I am a Sherlock Holmes nut. And this promised something different, a portrait of Holmes in his retirement, aged ninety-three and beekeeping, losing his faculties (he writes people’s names on his cuff).
This isn’t the full story, though. We see him in middle-age in his last case, without Watson, and without the pipe and deerstalker he has been saddled with in penny dreadfuls.
So we see a man with deductive qualities, a quick mind, a cunning turn of phrase – and we see him elderly, frail, slipping towards dementia at the end of his life.
Ian McKellen joins the list of great Holmeses, and he brings something new and fresh to the role. We believe in him, and although he may not quite be Conan Doyle’s detective, he makes us believe in his methods and his interactions with others.
I liked the in-jokes (Ambrose Chappell from ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’; Nicholas Rowe playing the Sherlock Holmes our real Holmes sees at the cinema, this Holmes being no fiction …, Phil Davis who was in Sherlock’s Study in Pink appearing as a policeman).
But I didn’t like the housekeeper’s distrust of her son’s friendship with the old man – and in fact, although the boy was very good, I can’t see Holmes getting close to anyone. He didn’t form human relationships, other than the brotherly friendship with Watson.
The ‘cases’ are also frustratingly disjointed – the case of Ann Kelmot being misunderstood – and our glimpse of Watson is restricted to just hands and feet, we have no concrete figure to make flesh. ‘After all these years, John didn’t know me at all,’ muses Holmes, and tells us of their estrangement followed close upon by the death of the Doctor, leaving a lonely Holmes with his bees and his failing mind.