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Sherlock Holmes (1965 TV series)

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Title: Sherlock Holmes (1965 TV series)  
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Subject: The Masks of Death, Sherlock Holmes, Barry Jones (actor), Patrick Troughton, The Hound of the Baskervilles
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Sherlock Holmes (1965 TV series)

Sherlock Holmes
Starring Douglas Wilmer
Nigel Stock
Peter Cushing
Composer(s) Max Harris
No. of series 2
No. of episodes 29 Episode list
Producer(s) William Sterling
David Goddard
Running time 50 minutes
Original channel BBC
Original run 1965 – 1968

Sherlock Holmes (alternatively Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes) is a series of Sherlock Holmes adaptations produced by British television company BBC between 1965 and 1968.[1] This was the second screen adaption of Sherlock Holmes for BBC Television.


In 1964, the BBC secured rights to adapt any five Sherlock Holmes stories with an option for a further eight[2] from the Doyle estate.[2] A handful of Doyle's stories were excluded from the deal: The Hound of the Baskervilles because Hammer Films' rights would not expire until 1965[2] following their 1959 film adaptation,[2] and "A Scandal in Bohemia", "The Final Problem" and "The Adventure of the Empty House" which had been secured by producers of the Broadway musical Baker Street.[2]

In 1964, an adaptation of "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" was commissioned as a pilot for a twelve part series of Sherlock Holmes stories.[3][4] Giles Cooper penned the adaptation and Douglas Wilmer was cast as Holmes and Nigel Stock as Watson, with Felix Felton as Dr. Grimesby Roylott.[4]

The hour-long pilot was aired as an episode of Detective[5][6] on 18 May[4] and was popular enough to re-air on 25 September.[4] Wilmer and Stock were secured for a twelve part black-and-white series to air the following year.

Wilmer was a lifelong fan of Doyle's stories[4] and looked forward to portraying the legendary sleuth.

The part interested me very much because I’d never really, I felt, seen it performed to its full capacity. There’s a very dark side to Holmes, and a very unpleasant side to him. And I felt that this was always skirted round which made him appear rather sort of hockey sticks and cricket bats and jolly uncles… a kind of dashing Victorian hero. He wasn’t like that at all. He was rather sardonic and arrogant, and he could be totally inconsiderate towards Watson. I tried to show both sides of his nature.[7]

Wilmer later stated that the series was riddled with incompetence[7] and the scripts often came in late.[7] He claimed that the scriptwriters ranged from "the brilliant to the absolutely deplorable."[6] Some of the scripts were so lacking in quality that Wilmer himself rewrote them[7] sometimes staying up until two o'clock in the morning rewriting.[6]

With the popularity of the series, the BBC inquired about Wilmer's availability for another series.[8] Wilmer turned down the opportunity after discovering the plan to reduce the number of rehearsal days.[7][8] In 1973, Wilmer played author Jacques Futrelle's Holmesian detective Professor Van Dusen in The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes for ITV. In 1975 he once again appeared as Holmes (albeit in a supporting role) in Gene Wilder's The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother, with Thorley Walters as Dr. Watson.

The BBC searched for a new actor to play Holmes. The first person BBC television drama chief Andrew Osborn suggested was John Neville.[8] Neville had previously assayed the role in 1965's A Study in Terror and Nigel Stock felt the film was quite good.[8] Neville had prior commitments to the Nottingham Playhouse and was unable to appear in a series at the time.

Next, Osborn looked at Eric Porter.[8] While Porter ultimately did not get the role, he did portray Professor Moriarty opposite Jeremy Brett's Holmes in Granada Television's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.[8]

Finally, Peter Cushing was approached to take over the role of Sherlock Holmes for the 1968 series.[4][8] Having already played Holmes in the 1959 Hammer films adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, Cushing was eager to play the role again. Like Wilmer, Cushing was an avid fan of Doyle[4] and looked forward to portraying the detective correctly.

What are the things that spring to mind about Sherlock Holmes? The way he keeps saying, "Elementary, my dear Watson," and the number of times he puffs that meerschaum pipe. But they are both untrue![4]

Cushing's series featured a two-part version of The Hound of the Baskervilles giving Cushing another go round at the tale.[4] This version was the first actually filmed on Dartmoor.[4]

Unlike the Wilmer series, this one would be produced in full color.[8] Though the series was in color, there were economic cut-backs which required production to abandon plains for celebrity villains such as Peter Ustinov, George Sanders, and Orson Welles.[4][9]

However, as filming commenced Cushing found himself facing production difficulties[4] the likes of which had prompted Wilmer to forgo another round.

Wilmer later asked Cushing how he had enjoyed making the series:

...[Later] I asked him how he had enjoyed doing the Holmes series. He replied tersely to the effect that he would rather sweep Paddington Station for a living than go through the experience again. He had my sympathies![10]

Filming time was cut back.[4] Cushing stated that the hectic schedule affected his performance.

Whenever I see some of those stories they upset me terribly, because it wasn't Peter Cushing doing his best as Sherlock Holmes - it was Peter Cushing looking relieved that he had remembered what to say and said it![4]

The Cushing series was still a success and the BBC's Andrew Osborn was interested in making a third series.[8] Had this third series commenced, the plan was to dramatise stories from The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes, a short story collection written by Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr.[8] This potential third series never came to pass.


The initial 1965 series was popular with over 11 million viewers per episode.[4] The 1968 series was even more popular upwards of 15.5 million viewers[8] and one episode topping the top 20 programs chart.[8] The West-German WDR channel remade 6 episodes in 1967 and 1968, based on the scripts of the first series.[11]

Reviewing the series for DVD Talk, Stuart Galbraith IV wrote, "To my surprise I generally preferred the Wilmer episodes to those starring Peter Cushing, even though I consider myself more a fan of Cushing while I merely admire Wilmer as an excellent actor. ... This series may seem downright prehistoric to some, but I found it to be surprisingly atmospheric, intelligent, and engaging, and Wilmer and Stock make a fine Holmes and Watson, in the top 25% certainly."[12]

Galbraith further said of the Cushing episodes, "The 1968 Sherlock Holmes television series isn't really up to the level of the best film and TV adaptations, but it's still fun to see cult character actor Peter Cushing sink his teeth into the role again, and the adaptations themselves are respectable, just not distinctive."[13]





  1. The Illustrious Client - 20 February 1965
  2. The Devil's Foot - 27 February 1965
  3. The Copper Beeches - 6 March 1965
  4. The Red-Headed League - 13 March 1965
  5. The Abbey Grange - 20 March 1965 (first half of episode missing, full soundtrack exists)
  6. The Six Napoleons - 27 March 1965
  7. The Man with the Twisted Lip - 3 April 1965
  8. The Beryl Coronet - 10 April 1965
  9. The Bruce-Partington Plans - 17 April 1965 (second half of episode missing, full soundtrack exists)
  10. Charles Augustus Milverton - 24 April 1965
  11. The Retired Colourman - 1 May 1965
  12. The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax - 8 May 1965


  1. The Second Stain - 9 September 1968 (missing episode)
  2. The Dancing Men - 16 September 1968 (missing episode)
  3. A Study in Scarlet - 23 September 1968
  4. The Hound of the Baskervilles (part 1) - 30 September 1968
  5. The Hound of the Baskervilles (part 2) - 7 October 1968
  6. The Boscombe Valley Mystery - 14 October 1968
  7. The Greek Interpreter - 21 October 1968 (missing episode)
  8. The Naval Treaty - 28 October 1968 (missing episode)
  9. Thor Bridge - 4 November 1968 (missing episode)
  10. The Musgrave Ritual - 11 November 1968 (missing episode)
  11. Black Peter - 18 November 1968 (missing episode)
  12. Wisteria Lodge - 25 November 1968 (missing episode)
  13. Shoscombe Old Place - 2 December 1968 (missing episode)
  14. The Solitary Cyclist - 9 December 1968 (missing episode)
  15. The Sign of Four - 16 December 1968
  16. The Blue Carbuncle - 23 December 1968

Home video releases

In 1996 BBC Video released a single VHS cassette in the UK, containing The Speckled Band and The Illustrious Client.

In 2002 BBC Learning released The Hound of the Baskervilles on DVD, for sale by direct mail order in the UK only. The episodes was re-released by BBC Video for retail Region 2 sale in 2004, along with two further discs containing A Study in Scarlet and The Boscombe Valley Mystery, and The Sign of Four and The Blue Carbuncle respectively. The Region 1 release of these issues as a single box-set followed on 15 December 2009.[14] These six episodes are the only ones to survive from the Cushing series.[15]

Following the success of the Cushing release, the Region 1 Wilmer collection was released on 14 September 2010.[16] This set contains all the surviving complete episodes from the 1965 series, but not the two incomplete episodes.[17]


  1. ^ Sherlock Holmes at IMDB
  2. ^ a b c d e Alan Barnes (2002). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. pp. 41–42.  
  3. ^ Alan Barnes (2002). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. pp. 138–143.  
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Peter Haining (1994). The Television Sherlock Holmes.  
  5. ^ episode #1.8 "The Speckled Band"Detective at IMDB
  6. ^ a b c Daniel Smith (2011). The Sherlock Holmes Companion: An Elementary Guide. Castle Books. pp. 79–81.  
  7. ^ a b c d e Matthew Coniam (2009-05-10). "An Interview With Douglas Wilmer". Retrieved 2011-05-29. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Alan Barnes (2002). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. pp. 178–186.  
  9. ^ Tony Earnshaw (2001). An Actor and a Rare One. Scarecrow Press. p. 33.  
  10. ^ "Peter Cushing (1919-1994)". Retrieved 2011-05-29. 
  11. ^ "Sherlock Holmes - WDR (West-German) TV series". IMDB. Retrieved 2014-12-02. 
  12. ^ "Sherlock Holmes - The Classic BBC Series Starring Douglas Wilmer : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Retrieved 2011-05-29. 
  13. ^ "The Sherlock Holmes Collection : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Retrieved 2011-05-29. 
  14. ^ (1968)Sherlock Holmes at
  15. ^ Stuart Douglas. "Sherlock Holmes Missing Episodes". Retrieved 2014-01-08. 
  16. ^ (1965)Sherlock Holmes at
  17. ^ "Sherlock Holmes News". 2010-05-21. Retrieved 2011-05-29. 

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