The Final Problem (TV episode 1985)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
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The Final Problem

The Final Problem (episode No. 13) is the 6th episode of season 2 of the Granada series: Sherlock Holmes (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and David Burke as Dr. Watson, aired on ITV on 29 september 1985. 51 min.

The episode is an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's short story : The Adventure of the Final Problem (1893).

The Final Problem seals (seemingly) Holmes' tragic fate. To make up for the lack of detective work in the original story, John Hawkesworth capitalized on Arthur Conan Doyle's assertion that Holmes had been summoned by the French government to solve a problem of the highest moment. To flesh out the novelist's allusion, the scriptwriter drew his inspiration from the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911. The fake paintings case strengthens the main plot: when Moriarty slashes the copy Holmes has made useless, we can fully understand and feel his wild desire to cross the sleuth off the list of the living. Conan Doyle's story contains, admittedly, some oddities: for example, why does Holmes choose the alpine solitudes to flee from his arch-enemy, though he told Watson, in The Copper Beeches, that isolation favours crime? But we don't care about such inconsistencies when seeing Brett diving on a heap of straw to escape from the cab which charges at him, or while watching the breath taking battle of words between the champion of the law and the Napoleon of crime, concluded with an unforgettable picture: Moriarty raises a look of hatred towards the detective's window while Holmes, wrapped in his dressing gown as if chilled by the sight of this venomous creature, stares at him, stern and unflinching. During the Reichenbach falls fight the extremely dangerous ground hinders the actors' mobility, but Moriarty's roar, his reptilian head oscillations and his claws grasping Holmes' throat convey such bitter hatred that we really fear for the detective. Watson's grief is touching, though its expression remains restrained, as Victorian code of behaviour requires. It's through his imagination that we see the fighters plunging, embodied by stuntmen Marc Boyle and Alf Joint: in slow motion when Watson imagines Holmes' hopeless and agonizing dive to death, then at real speed, when he visualizes his body crashing against the rocks. In the beautiful last scene, Watson's fingers stroke gently his late friend's cigarettes case, and this silent gesture speaks volumes.




Plot summary (spoiler)

Only just back to Baker Street, Watson hears Holmes knocking at the window: hunted down by Moriarty's men, the detective knows his door is watched. He left London suddenly some months ago, because the French authorities, deeply upset by the disappearance of the Mona Lisa, had called him for help. On the glass which, originally, protected the painting, Holmes found the finger prints of Mendoza, one of Moriarty's henchmen. The Mona Lisa vanished the Professor could sell copies to rich and gullible art lovers, who took them for the original. To prompt Mendoza to take the painting out of its hiding-place, Holmes asks the police to announce the thief's impending arrest. Mendoza caught with the stolen masterpiece, Moriarty rages, for his copies are now worthless. He comes and summons Holmes to withdraw, on pain of being trodden under foot, but the sleuth remains steadfast. While they wait for Scotland Yard to arrest Moriarty and his gang, Holmes and Watson seek refuge on the Continent. But despite the utmost secrecy surrounding their flight, Holmes soon notices that Moriarty follows them. In Switzerland, several suspicious incidents prove that someone want them dead. While they make their way towards Reichenbach falls, a messenger brings Watson a letter from Herr Steiler, reading that a lady dying in his hotel asks for an English doctor. But upon his arrival at the hotel, Watson understands that the letter is a trap, set by Moriarty. At this very moment, Holmes and the Professor are face to face. Watson rushes towards the falls, but finds only his friend's alpenstock and farewell note. He infers from these clues that, after a dreadful fight, both Holmes and Moriarty sank into the abyss. Back at Baker Street, the mourning doctor sadly tells us that he is about to write the last adventure of his over gifted friend Mr Sherlock Holmes, the best and wisest man whom he has ever known.

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