Baker Street Wiki
Baker Street Wiki

The Devil's Foot is the first episode of the fourth series of Sherlock Holmes, based on the eponymous short story.


Holmes and Watson are visiting the coastline of Cornwall, as part of a vacation recommended to Holmes on medical grounds. Holmes isn't exactly fond of the idea, especially due to his dislike of the local weather. After finding accomodation at a rented seaside cottage, they meet and acquaint themselves with Mr. Roundhay, the vicar of a nearby hamlet. Soon after, they also meet with local Mortimer Tregennis, who dabbles in amateur archaeology.


Dr. Sterndale then reveals that upon realising Mortimer stole the powder and used it to murder his relatives, he decided to avenge Brenda. In earlier years, they had fallen in love with each other, but Sterndale was still married to his wife, even though she had left him. Sterndale ignited the powder over the burner of the table lamp and wrestled with Tregennis, until he forced his face towards the deadly smoke. He held him over the smoke for about five minutes, the toxic fumes eventually killing Tregennis. Sterndale considers his fury at the murders Tregennis had committed to be justified, but he deeply regrets adding to the tragedy during his fit of rage at Tregennis.

Having heard the doctor's full confesion, Holmes ultimately decides to avoid turning him in, allowing him to regret his crime and start anew. Sterndale pays the two detectives farewell, deciding to leave the United Kingdom and focus on his research work in Africa for at least a few years. Watson slightly protests the decision, but having worked with Holmes for years and knowing his penchant for forgiveness, he isn't surprised by his lenience. Holmes admits that, though he has never married or been in a romantic relationship, he understands Dr. Sterndale's immense grief and recognises his willingness to atone for his crime.

The episode ends on Holmes cheerfully taking off on a stroll from the cottage, joshing doctor Watson about them still having weeks of vacation ahead, just as Watson encouraged him when they arrived.

Differences from the Canon story[]

  • One of the elements invented for the episode's plot is Holmes giving up his cocaine and morphine addiction. He buries his drug syringe in the sand of a Cornish beach, displaying a hint of unease as he does so. Later in the episode, he shows occassional signs of withdrawal symptoms, but seems to be overcoming them. The decision to include this was down to an agreement between Jeremy Brett and the series' writers, suggested by a concerned Brett. He had learned of the series' big fanbase among children and young people, and fearing Holmes' addiction could be misconstrued as a heroic trait, decided to have it removed from the series and have the narrative adress this.
  • While Holmes conducts his dangerous test of the smoke created by burning the "devil's foot" plant, he undergoes a montage of surreal, hallucinatory visions. Though these are stylised, they reflect brief glimpses of his past and present, including flashbacks to his sparring and battle of wits with professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. Some of the hallucinations endured by Holmes also seem to hint at his physical and mental struggle with leaving his drug addiction behind.


Actor Role
Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes
Edward Hardwicke Doctor Watson
Denis Quilley Dr Leon Sterndale
Damien Thomas Mortimer Tregennis
Michael Aitkens reverend Roundhay
Freda Dowie Mrs Porter
Norman Bowler Owen Tregennis
Peter Shaw George Tregennis
Christine Collins Brenda Tregennis
John Saunders Dr Richards
Frank Moorey police inspector
Nick Ryall policeman in house (uncredited)

See also[]


External links[]