“It is with a heavy heart,” Doctor John Watson wrote in 1893, “that I take up my pen to write these the last words in which I shall ever record the singular gifts by which my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes was distinguished.”
The rain outside the window. Eighteen months since John’s last appointment with his therapist. “You know why I’m here. I’m here because – ” He handwaves the end of the word off in a puff of unspeaking pain. “Sher – my best friend – Sherlock Holmes – is dead.”
Making Moriarty a convincing character is so difficult that Arthur Conan Doyle didn’t try.
“You have probably never heard of Professor Moriarty?” said he.
“Ay, there’s the genius and the wonder of the thing!” he cried. “The man pervades London, and no one has heard of him. That’s what puts him on a pinnacle in the records of crime.”
I finished watching the first episode of 2012’s Sherlock just after midnight, and attempted to analyse out my feelings about it for a couple of hours before giving up – I couldn’t do it, at least not beyond the Bohemia/Belgravia translation, without sleep, and also I needed to re-watch the whole episode, re-read the original 1891 story, and take a look at the previous 1984 transition to the screen.
The original story, first published in 1891, opens with a statement:
To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. ….. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.
In the TV adaptation from 1984 with Jeremy Brett, David Burke and Gayle Hunnicutt, the opening scene is a burglary – two men interrupted in the course of a burglary first by a man with a club, then by a woman with a gun. The men leave, scared off by the armed and ruthless woman: and Doctor Watson’s voiceover begins with “To Sherlock Holmes, she was always The Woman, the beautiful Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.”
spoilers below the cut-tag