“Sherlock” Season 2, Episode 2 – ‘The Hounds of Baskerville’ DVD commentary, part 1
This is not a direct transcript, nor have I written up every single comment made. This is just a selection from the commentary which I personally found interesting or fun.
Further extracts may be added in due course.
Please remember that some of the comments made by people may look serious in plain print but were frequently meant sarcastically or humorously.
If you quote extracts from this, especially if it includes bits which I wrote myself rather than transcribed, a link back to this page would be appreciated.
As always, my thanks to verityburns, who double-checked this transcript against the recording and made a few corrections, especially helping with my inexplicable inability to distinguish between the voices of Mark and Steven!
Russell Tovey – “I play Henry in this episode”
Steven Moffat – “co-creator of Sherlock”
Mark Gatiss – “co-creator of Sherlock and writer of this episode”
Sue Vertue – “the producer of this episode”
When Russell got the part he was told that they also needed a younger version of his character. Russell’s nephew (who ‘has got sticky-out ears like me’) auditioned but was considered to be too young for the role and Russell agrees that all the running around would have been too much.
As the post-opening credits scene starts:
STEVEN: Now, the writing of this scene, I happen to know, was a bit of a bugger. I remember you [Mark] phoning up ’cause it just didn’t feel as if it was energised enough and saying, ‘I’m gonna use the beginning of Black Peter.’
Mark explains that, to the best of his recollection, the Conan Doyle story Black Peter has only been filmed once. Mark thinks it’s not a very interesting story but at the beginning Sherlock Holmes comes back to Baker Street with a harpoon covered in blood which he has been sticking in pigs all morning.
SUE: But the shot of him at the door – we shot about two months later than the rest of the scene!
MARK: It was hanging around ... it was like a Snag List scene. It was just never gonna happen; it was always falling off call sheets.
SUE: Last day, wasn’t it?
RUSSELL: How many Sherlock stories are there?
STEVEN (instantly): Sixty.
MARK (equally instantly): Fifty-six short stories and four novels.
The writers explain how they have taken all sorts of bits and pieces from various stories and included them in episodes.
MARK: Doyle himself often did brilliant beginnings and then incredibly perfunctory endings – mostly because he just had somewhere else to go! So there are a lot of shipwrecks and things like: ‘We were never destined to find out what happened’!
STEVEN (as Doyle): Because someone came to my door and offered me a game of cricket!
RUSSELL: And have you read all the books?
STEVEN: Oh, God, have we!
RUSSELL: Have you really really really?
[At this point your transcriber wants to track down Tovey and slap him really really really quite hard.]
STEVEN: Oh, God, yes! Mark and I are absolute fanboys of Sherlock Holmes.
MARK: I read The Adventures first and then I got the Complete Sherlock Holmes ...
RUSSELL: What age was this?
MARK: Oh, eight or nine; and I read ’em all because I wanted to be able to say I had read all of Sherlock Holmes – and as Steven pointed out, ‘Only an idiot geek would think that would somehow make me cool’!
RUSSELL: That would get you laid!
STEVEN: He didn’t have a date for thirty-two years! (As a prospective boyfriend of Mark’s) ‘But, sorry ... but you have read ... oh, that makes all the difference’!
MARK: What’s rather wonderful about it is that, like all great ideas, [Doyle] never really got it. He never understood what he’d created. The rest of the world got it. He was famously dismissive of it.
Sue points out that the drawing of the hound shown during the documentary was drawn by Steven’s and her son ... ‘and coloured by me!’
MARK: The Hound of the Baskervilles is the most famous Sherlock Holmes story principally because, having killed off Sherlock Holmes in The Final Problem, the nation went into mourning. Famously, young men of fashion started wearing black crepe in their hats, and Doyle was vilified for it. And a few years later he had an idea – in collaboration with a journalist friend called Fletcher Robinson – to do a ghost story about a monstrous hound; and he decided to present it as a Sherlock Holmes story to give it its best chance of succeeding, but setting it as a prequel before [Holmes] died. The reason it’s the most famous is that it was a publishing phenomenon. People were so desperate for more Sherlock Holmes, this story became the thing.
RUSSELL: Did you feel a huge pressure because it’s one of the ones that’s been done [the most]?
MARK: Yeah! Christ, yes!
STEVEN: The pressure was smoking out of him!
MARK: If it was a version of The Sign of Four, you just wouldn’t feel the pressure ... not the pressure of its fame but the pressure to include certain things ... People have seen so many versions, I think they know certain beats of the story [and] it feels wrong not to do them. Initially, I remember in the early drafts, it was Doctor Mortimer who comes [to 221B], as he does in the original; and I remember Steven saying, ‘We need a Sir Henry figure,’ hence Henry Knight, but it’s not the same relationship as it is in the book. But there are lots of little beats – the Grimpen mire becomes the Grimpen minefield – things like that because people know them and just in the back of their heads they know there should be something like that.
STEVEN: It’s the first time we’ve done a client scene. This is the staple of Sherlock Holmes books and stories: a client will come to Baker Street and express their problems and Sherlock Holmes will make some alarmingly clever deductions. And it was tricky, wasn’t it, to make it come to life: he’s got to sit there and tell a story and that’s – in itself – a slightly boring thing to do. Then [Mark] came up with the idea of the [TV documentary (or, as Steven describes it, ‘the interview and the thing’!)].
MARK: Again it’s about the modern equivalents. In the original, Doctor Mortimer comes and he says, ‘I’ve got this legend to tell you,’ and in most adaptations that’s how it usually starts with Sir Hugo Baskerville ... so we get the equivalent sort of thing which is to tell the bulk of the story by means of a living TV documentary.
MARK: We spend a lot of time on trains, mostly to Cardiff and back, but I remember the person opposite me knocking their coffee over and mopping it up, and that was what gave me the idea about the phone number and then going over it again. It was a good train journey. They often are! All the good things happen on train journeys!
RUSSELL: I loved the set. Coming onto the set was just wonderful.
SUE: It does feel like home, doesn’t it?
RUSSELL: It’s so well designed. There’s things in there I wanted to take home.
MARK: That’s where they went!
STEVEN: Somehow we’ve always felt that this show’s at its most Sherlocky when we’re in this set.
STEVEN: We’ve just gone past the great famous line which is, ‘Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound,’ which we’ve slightly redeployed – we’ve made it the reason that Sherlock takes the case because of the odd expression. Because the thing that Mark pointed out: you’d never say ‘hound’ now. A young man wouldn’t say ‘hound,’ he’d say ‘dog.’ So we redeployed it as a critical clue.
MARK: The other famous thing about the original story: because Doyle – although he brought him back – was sick of him, Sherlock Holmes disappears for the bulk of the story. He sends Doctor Watson down. Although he does actually go himself in secret, most of it is told by Doctor Watson. So it was a thing of having the fun of going through the process of saying, ‘Oh, I couldn’t possibly go,’ and then saying, ‘I wouldn’t miss this for the world!’ So hopefully if you know the story, for a Sherlock Holmes fan it’s like, ‘Oh, they’re not gonna ... oh, are they gonna not do it?’
SUE: I love Russell’s tone of bemusement all through that about ‘What the hell’s going on?’!
MARK: That was just Russell!
The regular team patiently ignore Russell’s ignorance and explain that they didn’t film the exterior scenes in Baker Street itself but in North Gower Street. Steven says they were quite keen initially to be the first Sherlock Holmes programme to actually shoot in Baker Street but it wasn’t practical. Sue says they recently found out that one programme years ago filmed on North Gower Street.
Russell asks how they feel about the Guy Ritchie movie being around.
STEVEN: It’s an odd one, isn’t it, especially as we end up releasing at roughly the same time. I don’t think we do anything good to each other; we certainly don’t do anything bad to each other. And it’s such different takes on it. They’re doing a very action movie version in Victorian times, and we’re doing a probably actually slightly more authentic version but we’re actually modernising it. We’re working such different sides of the street. I don’t think it’s an issue, because nobody can ever be the definitive version anyway. There are so many versions of Sherlock Holmes.
MARK: And everybody has their favourite one. I do remember we had that conversation early on, ’cause we were making the pilot when the film was announced and it was one of those moments – it was like, ‘Oh, God. This always happens!’ There’s always two Robin Hood films at the same time. It’s so strange; nothing for years. But actually in the end the thing that was great was that it was a massive hit. If the film had sunk without trace, it might have tainted the notion, but in fact all people want is more Sherlock.
RUSSELL: D’you get asked that a lot? Do people try to make comparisons?
STEVEN: Not really.
MARK: You can go and see the film in the afternoon and watch this in the evening. There’s twenty-four hours in the day.
STEVEN: You can then watch Jeremy Brett, and Basil Rathbone films – they’re still on television.
MARK: I mean, you can do something else with your day, but that’s an average day ...
STEVEN: Mark and I don’t do anything else with our day. This is what we do!
(As Sherlock and John arrive at Grimpen Village)
STEVEN: Should we mention our re-sequencing here? We had a big, big, big argument about this bit, didn’t we? Principally between me and Sue! I didn’t like this idea initially – I like it now. Originally we went straight to the army base and went straight downstairs and saw all the cool stuff, and then we went to the village. And Sue said, ‘No, that’s wrong. We should go to the village first.’
MARK: When I was writing it, I was in Cornwall having a real struggle with it.
RUSSELL: How long did it take to write it?
MARK: Two thousand years.
STEVEN: And that was the first day!
MARK: It’s an intractable story because ultimately it’s always disappointing – because at the end, it’s just a dog with luminous paint on. We were absolutely determined that it wouldn’t be, this time. Solving that issue nearly killed me, because if it’s not that, what is it? Because it can’t be a ghost, it can’t be a monster ... But one of the things was to sort of kick the existing half a draft up the arse by – as soon as they leave Baker Street, they just go voomph and they’re there. It’s like: cut out all the shoe leather ... Originally I wrote a thing like a sort of Google Earth thing where you just go ... ‘Dartmoor’, like the equivalent of one of those Indiana Jones [movies] where they have the plane that’s flying [across the map]. And it was like, ‘Well, let’s just go there. He’s got a fake I.D.; they just go there.’ And that was the way it was for a long time. But funnily enough, this way round – getting to know the area – although it’s more traditional ... Funnily enough, if you look at the running time it doesn’t make that much difference. They’re there [at the army base] quite quickly but somehow it just gave, I think, a kind of texture which we didn’t have. It also means that the visits to Baskerville are better spaced out. The other way round, you went very early and you didn’t go back for ages. But mostly the row erupted between [Steven and Sue].
SUE: Mmm. It’s nearly over.
Russell asks where the exterior scenes at Dewer’s Hollow and elsewhere were filmed.
SUE: That was ... (She trails off as she tries to remember.)
MARK: Crib sheet, crib sheet, quickly! It was Wales ...
SUE: Near Castell Coch, wasn’t it? [Yes, she says ‘Castle’ but this is the proper spelling.]
RUSSELL: Say that again?
MARK: Pardon? What?!
SUE: Castell Coch.
RUSSELL: Nice! Good pronunciation!
SUE: But also at Dartmoor; ’cause we weren’t gonna go to Dartmoor originally, were we?
MARK: ’Cause so much happens at night on the moor, we just need a moor.
SUE: And then Paul [McGuigan, the director] said, ‘Let’s just pop down to Dartmoor, ’cause I don’t really know what it looks like and we’ll get a few place shots,’ and we were down there for days, weren’t we?
MARK: It does make a huge difference, because the landscape is so different; it’s so dramatic. Those tors are just like nowhere else.
MARK: This is the lovely Stephen Wight as Fletcher Robinson – a little nod. [Robinson] was Doyle’s friend. It was a famous thing that still goes on about whether he stole the story from this man, although he clearly didn’t. He was a journalist and he was the man who had the original idea about the hound.
MARK: Now I must tell you: this bit [where Fletcher tells the story of his friend] is virtually verbatim from something that brilliantly fell into my lap two Christmases ago at a party. I ended up talking to this guy who told me that his father had worked for the Ministry of Defence and one day he didn’t come home and his family were frantic. They were about to call the police and his dad turned up white as a sheet. He wouldn’t talk about it; and a couple of days later he said, ‘I’ve seen some things today that I never want to see again.’ And eventually he said that he’d been taken somewhere like Porton Down and he’d seen sheep with plastic panels in their guts so you could watch their guts in action ...
RUSSELL: Is that real?!
MARK: Yeah – and he’d seen rabbits the size of dogs, and dogs the size of horses. I just looked at him and thought, ‘Well, thank you.’
SUE: But this was quite a long time ago, wasn’t it?
MARK: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And the origin of the modern equivalence for this story was about: if it’s not a ghostly hound, what is the sort of thing that modern people – although we’re still very credulous – are frightened of? And I remember we talked about it and Steven said, ‘It has to be conspiracy theories, doesn’t it?’
MARK: Actually, I’ll do this story too, ’cause I love this one. Michael Sheen told me this, and he got it from Billy Connelly, who got it from Richard Burton, so it’s only three handshakes away from Burton! In the sixties, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were quite close to [Richard] Nixon [when he was President of the USA] and they used to drink together, and he used to come round to their place and get drunk. And one night they’d just gone to bed – it was an early night for the Burtons – and this car screeched up ... probably driven by Todd Boyce in his CIA hat [Todd played the role of Neilson in A Scandal in Belgravia] ... and these CIA men, these men in black got out and just pushed Nixon through the door and left. And the President just sat there gibbering, white, shaking, sweating, couldn’t speak. And Burton said, ‘What’s the matter, Dick?’ and he got him a drink and they tried to calm him down and he couldn’t speak, he was absolutely gibbering. Eventually they settled him down and put a drink into his hand and they said, ‘What’s the matter?’ And Nixon said, ‘They showed me the alien.’
MARK: Yeah! What about it!
STEVEN: Well, that must have been one night of heavy drinking that Richard Burton came up with that one!
MARK: No – I think the CIA men were thinking, ‘Hmm. What can we do today to the President?’! I hope it’s true.
The location for Baskerville was a mothballed gas works.
MARK: Actually, the proper tragedy about industry in this country is we visited loads of brand new facilities which had never even opened. Lots of plaques saying, ‘Opened by Rhodri Morgan’ [the then First Minister for the National Assembly of Wales] or something and then the recession hit and they just didn’t happen.
(While answering Russell’s question about whether Paul McGuigan in particular chooses to homage other films while he’s shooting)
SUE: Well, actually we did it in Reichenbach.
STEVEN: Oh yes! This is a very very geeky one, heaven forefend! There’s a sequence where Moriarty arrives in Baker Street and we lifted it wholesale from an ancient Sherlock Holmes film called Woman in Green with Basil Rathbone, and it’s a very very brilliant little sequence. Sherlock Holmes is upstairs playing the violin and Moriarty creeps from the shadows and he starts going up the stairs, and suddenly the violin stops, and then Moriarty stops too ’cause he realises he’s been clocked. He waits for a second, then the violin starts again and then Moriarty continues the ascent. And it’s all told in one shot; it tells you the whole story: the whole idea is [that] Sherlock knows that he’s coming, he’s cool with the fact he’s coming, and Moriarty’s cool with the fact that he knows he’s coming. If that little sequence had appeared in a Hitchcock movie people would have written essays about it, but we’ve just taken that and borrowed it.
MARK: We talked very early on about [how] everything is canonical – all the films, everything, because [there are] these little brilliant moments like that which are just not celebrated enough, and if we can bring them to a wider audience, then why not, really?
STEVEN: I suppose quite a lot of Scandal riffs on The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.
MARK: The lovely Clive Mantle [playing Frankland]. Oddly enough, we have two Little Johns in The Hounds of Baskerville.
STEVEN: Do we?
MARK: Because Gordon Kennedy [who plays Gary, the manager of the pub] was Little John in the recent [BBC series of] Robin Hood and Clive Mantle was [Little John] to Michael Praed [in Robin of Sherwood]. I always try and get Robin Hood references in!
RUSSELL: Where did you get that monkey from?
STEVEN: That’s mine ...! [On the screen, a scientist holds up a vial of serum.] ... and that’s his urine sample.
SUE: There were two monkeys, wasn’t there? I’ve forgotten the names of them now.
MARK: Sonny and Cher, or something like that.
SUE: One was very good at leaping up at bars; he liked doing that, and the other one didn’t like doing that.
MARK: And one of them was very good at masturbation. And I think on the Gag Reel we’re never gonna see, there are some extensive shots of that.
MARK: What I love about what Paul and Fabian [Wagner, the Director of Photography] did here was to take ... they wanted a kind of Kubrick look to this place – the sort of stark white, and the flares are actually by having fishing wire in the back of the lens.
SUE: And you see the orange windows there? Because actually we used two different locations and that was the way that we linked them so it [looked] the same.
MARK: D’you notice there: [Amelia Bullmore, playing Doctor Stapleton] does a brilliant thing. She rubs her nose, indicating she’s lying. I love that.
RUSSELL: Did you put that in the script?
MARK: No, she just did that.
RUSSELL: Is that like a sort of pop psychology, what people do when they’re lying?
MARK: Yeah, apparently. It’s actually lips and the nose. Either that, or she has an infection! But this [Stapleton’s lab] was a clean room in another location, which was like a microchip facility, but it had these brilliant amber windows which we then carried on as a thematic thing.
STEVEN: And now we see the first glimpse of the Diogenes Club.
RUSSELL: Who’s that handsome ...?
MARK: It’s a Hitchcock-like cameo.
STEVEN: Now what level of ego would have a writer actually write a non-speaking part for Mark Gatiss?! I mean, really!
MARK: Well, quite.
STEVEN: It makes me laugh so much! You get a line of ADR at the end, don’t you, but I was just thinking, ‘What are you doing?!’ I gave you a huge part!
MARK: Well, I couldn’t follow that!
SUE: Now, you see, they go into the lift; they come out of the lift in a totally different building.
STEVEN: That lift was a triumph.
SUE: That lift had to keep moving with us.
MARK: Now this is the lovely Simon Paisley Day [playing Major Barrymore] and he’s wearing a black beard, or sporting one, because Barrymore – who was the butler in the original story – always has a black beard, but apparently in the Army you can’t have a beard. You can have them in the Navy; and you can have a moustache but you can’t have a beard. But I decided that because it was a quasi-military thing like UNIT, it was allowed!
STEVEN: Of course it’s like UNIT!
SUE: It’s amazing what you find when you’re putting facial hair on the Forces!
STEVEN: Mark, people are gonna start to think we’re, like, geeks or something!
MARK: I’m afraid it may be too late.
MARK: Another thing I did: I spoke to a scientist who actually had worked at Porton Down ...
RUSSELL: So that’s a real place? I didn’t realise that.
MARK: Porton Down, yeah, it’s a famous ... It’s a weapons research facility. It’s massive. Trying to cure the common cold, all kinds of things. It’s very secretive. And I spoke to him on the phone and I sort of apologised for about ten minutes about all these flights of fancy and then he sort of went, ‘Mmm, well. Anything’s possible really. It’s only ethics,’ which I then ... I gave that line to Amelia. It was pure quotes. Ethics are the only boundaries, and they’re very flexible. And he said when he was working there – you know, they had a couple of inspections a year but the place was so vast, almost anything could go on.
SUE: Or is that them trying to big up their part?
MARK: It’s clever, isn’t it? That’s the best way of doing it, really. It’s a bit like that idea that UFO people have: that actually it’s in the government’s interest to keep conspiracy theories going, ’cause it actually makes the real thing less tangible.
MARK: Now here’s a funny thing. Because of moving things round, the ‘collar up’ joke is in the wrong order, but it still works, it’s [still] funny.
STEVEN: Don’t re-awaken this conflict between me and Sue. We’re working on our marriage.
RUSSELL: How long does it take an episode on this?
SUE: Four weeks’ shooting ... and a bit.
STEVEN: The ‘bit’ being we haven’t quite finished it.
RUSSELL: What happens with the set of Baker Street?
STEVEN: We put it in storage, and then accidentally flood it.
SUE: Yeah, it’s been flooded twice now.
STEVEN: Three times. So it gets damaged and we put it in the special flood damage cupboard ...
SUE: It’s in a container now.
STEVEN: Is it? It’ll be hit by a meteorite.
MARK: It’s nature’s way of telling us to redecorate.
STEVEN: Isn’t it funny? We spent all that time wondering, ‘Should Sherlock Holmes drive?’ And then he just did!
SUE: Partly because we realised that Martin doesn’t!
MARK: [John] absolutely naturally should be the driver, and [Martin] can’t drive, so it was, ‘Well, that’s all we can do!’
MARK: This amazing house [where Henry lives]: this was a long involved thing because what we needed was the patio for the porch light sequence ...
RUSSELL: Oh, we should talk about this quickly, because I remember you telling me about this line.
MARK: Oh yeah. This is a steal from Jaws. It’s exposition done by a master. There’s a scene in Jaws when Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider are out with all this amazing equipment and he says, ‘This is ... Are you ... are you ... rich?’ ‘Yeah.’ And it’s a sort of legacy of him being Sir Henry, I suppose. But I was adamant that we couldn’t have this extraordinary house originally because, although the patio was brilliant, it was just too elaborate for Henry. And then ... well, that’s the way to solve it: he’s just rich and he never talked about it. It solves a few other problems as well, like having a private shrink who pops round your house.
SUE: But Paul loved the Victorian conservatory.
STEVEN: Which we hardly see. Oh, these wounds!
MARK (in his American ‘Tell us about Rupert Graves, Benedict’ accent): What was your approach to the character of Henry Knight?
(He giggles evilly as Russell flails over the question.)
SUE: Actually, you wouldn’t have had any time, would you, ’cause you came ...
RUSSELL: ... straight from Him and Her, yeah. I don’t know how I found the character, really.
MARK: Did you start with the underpants?
RUSSELL: I didn’t want him to be a gibbering wreck; I wanted him to be kind of, like, mature and not a geek. I just wanted him to be just really truthful and just someone who’s really damaged and really haunted, and just wants to sort things out.
MARK: I thought from very early on that, in a very modern way, what he has is survivor guilt. When you look back at people in ghost stories, you might think that they’re frightened people, but maybe that’s sort of a form of what it is. He has no explanation for what it is and it’s haunted him all of his life.
RUSSELL: The ending is a happy ending for him. You hope that he goes off and just kind of ... I think he’ll still need therapy for the rest of his life but you’re thinking he’ll be a bit more kind of secure and get a relationship. No cats or dogs. Maybe a bird.
STEVEN: Maybe he gets haunted by a giant panther, in an ironic twist.
(As John sees the flashing light from the hillside out on the moor)
MARK: And this, of course, is a reference to the original story, with Selden – the convict – who’s signalling on the moor.
STEVEN: And it is my single favourite redeployment of Doyle. What we quite often do in this show is take an element of Doyle and do something slightly cheeky with it or do it the wrong way round, but this is the funniest one.
SUE: We got back at, what, five o’clock in the morning or something to the hotel and ...
MARK: ... couldn’t get in.
STEVEN: Some utter fool ...
SUE: ... which turned out to be Benedict ...
STEVEN: ... had accidentally ... yes, that’s where I was going with that! ... had accidentally locked you out of the bed and breakfast.
MARK: Well, that was the official explanation.
RUSSELL: Yeah, I was sitting up with him that night, drinking. We got really confused, ’cause the guy said, ‘Leave the key,’ or ‘Don’t leave the key,’ and neither of us could work it out and I said, ‘We should lock it.’
STEVEN: I think you may have been too drunk to notice!
SUE: ‘We should lock it in case anyone wants to come in’!
RUSSELL: It just felt weird to leave it unlocked, with the till there and the bar and everything.
SUE: But it was at that time of ... you’ve been up all night; you think, ‘Oh, I can’t wait for my bed,’ and you can just see where your bed is but you can’t get in!
STEVEN: And just some raucous singing from inside.
SUE: So we just bedded down in the car.
STEVEN: Is that what we’re calling it these days?
Mark explains that the location for Dewer’s Hollow is a natural formation, presumably caused by water. It looks like coastal erosion but is inland. He adds how dangerous it is. The crew put markers up to show the edge but Russell thinks that anyone could be walking along and not see it until they fell into it. Sue says it was a nightmare to get the lighting into. They had one of the cameras on a zip wire.
MARK: So we talked, didn’t we, about how – for this series of three - [it would be] Sherlock and love, Sherlock and fear, Sherlock and death. And this was an area we wanted to play with, that the arch-rationalist is going to be confronted by what appears to be impossible, so what does he do about it?
STEVEN: Also it was the problem with changing the structure of the story. Normally Sherlock Holmes does not come to Dartmoor – or doesn’t appear to come to Dartmoor – until the very very end. So having hit upon the idea – rightly, I think – to take Sherlock Holmes there straightaway ... ’cause, you know, the kids are not gonna be happy with Benedict Cumberbatch being absent for so long ... but then of course you say, well, what Sherlock Holmes does in the story when he turns up again is says, ‘Oh, for goodness’ sake, it’s not really a ghost dog; it’s just somebody with a dog!’ and the story faintly deflates, and you see why Doyle kept him offstage for so long, because he’s the man who’s gonna come and basically end the fun. So what you did was: if we actually have him see the hound and get scared, then you think, ‘Oh, hang on, his presence has actually upped the ante because the arch-rationalist has seen a ghost dog, and that means all bets are off; what the hell is going on?’
Mark had had Sherlock’s deduction about the widow and the fisherman hanging around but nowhere specific to use it, and Steven suggested Sherlock using it as a weapon, so he actually is proving to John that he’s still got it.
RUSSELL: I love this scene. I think Benedict’s great in this scene.
MARK: It was very early, as well. I think it was about day three, wasn’t it?
STEVEN: And I actually turned up on set at this point, which I thought was just amazing of me!
The filming technique for keeping both John and Sherlock in focus at the same time during the fireside scene is called a split diopter. It was used a lot in films in the sixties, for example Doctor Zhivago. It employs a split lens.
STEVEN: Almost more importantly than the modernising of Sherlock Holmes, he’s still a young man; he’s still forming. He’s not the big monolithic Sherlock Holmes yet – he’s still [doing things like] encountering Irene and wondering if actually that’s what he should be doing, or actually facing the idea that he is capable of being tremendously frightened. I wouldn’t believe this moment of a fifty year old Sherlock Holmes; I’d think, ‘He would know, “Yes of course I can be frightened,”’ but he’s still on the training slopes, as it were.
MARK: It’s an eternal problem, of course ... (He trails off, apparently distracted, as Sherlock angrily yells, ‘There is nothing wrong with me! Do you understand?’ on screen.) It’s a bit like the Doctor [in Doctor Who]. If you also accept his universal brilliance, then what’s to stop him just shutting down the story? That’s always a problem – especially with Sherlock Holmes because of his breadth of intelligence and knowledge – is that he will just spoil it.
STEVEN: They are plot-killers, characters like the Doctor and Sherlock Holmes because they do turn up, and what you want them to do is be brilliant and funny and engaging, [but] you think, ‘Well, that’s it. We’re finished now, and I’m only on page seven!’
MARK: That’s why Doyle’s stories are so short!
MARK: That Christmas jumper [worn by the ex-fisherman] idea – that was in the very first draft of the original version of episode two.
STEVEN: Sue loved that deduction and asked for it to come back.
MARK: It was like: you would only wear that if you were trying to impress someone – probably your mother.
SUE: It was quite a problem getting a really dodgy Christmas jumper in May.
MARK: They weren’t really nasty enough, and in the end I think it’s a bit too obviously Christmassy, but it was slim pickings for bad jumpers in Cardiff ... amazingly(!) (He laughs.) That’ll go [from the commentary]. Take that out!
On to Part 2