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Sherlock Holmes (alternatively Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes) is a series of Sherlock Holmes adaptations produced by the BBC between 1965 and 1968. Before the main series, an initial pilot was aired in 1964. This was the second screen adaption of Sherlock Holmes for BBC Television. There are a total of 2 series in this adaptation.


In 1964, the BBC secured rights to adapt any five Sherlock Holmes stories with an option for a further eight from the Doyle estate. A handful of Doyle's stories were excluded from the deal, such as The Hound of the Baskervilles, since Hammer Films' rights would not expire until 1965 following their 1959 film adaptation.

In 1964, an adaptation of "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" was commissioned as a pilot for a twelve-part series of Sherlock Holmes stories. Giles Cooper penned the adaptation and Douglas Wilmer was cast as Holmes and Nigel Stock as Watson.

The hour-long pilot was aired as an episode of Detective on 18 May and was popular enough to re-air on 25 September. Wilmer and Stock were secured for a twelve-part black-and-white series to air the following year.

Wilmer was a lifelong fan of Doyle's stories and looked forward to portraying the legendary sleuth:

The part interested me very much because I'd never really, I felt, seen it performed to its full capacity. There's a very dark side to Holmes, and a very unpleasant side to him. And I felt that this was always skirted round which made him appear rather sort of hockey sticks and cricket bats and jolly uncles ... a kind of dashing Victorian hero. He wasn't like that at all. He was rather sardonic and arrogant, and he could be totally inconsiderate towards Watson. I tried to show both sides of his nature.

Wilmer later stated that the series was riddled with incompetence and the scripts often came in late. He claimed that the scriptwriters ranged from "the brilliant to the absolutely deplorable." Some of the scripts were so lacking in quality that Wilmer himself rewrote them, sometimes staying up until two o'clock in the morning polishing.


With the popularity of the series, the BBC inquired about Wilmer's availability for another series. Wilmer turned down the opportunity after discovering the plan to reduce the number of rehearsal days. In 1973, Wilmer played author Jacques Futrelle's Holmesian detective Professor Van Dusen in The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes for ITV. In 1975 he once again appeared as Holmes (albeit in a supporting role) in Gene Wilder's The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother, with Thorley Walters as Dr Watson.

The BBC searched for a new actor to play Holmes. The first person BBC television drama chief Andrew Osborn suggested was John Neville. Neville had previously assayed the role in 1965's A Study in Terror and Nigel Stock felt the film was quite good. Neville had prior commitments to the Nottingham Playhouse and was unable to appear in a series at the time. Next, Osborn looked at Eric Porter. While Porter ultimately did not get the role, he did portray Professor Moriarty opposite Jeremy Brett's Holmes in Granada Television's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Finally, Peter Cushing was approached to take over the role of Sherlock Holmes for the 1968 series. Having already played Holmes in the 1959 Hammer films adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, Cushing was eager to play the role again. Like Wilmer, Cushing was an avid fan of Doyle and looked forward to portraying the detective correctly.

What are the things that spring to mind about Sherlock Holmes? The way he keeps saying, "Elementary, my dear Watson," and the number of times he puffs that meerschaum pipe. But they are both untrue!

Cushing's series featured a two-part version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, giving Cushing another go-round at the tale. This version was the first actually filmed on Dartmoor.

Unlike the Wilmer series, this one would be produced in full colour. Though the series was in colour, there were economic cut-backs which required production to abandon plans for celebrity villains such as Peter Ustinov, George Sanders, and Orson Welles.

However, as filming commenced Cushing found himself facing production difficulties the likes of which had prompted Wilmer to forgo another round. He later asked Cushing how he had enjoyed making the series:

...[Later] I asked him how he had enjoyed doing the Holmes series. He replied tersely to the effect that he would rather sweep Paddington Station for a living than go through the experience again. He had my sympathies!

Filming time was cut back. Cushing stated that the hectic schedule affected his performance:

Whenever I see some of those stories they upset me terribly, because it wasn't Peter Cushing doing his best as Sherlock Holmes – it was Peter Cushing looking relieved that he had remembered what to say and said it!

The Cushing series was still a success, and the BBC's Andrew Osborn was interested in making a third series. Had this third series commenced, the plan was to dramatise stories from The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes, a short story collection written by Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr. This potential third series never came to pass.

Cast and Characters[]

The following is a list of main and regularly recurring characters in the series. Recasting occured quite often in the series, with the exception of Dr. Watson.

  • Douglas Wilmer as Sherlock Holmes (pilot and first series, 1964-1965)
  • Nigel Stock as Dr. John Watson
  • Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes (second series, 1968)
  • Mary Holder as Mrs Hudson (pilot, 1964)
  • Enid Lindsey as Mrs Hudson (first series, 1965)
  • Grace Arnold as Mrs Hudson (second series, 1968)
  • Peter Madden as inspector Lestrade (first series, 1965)
  • William Lucas as inspector Lestrade (second series, 1968)
  • John Barcroft as inspector Hopkins (first series, 1965)
  • James Kenney as inspector Hokpins (second series, 1968)
  • Tony McLaren as Wiggins (second series, 1968)
  • Jimmy Ashton as Billy, Holmes' page boy (first series, 1965)

List of episodes[]

Sherlock Holmes 1964 pilot
The Speckled Band - 18 May 1964
Sherlock Holmes 1965 episodes
The Illustrious Client – 20 February 1965
The Devil's Foot – 27 February 1965
The Copper Beeches – 6 March 1965
The Red-Headed League – 13 March 1965
The Abbey Grange – 20 March 1965 (first half of episode missing, full soundtrack exists)
The Six Napoleons – 27 March 1965
The Man with the Twisted Lip – 3 April 1965
The Beryl Coronet – 10 April 1965
The Bruce-Partington Plans – 17 April 1965 (second half of episode missing, full soundtrack exists)
Charles Augustus Milverton – 24 April 1965
The Retired Colourman – 1 May 1965
The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax – 8 May 1965
Sherlock Holmes 1968 episodes
The Second Stain – 9 September 1968 (missing episode)
The Dancing Men – 16 September 1968 (missing episode)
A Study in Scarlet – 23 September 1968
The Hound of the Baskervilles (Part 1) – 30 September 1968
The Hound of the Baskervilles (Part 2) – 7 October 1968
The Boscombe Valley Mystery – 14 October 1968
The Greek Interpreter – 21 October 1968 (missing episode)
The Naval Treaty – 28 October 1968 (missing episode)
Thor Bridge – 4 November 1968 (missing episode)
The Musgrave Ritual – 11 November 1968 (missing episode)
Black Peter – 18 November 1968 (missing episode)
Wisteria Lodge – 25 November 1968 (missing episode)
Shoscombe Old Place – 2 December 1968 (missing episode)
The Solitary Cyclist – 9 December 1968 (missing episode)
The Sign of Four – 16 December 1968
The Blue Carbuncle – 23 December 1968

Missing episodes[]

The series was unfortunately subject to the tape-wiping and "junking" practice that often occured in early British television during the 1950s and 1960s. The film tapes and video tapes of the period were expensive and most British television broadcasters at the time didn't plan to air many domestic reruns, hence the tendency to wipe tapes, in order to reuse them for filming. Another related issue was poor archiving of episodes. Tens of television series lost at least one or several episodes, or above half of their episodes in this manner. In some cases, entire series and serials are presumed completely lost. The lack of home video technology at the time also exacerbated the problem: There was less of an incentive to publish the series after broadcast for public consumption, and outside of specialised film studios, there was virtually no way to record programmes while they were being broadcast. This is why much of the unofficially recorded material that survives from lost or missing episodes exists only in the form of audio recordings. [1] [2]

Aside from the 1960s Sherlock Holmes, some of the other BBC series that suffered this fate include episodes of Doctor Who and Dad's Army, among many more. [3] [4] Since the latter half of the 1970s, British television networks, television fans and enthusiasts, and official institutions such as the British Film Institute (BFI), have developed an effort to recover and restore missing episodes of many 1950s and 1960s television programmes. [5] [6]

The pilot and the first series of the BBC's 1960s Sherlock Holmes survive largely intact to this day. The only exceptions to this are the episodes The Abbey Grange and The Bruce-Partington Plans. The former is missing its first half, while the latter is missing its second half. However, the audio (entire soundtrack) from the latter's second half still survives. The second series of Sherlock Holmes from 1968 is largely missing, though. Only a handful of the episodes have survived fully intact, namely A Study in Scarlet, the The Hound of the Baskervilles two-parter, The Boscombe Valley Mystery, The Sign of Four and The Blue Carbuncle. These were saved partly because they were chosen as samples of the series for distribution abroad. To date, they're also the only episodes of the mostly missing second series to be published on various home video formats. [7] [8] The 2015 BFI release of the first series uses various techniques to reconstruct the incomplete halves that occur in two of the episodes. [9] Missing material from the second series is still being tentatively searched for.

German remake/spinoff[]

German public broadcaster WDR created their own Sherlock Holmes series in the late 1960s, with some licensing acquired from the BBC series' format, particularly the scripts for existing episodes. This made it something of a foreign language remake of the 1964-1965 Wilmer and Stock episodes. For the WDR series, six episodes were produced in total, based on the BBC scripts for The Speckled Band, The Six Napoleons, The Red-Headed League, The Bruce-Partington Plans, The Beryl Coronet and The Copper Beeches. The series aired between 1 October 1967 to 18 March 1968, with one episode aired each month, at various broadcast dates. Erich Schellow played Sherlock Holmes and Paul Edwin Roth played Dr. Watson. [10]




Short excerpt from the episode The Man with the Twisted Lip (from the first series with Douglas Wilmer), courtesy of the official BFI channel.

Short excerpt from the episode The Blue Carbuncle (from the second series with Peter Cushing), courtesy of the Peter Cushing Appreciation Society's channel.

Another short excerpt freom the same episode, with Holmes testing Watson's deductive skills on Henry Baker's bowler hat.


External links[]