Jeremy Brett versus Culverton Smith
I wonder if Benedict Cumberbun watched Jeremy Brett’s version of “The Dying Detective”, because it’s a good adaptation of the Canon. There are small things changed for TV, but I’m guessing people are going to debate which adaptation is better for a while, Cumberbun or Brett. Cumberbun’s version is a good one, so don’t get me wrong, it’s just not the Canon. Sure, it’s inspired by the Canon, and a lot of the story points are there, but it’s not the story brought to life. Jeremy Brett’s version is the 1913 story pretty much verbatim, which is not necessarily a good thing all of the time. That’s the thing about Granada’s Sherlock Holmes. They were so true to the Canon that it stifled the creativity, because a couple of the stories aren’t that good, let’s be honest here.
However, when it comes to “The Dying Detective”, this is a good story. It has all the things people like about Sherlock Holmes, like deductions, mystery, a good villain and Holmes being challenged. Cumberbun’s version gives the story a lot of energy, and makes sure to accentuate those things we like about Sherlock Holmes. Jeremy Brett’s version plays it straight, with just an adaptation of the story, except for a few minor changes nobody really notices. Is that boring?
Culverton Smith is the villain of this story. In Brett’s version, Smith is played by Jonathan Hyde, and we learn a lot more about him and his schemes. The whole first half of Granada’s episode is devoted to Smith’s family and his scheme to take over a property by usurping the inheritance. Toby Jones plays Smith in Cumberbun’s version, and he’s arguably the better actor, so I’d be hard pressed to decide which Culverton Smith version is better. Hyde is more devoted to the Canon, but Jones seems more menacing, albeit with fewer supporting characters to play off of. Hugh Bonneville plays Victor and Susannah Harker plays Adalaide, the woman Smith tries to cheat out of her rightful inheritance. Cumberbun’s version is not as deep with comparable actors, just Mrs Hudson, Molly and the usual fare.
Dying Detective was made in 1994 by Granada’s production as part of “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes”, making it the last of the Jeremy Brett series of episodes. These TV episodes do not follow the Canon chronology. Granada’s Memoirs collection is composed of a ragtag collection of odd Holmes stories, and Dying Detective is probably the best of them. Cumberbun’s efforts are just as good, but Toby Jones helps the episode a lot. I could do without the Mary spy melodrama, but it’s not really the focus in the Lying Detective anyway. Either way, you get the best of Sherlock Holmes, and I’m hard pressed to pick a favorite, Cumberbun or Jeremy Brett, though if you want a dramatization of what happened in the Canon, then you’ve got to watch the Brett version. If you want a sensational modern retelling, then Cumberbun and company is your mickey.