cheerfully their reunion.

  • Credits : Monique Claisse (texts), Sarah Fava (photos) and Granada.