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Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Annotated "The Hounds of Baskerville"

The amazing Ardy has written up a complete annotation accompaniment to Sherlock's The Hounds of Baskerville, pointing out canon references, etc.  You can read all of it after the jump!

By Ardy, The Baker Street Babes

The harpoon at the start is a reference to BLAC, wherein Holmes tests a harpoon on a dead pig.

At the start of the episode, Sherlock tells John that his mind is like “a rocket tearing itself to pieces, stuck on the launch pad”. This and the whole sequence at the beginning are very reminiscent of the beginning of WIST: "My dear Watson, you know how bored I have been since we locked up Colonel Carruthers. My mind is like a racing engine, tearing itself to pieces because it is not connected up with the work for which it was built. Life is commonplace, the papers are sterile; audacity and romance seem to have passed forever from the criminal world. Can you ask me, then, whether I am ready to look into any new problem, however trivial it may prove? But here, unless I am mistaken, is our client."

The case of the missing rabbit and Sherlock moping about it is an hommage to Holmes’ moping about the derelict state of the criminal classes. Reading the Canon, you get the feeling that Holmes does this on a fortnightly basis.

“I’ll let you know next week’s lotto numbers.” It has been speculated that Watson was a bit of a gambler. Textual evidence is the fact that he mentioned spending half his wound pension on betting at horseraces (SHOS), and that Holmes keeps Watson’s check book locked up in a drawer in his study. This may be a nod to this tradition of conjecture.

Sherlock tells Mrs Hudson: “I need something stronger than tea. Seven percent stronger.”
Holmes takes a seven-percent solution of cocaine in the Canon when he’s bored in between cases, most famously in SIGN, which starts with a scene of Holmes shooting up.

The bit at the start where Sherlock tells Henry he’s too busy to take on the case is lifted from HOUN: in the story, Holmes sends Watson to Dartmoor on his own to accompany Sir Henry because he’s allegedly too busy. It is later revealed that he has been on the moor the whole time. Watson even thought he was involved in the crime somehow because he saw the shadow of an unknown figure—he didn’t know he was looking at Holmes!

“Mister Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!”
Lifted from HOUN. Mark Gatiss has people say it repeatedly throughout the episode, I personally think he was being good to us there.

Fletch’s speech “If you value your lives, keep away from the moor” is a reference to a note Holmes and Watson get in HOUN. It reads “As you value your life or your reason, keep away from the moor.”

The characters/their names are all lifted from HOUN, although with some major changes/updates:

Corporal Lyons: There is a sub-plot in HOUN revolving around Dr. Frankland’s daughter, Laura Lyons, and her alleged affair with Sir Charles Baskerville. Laura Lyons wrote a note to Sir Charles asking him to be at the gate of Baskerville Hall at night. Shortly afterwards, he died because he was being chased by a hound. Therefore suspicion falls on her. Her name is cleared fairly quickly though, and her part is often cut or cut short in adaptations.

Dr. Mortimer: In HOUN, Dr. James Mortimer, the family doctor of the Baskervilles, comes to see Holmes about the death of his patient, Sir Charles Baskerville. The most unusual factor about this death was that next to the dead body, there were the footprints of a gigantic hound. Shortly before his death, Sir Charles had become obsessed with the family legend of the Hound of the Baskervilles, an ancient curse brought on by the bad deeds of one of their ancestors.

Dr. Stapleton: In HOUN, Stapleton is male, a naturalist, and the villain—a Baskerville in truth and thus the heir of the estate, he has a solid motive to kill Sir Henry. So he kept a hungry hound in a mine shaft (same as the inn-keepers in BASK) and put phosphorus on its fangs—this scares Sir Charles to death and is very nearly the death of Sir Henry. He also pretends that his wife is his sister because she’s more useful to him that way; what he couldn’t foresee was that Sir Henry would actually fall for her and that would complicate his plan. The BASK Dr. Stapleton makes glow-in-the-dark animals—a great modern way to avoid the mess of phosphorus, which is actually poisonous to man and beast...

Dr. Frankland: In HOUN, an amateur astronomer and the father of Laura Lyons, a woman that Sir Charles allegedly had an affair with.

Major Barrymore: In HOUN, the butler and his wife who are Sir Henry’s servants are called Barrymore.

Selden: In HOUN, a convict named Selden breaks out of prison and roams free on the moor. Mrs. Barrymore. The hound kills him when he’s wearing Sir Henry’s cast-off clothes.

And the place names, obviously:

Baskerville Research Centre is, of course, the updated version of Baskerville Hall.

The Great Grimpen Mine Field: In HOUN, the place of danger is the Grimpen Mire. The villain tries to flee across the moor and ends up sinking and dying there—at least, that’s what’s implied.

There are two references to ACD’s life:

Fletch: Fletcher Robinson was a friend of ACD’s. He originally told him the story of a West Country legend about a monstrous hound, which was the inspiration for HOUN. The idea of the legend of the hound being good for tourism is a play on the reviews for HOUN, one of which said that Devon tourism would benefit from it.
The innkeepers get their meat from Undershaw Meat Suppliers. Undershaw was ACD’s residence for many years, and a lot of the Canon, including HOUN, was written there. There are currently plans to knock it down, so please have a look at the Undershaw Preservation Trust’s website to support the cause of keeping it as a historical building.

When Sherlock and John are talking to Fletch about the hound, Sherlock says, “the bet’s off.”
A reference to BLUE, where Holmes pretends that he has a bet with Watson in order to get information out of a reluctant goose merchant in Covent Garden.

Bill says to John, “Sorry we couldn’t do a double room for you boys.” A line from VALL turned on its head: “We slept in a double-bedded room, which was the best the little country inn could do for us.”

The “mind palace” is not a Canon reference per se, but in the Canon, Holmes tells Watson that he has been to Dartmoor in his mind. It’s inconsistent in the context of the show because of the harddrive conversation in GREA, but it was inconsistent in the Canon as well, so that’s fair enough. There is an actual memorisation technique called “the Memory Palace.”

The flashing lights that John recognises as Morse code are an hommage to HOUN: Barrymore and his wife are using light signals to communicate with Selden.

Sherlock says about Mycroft “I’ve told you, he practically is the British Government.” Holmes says the same thing in a number of places in the Canon.

“You want me to go out there at night?” Henry asks, incredulously. Yes, Henry, that is actually Holmes’ plan in HOUN: when he has put it all together and figured out that Stapleton is planning to set the hound on Sir Henry, he asks Sir Henry to play along by going to Stapleton’s dinner party and walking home across the moor at night. And it very nearly goes Very Very Wrong—more on that further down.

After the excursion to Dewer’s Hollow, Sherlock and John sit in front of a fireplace, just like their Victorian counterparts so often do.

When Sherlock is having his panic attack, he says that feelings, for him, are “the grit on the lens, the fly in the ointment”. This is reminiscent of the first paragraph of SCAN where Watson is talking about Holmes’ relationship with emotions and “the softer passions”: “Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his.

He also says “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Probably Holmes’ most famous Canon quote. It appears in a couple of stories, though not always in the exact same wording.

There is a passage in FIVE that is very reminiscent of Sherlock’s comment about using his senses while he’s deducing by the fireplace: “Problems may be solved in the study which have baffled all those who have sought a solution by the aid of their senses. To carry the art, however, to its highest pitch, it is necessary that the reasoner should be able to utilize all the facts which have come to his knowledge.”

The “conductor of light” speech is taken from the beginning of HOUN: Someone has been to 221B and left his walking-stick, but no calling-card. Holmes makes Watson deduce various things from the stick (most of which Watson gets wrong), then comes out with this gem:
"Really, Watson, you excel yourself," said Holmes, pushing back his chair and lighting a cigarette. "I am bound to say that in all the accounts which you have been so good as to give of my own small achievements you have habitually underrated your own abilities. It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it. I confess, my dear fellow, that I am very much in your debt."

Sherlock apologises to John and tells him “I don’t have friends. I’ve just got one.” That’s harking back to a passage in FIVE, where Watson wonders about the ring of the doorbell:
"Why," said I, glancing up at my companion, "that was surely the bell. Who could come to-night? Some friend of yours, perhaps?" - "Except yourself I have none," he answered.

When Lestrade shows up, Sherlock says “You’re brown as a nut!” This may be a reference to Watson’s appearance in STUD: "Whatever have you been doing with yourself, Watson?" he asked in undisguised wonder, as we rattled through the crowded London streets. "You are as thin as a lath and as brown as a nut."

Lestrade’s first name is Greg: In the Canon, Lestrade only ever gets a first initial, G. Mark Gatiss, when asked, said that the show’s Lestrade was called Greg, but this is the first time we’ve had it confirmed on the show.

When Sherlock and John go to see Dr. Stapleton, Sherlock tells John that they are going to investigate “refined, cold-blooded murder.” That’s lifted straight from HOUN: "It is murder, Watson—refined, cold-blooded, deliberate murder. Do not ask me for particulars.”

“Trust me, I’m a doctor.” We’ve heard it from Jude Law, so it seems only fair that we hear it from John as well.

“If you can imagine it, someone’s probably doing it somewhere.” Dr Stapleton clearly knows the basic laws of the internet.

Dr. Stapleton says about Barrymore that he is “A bloody martinet. A throw-back. The sort they sent into Suez.” This may be in reference to Holmes’ comment when he and Watson look at the portrait of Sir Hugo Baskerville, and spot the similarity between him and Stapleton. Holmes calls this “an interesting instance of a throwback, which appears to be both physical and spiritual.”

Barrymore has five separate biographies of Margaret Thatcher. That links back to John’s blog entry about a case that he calls The Six Thatchers, which itself is a riff of SIXN.

Henry’s father in BASK was fixated on Baskerville and what the scientists might be doing there, much the same as Sir Charles Baskerville developed a fixation with the legend of the Hound of the Baskervilles.

The poisonous fog made of a powerful hallucinatory drug as the source of Henry’s fear: An amalgamation of features from both HOUN and DEVI. In HOUN, Holmes explains that they had a narrow escape because “we had no means of foreseeing the terrible and paralyzing spectacle which the beast presented, nor could we predict the fog which enabled him to burst upon us at such short notice”. DEVI is all about a poisonous plant extract that “stimulates those brain centres which control the emotion of fear”, exactly like the drug that H.O.U.N.D. created in BASK. At least, in BASK,  Sherlock had the good sense to test the drug on John under laboratory conditions. Holmes, in DEVI, tests it on himself and has to be rescued by Watson (who is in the room with him and experiences some of the effect, but is not overpowered by the drug). The Granada adaptation of DEVI takes delight in depicting Holmes’ drug-induced hallucinations like a bad LSD trip.

Sherlock is delighted that Dewer’s Hollow was “murder weapon and scene of the crime all at once.” A nice link back to the Clue(do) game at the start, because this is not in the rules either...

A guide to the four-letter abbreviations of the Canon stories can be found here.

You are welcome to point out references that you think we’ve missed, and especially iif you can shed light on the names of the scientists that formed H.O.U.N.D. we’d be very grateful.


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  2. In the BBC version of Hounds of Baskerville, in the scene where Sherlock is scrambling around trying to find his stash of cigarettes, he looks briefly in the toe of a slipper he pulls out from under his chair; a refrect to the Canon Holmes' habit of keeping his stash of tobacco in the toe of a Turkish slipper.

  3. Not exactly a reference to the canon, but in "A Scandal in Belgravia" there is a case, "The Aluminium Crutch", where the victim and the murderer are the same person - so Sherlock is right about a Cluedo after all!

    Also, I really, really like how Gatiss, and to lesser extent, Moffat, play the intertextual game with the viewers; I once started a project like this, after Guy Ritchie's first Sherlock Holmes movie (it can be found here: http://alex-s9.livejournal.com/246865.html), so I know how tedious, yet satisfying work it can be.