Blog: Adapting Down Doyle

Photo from previous production of Sherlock Holmes

Blog by Brock D. Vickers

With countless iterations in the books, on TV and movie screens, and theatre stages, adapting a tale about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s hero should be easy, right? Not necessarily. In paring down Doyle’s third Sherlock Holmes mystery for our latest Storyboard thriller The Hound of the Baskervilles  (September 9-18), I found that these classic stories are a little more classic and a little less story.

Now before internet trolls begin sending copies of Benedict Cumberbatch’s headshot to my email, allow me to explain: Doyle was writing for a different time. When we read a novel like Baskerville we read a novel of atmosphere. Much like a gothic tale from Poe or a modern Lars Von Trier film, atmosphere is king in this novel.

As one reads this book, we find the moors a place not unlike the gothic American South, a place full of mystery, magic and demons. An average English reader at the time would have already considered the moors a place rife with fear, a place people did not go if they had any sense about them.

Therefore, when a Dr. Mortimer shows up with his lottery ticket for Sir. Henry Baskerville, it WESHedgerowCindySherlockFinalHigh-114would be the equivalent of the beginning of every haunted house movie ever written: The Shinning, House on Haunted Hill, or Thirteen Ghosts (seriously check this movie out, it’s as awful as it is brilliant and is worth every second of insanity). Yet, given the context of the Sherlock Holmes motif, genius detective breaks down unsolvable crime, from the beginning the gothic style is undermined, almost.

We as the audience trust the Detective to break through any malaise of supernatural. Watson can believe it all he wants, but we know Holmes could never be duped in that way. We know that no matter how crazy the case gets, he’ll ultimately find a rational solution, just as TV viewers could trust that  Dr. Gregory House, one of the modern iterations of Holmes, would always diagnose his patient’s perplexing illness.

Still, we want to believe—and this is the crux of the story—the ever raging battle between our rational mind and our desire to believe. With no guiding light, we lose ourselves in the mystery of the moors, and for a while, we forget about reason.

Imagine consuming this novel the way we binge watch Stranger Things: sitting alone at night, tucked away in a dark corner, no television or internet, just you (Watson) and Sir Henry Baskerville lost in the myth of the moor. This is the brilliance of Doyle’s novel. We expect a turn, and therefore we allow ourselves to believe in stranger things for a while.

Sherlock may be coming to rescue our minds, but not for another hundred pages. Luckily, we have expedited that process in our Storyboard and brought the audience all the aura and none of the extraneous fluff.

So if you are looking to share that experience of being a frightened kid listening to The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes or a tantalized young adult watching Basil Rathbone with your child, then come check out our latest adaptation of one of Doyle’s most timeless Sherlock stories; but remember, no one makes it out of the moors.