Rewatching Jeremy Brett’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’

Over the holidays, one of my nieces was telling me how excited she was to see the new Sherlock. “I love Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes!” she said. I had to agree with her: he plays the role very well, and the show is smart, intense, and warm; but he’s not my favourite Holmes, not by a long shot.

It was interesting to talk “Holmes” with her, because at the same time, my daughters and I have been watching the complete 41 episode Sherlock Holmes from 1984, starring Jeremy Brett as Holmes.

Jeremy Brett as Holmes

It’s fair to say that this series is among my favourite television shows ever. I can’t imagine watching too many shows from 1984 today, but this one is different. It’s been years since I’ve watched it, and now that our girls are older, it seemed like a perfect time to introduce them. My wife found my 12 disc DVD set in the basement while doing some cleaning: “You should watch these with the girls over the holidays.” And we have!

I’m delighted to report that the girls love them as much, or more, than I do. “This is the best show ever!” says my eldest, who literally sits on the edge of her seat while we watch each episode. My youngest loves how anti-social Brett’s Holmes is, but also how in control: “It’s amazing how he doesn’t care what others think of him.”

Holmes and Watson (Hardwicke)

There’s a lot that I love in these episodes. For one, I’m drawn to the friendship between Holmes and Watson, especially Edward Hardwicke’s Watson (the show also starred David Burke as Watson in the first season). Brett’s Holmes is impossible, idiosyncratic, explosive, depressive, internal, and ultimately entirely endearing and lovable. The viewer, like Mrs. Hudson and Dr. Watson, can’t help but be drawn to him. I also appreciate how faithfully the show’s writers stayed to Conan Doyle’s stories with most episodes, and how well the show depicts life at 221b Baker Street. Because of its authenticity and period setting, the show has aged incredibly well.

Holmes at home in Baker Street

You can’t watch it on any streaming site that I know of in Canada, but it looks like it might be available elsewhere in the world. If you have the opportunity, you really should carve out some time to enjoy them. There are also a number of full episodes on YouTube, some of which I’ve linked to below.

“The Speckled Band”
“The Blue Carbuncle”
“The Hound of the Baskerville’s”

As I write this, we’re one disc from the end of completing our journey, an incredibly sad time. I remember mourning the end of the show the last time I watched it. At least this time I won’t have to do it alone.

I can’t wait to rewatch it again.