Brock D. Vickers adaptor of The Hound of the Baskervilles opening September 9
The Hound of the Baskervilles is such a great story because it puts us into a world where everything we’ve come to expect of the Sherlock mythos is upside down. Sherlock is missing for most of the story, the moors are a place that invoke a desperate feeling deep within us, and we are asked to face our fear of the unknown and question reality. Without Holmes there as the voice of reason, we slide deeper and deeper into a dark world where reason seems to fly off the handle.
Hound is not your traditional mystery; in fact, I would make the argument Hound is a thriller, and not a mystery at all, one that is meant to be enjoyed like a horror film or a good piece of pulp fiction.
Holmes is one of the most iconic characters of all time. He was the inspiration for my favorite detective, Batman, and has been portrayed more times in film and television than Hamlet (technically Dracula is the most filmed character, but given that he is undead, Sherlock ranks in as the number one human).
In addition to being portrayed himself, Sherlock has served as the basis for numerous on-screen personalities such as Dr. Gregory House and Patrick Lane. For over a century, this mind has intrigued writers, actors, and directors from all mediums. Where would screenwriting be today without the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Furthermore, why are we so intrigued by this cunning, calculating detective?
Although Arthur Conan Doyle did not give us the first detective story (that distinction belongsto Edgar Allan Poe and C. Auguste Dupin), he certainly expanded the genre to greater depths. Take, for instance, fingerprints. Sherlock uses them in 1890, even though the first recorded criminal recording is in Argentina in 1893, years before Scotland Yard, which did not adopt the practice until 1901. For those CSI and Dexter fans out there, Sherlock was the first detective to use both ballistics and blood splatter as evidence.
When we think of Holmes, ideas of deerstalker hats, pipes, and tweed immediately come to mind. The likes of Basil Rathbone and Benedict Cumberbatch elicit thoughts of precise minds and expert study. We have seen both a humanizing approach by Sir Ian McKellen and a neurotic depiction by Robert Downey Jr.
We recognize his devotion and his obsession, like a man crazed by a puzzle. Yet, unlike us, Sherlock thrives on the obstacle. With each case, the detective hunts for greater, more challenging enigmas.
Again and again, we come back to Sherlock: for mystery, for clues, for the thrill of the chase. This singular detective, and his compadre Dr. Watson, live in our imaginations as if they were old friends.
Sherlock is an ideal, albeit a wild one. As an audience we like to imagine the possibilities of Sherlock. What are his limits? What would we be like if we had his intellect? What could we do if no safe could hold a secret?
Watson, on the other hand, is a reality. Though traditionally depicted as a bit of a rube, Dr. Watson represents us: the reader, the audience, the novice always one step behind Sherlock. With each adventure, the good doctor races into battle, pistol in hand, without a clue as to what the detective has led him to this time.
So together, Doyle has given us a perfect pair. In each, we can see ourselves: how we are, and how we could be. Therefore, while we sit in a stone theatre away from civilization, let’s lose ourselves in this foggy world of mystery. Let the shadows of Hedgerow fill you with dread, the images of Sherlock and Watson transport you to another place, the voices of the actors fill you with wonder, and the words of Doyle take you to a place long forgotten by time.