Return of the Greatest Sherlock Holmes #2 – Sherlock goes to school

sher5Granada’s “The Priory School” is one of those once-in-a-season big budget episodes, which the production carefully prepared for.  It was the second episode shown during the 1986 season of “The Return of Sherlock Holmes”, although it was one of the latter ones filmed.  I saw it during its initial run on PBS, although it was rerun many times during the early 2000s, and was probably one of the most rerun episodes of all of them.  Here’s why.

The direction and the acting are of high-caliber.  It was directed by John Madden, an English director whose experience was in BBC television and radio.  He’s also done episodes of Inspector Morse, and you can see his experience with the camera.  The shots are not all the same, and the camera gleefully takes in the shadows and the environment.  The scene at the end in the cave scene looks very professional and is well-lit, but moody.  Madden did a good job setting the atmosphere for that scene.

sher10Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke are on form in this outing.  The dialogue is especially good, and allows the characters to shine through with whatever foibles they might have.  Holmes comes off as intelligent, driven, and forward in most scenes, although he seems a bit aloof in comparison to earlier episodes, but that may just be Jeremy Brett’s acting.  The setting allows for a more leisurely pace, but Brett and Hardwicke do pick it up when appropriate.


The REAL Haddon Hall

Filming was done outside at Chatsworth park, which is in the middle of the English countryside, near Chesterfield.  It is 1000 acres of park that stretches on and on, through hilly areas and over spongy moors.  The interiors were done at Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, which was dressed up for the production.  Suits of armor and display cases essential to the plot can be seen in the long gallery.  This place stands in for the home of the Duke of Holdernesse, played by Alan Howard.


Edward Hardwicke hates his food

For some reason, this episode just doesn’t do it for me, despite its large budget and drama, but there is a lot to like.  The pace drags in areas and there is a lot of moving about.  The best parts of the episode are probably the middle portion where Holmes and Watson are on the moor, and the ending.  The guest-stars and character actors do a great job, especially Christopher Benjamin as Dr. Huxtable, who is the catalyst for the whole thing.

The choir music and the special score was written by Patrick Gowers.  A peek into the music can be heard at the beginning, when Dr. Huxtable faints at Baker Street, but the music doesn’t pick up in full-force until the end.  The music goes a long way in making this episode unique, setting it apart from others and I was picturing the money spent on it as I listened.  It sounded expensive.


Christopher Benjamin as Dr Huxtable

Dr. Huxtable pops up from time to time to move the plot, and Holmes makes a few clever deductions after a rather thorough investigation.  He plows through the rooms with a careful eye, he runs all over the moor, and examines the manor.  He talks to the Duke and his Secretary, James Wilder.


Alan Howard as the Duke

Wilder and the Duke were actually in on the crime in the original story.  The dramatization changes this, and the ending as well.  The original story has Wilder kidnap the Duke’s son, as in the television episode, but the kidnapper makes off with the boy in the story and Wilder confesses to the Duke out of fear.  Together, they cover-up the crime to avoid a scandal.  This is why the Duke is reluctant to help Holmes, not merely because of pride, as in the episode.

The themes of tradition, parentage, and jealousy are well-done in this episode, and it has a very finished appearance.  Overall, this is a great episode of “The Return of Sherlock Holmes”.  The original story differs from the television episode, but it still remains the same celebrated story, with its fundamentals intact.  Holmes goes to school, impresses a Duke, and has a great payday, which can only be one of the best success stories in Sherlock Holmes lore. 


Holmes and Watson get some food after a long walk


The Return of Sherlock Holmes Episodes
The Empty House – July 9 1986
The Abbey Grange – Aug 6 1986
The Musgrave Ritual – July 30 1986
The Second Stain – July 23 1986
The Man with the Twisted Lip
The Priory School – July 16 1986
The Six Napoleons – Aug 20 1986
The Sign of Four – Dec 29 1987
The Devil’s Foot – Apr 6 1988
Wisteria Lodge – Apr 20 1988
The Bruce Partington Plans – Apr 27 88
The Hound of the Baskervilles – Aug 31 1988
Silver Blaze – Apr 13 1988