The Return of Sherlock Holmes

Regular readers of this blog – both of them – will know that I am a huge fan of Jeremy Brett‘s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in the Granada TV productions of the classic detective stories by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle first broadcast during the 1980s.

It turns out that Virgin Media in Ireland is now broadcasting the series The Return of Sherlock Holmes, the first episode of which, The Empty House, was on last night (Easter Sunday). I watched it with all the pleasure of meeting an old friend I hadn’t seen for years. It’s hard to believe that episode was first broadcast way back in 1986.

For those of you not up with the canon, this story (based on the original story The Adventure of the Empty House) is set three years after Holmes apparently fell to his death, along with his arch enemy Moriarty, at the Reichenbach Falls.

Holmes’s body was never found, for the very good reason that he didn’t die! It turns out he escaped and spent three years on the run exploring the world and evading Moriarty’s confederates. Much of the first episode is taken up with an account of these goings on, and the case that brings Holmes back to London is fairly slight, really just providing an excuse for his return. A murder in London provides Holmes with an opportunity to trap the last of his erstwhile opponent’s associates.

I did however experience a little frisson of surprise when I heard the identity of the victim of the murder at the heart of the story, namely the Honourable Ronald Adair, the second son of the Earl of Maynooth*…

*The title is fictional, there was a title Earl of Kildare but never an Earl of Maynooth.

Now, for bonus marks, and without using the internet, can anyone tell me the connection between Sherlock Holmes and the field of astronomical spectroscopy?

To see the answer, click below

The answer you are probably expecting is that the character of Professor Moriarty is widely believed to be based on American astronomer Simon Newcomb, but that’s not the answer I was looking for.

The answer I had in mind is that Jeremy Brett’s original name was Peter Jeremy William Huggins and William Huggins was the name of the astronomer who pioneered the use of spectroscopy to study stars (other than the Sun). I wrote a bit about him here.

5 Responses to “The Return of Sherlock Holmes”

  1. Maybe, readers should not be confused with commenters :). There is an interesting connection between astronomical spectroscopy and the use of fingerprints in criminology due to a grandfather-grandson duo who were both called William Herschel. But surely this is not particularly specific to Sherlock Holmes ? So, you must have had something else in mind.

  2. Ok … I understand what you had in mind. But only by now having looked at the internet (and did not know this before). So will not write the answer.

  3. Ted Bunn Says:

    Jeremy Brett absolutely owns that role. It’s hard to picture anyone else as Holmes. David Suchet is similarly iconic as Poirot (although the writing was quite uneven in that program, in my opinion).

  4. Ted Bunn Says:

    By the way, as Peter almost certainly knows, Brett played Freddy, the young man who falls in love with Eliza Doolittle, in the film of My Fair Lady. Although he was an accomplished singer, viewers of the film don’t get to hear him sing: his song “The Street Where You Live” is dubbed by another singer.

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