Since it was published in serialized form in 1901 and 1902, Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” has become one of those touchstone Sherlock Holmes stories. As much as everybody knows (often wrongly) that Holmes was a “difficult” genius and that John Watson was always a step behind him, everyone knew that Holmes took on a huge, mysterious hound in this Conan Doyle novel.
So the makers of “Sherlock,” the BBC production airing on PBS’ “Masterpiece Mystery” series, had to do an adaptation and had to do something different.
In “The Hounds of Baskerville,” the second of three “Sherlock” episodes in this season, Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Watson (Martin Freeman) take on the case of Henry Knight, who remains traumatized by seeing his father killed by a huge hound 20 years before. The two venture into the English countryside, specifically to the Baskerville military research base, to find out if giant glowing dogs with red eyes really do exist.
In the process, they have brushes with Sherlock’s brother Mycroft (the top-level British intelligence agent) and even James Moriarty, the warped genius who has become Sherlock’s nemesis. The ending of tonight’s episode forecasts the return of Moriarty next week.
Of course, Holmes and Watson also have the misfortune of running into that hound — as well as a couple of levels of conspiracy.
A few thoughts about the episode:
I loved that Holmes at one point notes that the CIA has a top-secret facility in Liberty, Indiana. That’s just down the road from me and I can assure you that if the Company has set up shop there, it’s pretty well hidden. Made me wish, for a moment, that they had chosen Muncie like everyone from “Tom Slick” to “The Simpsons” to “Hudsucker Proxy” to “Angel” has.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that: Not for the first time in the run of the series, someone mistakes Holmes and Watson for a couple. Cute.
Watson mockingly refers to Holmes as “Spock” after a scene in which Holmes is shaken by his failure to keep his emotions in check. Comparisons between the two have always been made and “Star Trek” episodes have obliquely referred to Spock’s ancestor Holmes (possible, as Trek fans know, because Spock’s mother is human). But for a joke that trumps all, Cumberbatch plays the bad guy in the now-in-production “Star Trek” movie sequel.
This Sherlock turns to cigarettes when he’s bored and anxious between cases, and not a seven percent solution.
Tonight’s episode had the misfortune of airing in the US following a couple of successful movies that had similar elements. The Baskerville hound looked a bit too much like the “mutts” in “Hunger Games,” while the idea of mind-altering gas released into outdoor settings echoed “Cabin in the Woods.”