In the history of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Great Detective, actors of all ages haven taken on the role of Holmes. From Nicholas Rowe as ‘Young Sherlock Holmes’ to Ian McKellen’s venerable turn in last year’s ‘Mr. Holmes’. But rarely do we get to see the same actor play both young Holmes and old without intervening real-world decades.
Nicholas Briggs and Richard Earl take up another case in Big Finish’s latest release in its Sherlock Holmes series. Elder Holmes and Watson are pitted against The Society, terrorists vying to control post-Great War England, in The Sacrifice of Sherlock Holmes.
A True Epic
Unlike previous Sherlock Holmes releases from the team at Big Finish, this box-set is less episodic than usual. Though split into four parts, the release is one long story but maintains an admirably consistent pace throughout. Each instalment is crammed with enough action, plot advancement and escalation of the stakes that its hefty four-hour run-time vanishes. Nothing feels like filler and not a second is wasted. The plot threads culminate in one of the most satisfying climaxes you could hope for with nothing left unanswered.
Nicholas Briggs is Sherlock Holmes
Having played him on-stage and in over a dozen Big Finish productions, Briggs has acquired the patter essential for Holmes. Meanwhile, Richard Earl balances Watson’s dual-role as narrator and participant in events with quiet confidence. When they come together, the pair’s chemistry absolutely crackles, in spite of how much of the plot they spend apart. The whole cast does a great job, but it’s another member of the production team who deserves a special mention. Anthony Lamb has crafted some marvellous cover art for the CDs, superimposing misty London vistas with a wonderfully aged-up Briggs.
Age Shall Not Weary Him
Writer Jonathan Barnes has used a discerning hand to weave in themes of old age without sagging the pace. You are carried away with Holmes revelling in another case, only to come crashing down with him when he’s reminded London has outgrown him. Ghosts of the past reflect that Holmes’ long career may have done as much harm as good in a canny critique of his methods. The story drips with the sense that Holmes has withered before the blast of an east wind. Writing for such a fatigued version of Holmes, crafting a story as exciting and fast-paced as this without any sense of disparity shows real skill on Barnes’ part.
A Fixed Point in a Changing Age
The soundscape perfectly evokes the mood of a London trying to shake off the post-Great War hangover. All the usual trappings of a period Holmes tale are present, the bustle of cantering horses and rolling hansoms. But this is mixed with motorcars and other signs that the city is looking to the future. Steve Foxon, who led the sound design, has crafted the ideal setting for the themes of this story. A changing age in which Holmes must work to prove his relevance.
Ghosts of the Past
The promise of a dramatic reveal buoys up the plot through its middle act, but the outcome felt underwhelming. I didn’t see it coming, admittedly, given the character involved usually fills a very different role in the Holmes canon. The ending will prove divisive, but I personally enjoyed the symbolism of it. Anything else might have felt cheap for what may prove to be the last outing for Sherlock Holmes under Big Finish.
Blogtor Rating – 8/10
After the Judgement… Sacrifice must be made
On a cold, wet, unforgiving day in the November of 1921, London is under attack.
Drawn from retirement to combat the menace, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are forced, without warning, to confront old enemies and new threats – and an evil which has been waiting for decades to exact its revenge…
Written By: Jonathan Barnes
Director: Ken Bentley
Sound Design: Steve Foxon
Music: Jamie Robertson
Cover Art: Anthony Lamb
Nicholas Briggs (Sherlock Holmes), Richard Earl (Dr John Watson), Tracey Childs (Mrs Edgar Curbishley), Jeremy Clyde (Lord Felix Happerton/Rackham), Jamie Hinde (Colonel Giles Stoddart), Joe Jameson (Alistair Baxter/Midshipman Boyle), Alan Cox (Agamemnon), Frances Marshall (Mrs Jemima Blake), Jamie Newall (William Tallow/Sir James Burton), Elizabeth Rider (Mrs Eleanor Watson), Christopher Naylor (Alfie Carnehan/Captain Richard Avary), Natalie Burt (Miss Vivienne Scott). Other parts portrayed by the cast.
The Sacrifice of Sherlock Holmes is available to buy on CD and download now from the Big Finish website.