Sherlock Holmes (1984 TV series)

Sherlock Holmes is the overall title given to the series of Sherlock Holmes adaptations produced by the British television company Granada Television between 1984 and 1994. The first two series were shown under the title The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes and were followed by subsequent series with the titles of other short story collections by Arthur Conan Doyle. The series was broadcast on the ITV network in the UK and starred Jeremy Brett (who had earlier portrayed Dr Watson on stage in the Los Angeles production of The Crucifer of Blood[1] ) as the famous detective. His portrayal remains very popular and is accepted by some as the definitive on-screen version of Sherlock Holmes.[2][3][4]

Sherlock Holmes
Original opening title card. In subsequent series this wording would change.
Created byMichael Cox
StarringJeremy Brett
David Burke
Edward Hardwicke
Charles Gray
Colin Jeavons
Eric Porter
Rosalie Williams
Composer(s)Patrick Gowers
No. of series9 (including The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, plus 5 feature length specials)
No. of episodes41 (list of episodes)
Producer(s)ITV Granada
Running time50 to 104 minutes
Original networkITV
Original release24 April 1984 (1984-04-24) 
11 April 1994 (1994-04-11)

In addition, Holmes's faithful friend and companion Dr. Watson is portrayed as the kind of thoroughly competent sidekick that Holmes would want. Initially, Watson was portrayed by David Burke (who had earlier played the villain in an adaptation of "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet" for the 1965 BBC series[5] starring Douglas Wilmer and Nigel Stock). Burke appeared in the first year of the Adventures series before leaving to join the Royal Shakespeare Company.[6][7] He was replaced by Edward Hardwicke, (who had earlier had a role in an adaptation of "The Greek Interpreter" for the 1968 BBC series[8]) who played Watson for the remainder of the run.[7]

Of the 60 Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 42 were adapted in the series spanning 36 one-hour episodes and five feature-length specials. (Episode 40 incorporates the plot lines of both "The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone" and “The Adventure of the Three Garridebs”).


Set in the late Victorian era, Sherlock Holmes is the world's only consulting detective. His practice is largely with private clients, but he is also known to assist the police, often in the shape of Inspector Lestrade, when their cases overlap. His clients range from private citizens of modest means to members of Royalty. His ability to spot clues overlooked by others, bring certain specialist knowledge - for example chemistry, botany, anatomy - and deductive reasoning to bear on problems enable him to solve the most complex cases. He is assisted in his work by military veteran Dr John Watson, with whom he shares a flat at 221B Baker Street. He craves mental stimulation, and is known to relapse into depression when there are insufficiently complex cases to engage him.




The series was initially produced by Michael Cox, with later episodes produced by June Wyndham Davies. It was developed for television by screenwriter John Hawkesworth, who also wrote many of the episodes (all based on individual Conan Doyle stories). Other writers to adapt Doyle's stories in the series included Alexander Baron, Jeremy Paul, T.R. Bowen, and Alan Plater. A full-scale outdoor replica of Baker Street was constructed at Granada's studios in Quay Street, Manchester, which later formed a central part of the Granada Studios Tour tourist attraction, before that venue's closure in 1999.

In addition to Brett, Burke and Hardwicke, other regular cast members included Rosalie Williams as housekeeper Mrs. Hudson, and Colin Jeavons as Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard. Also appearing in several episodes was Charles Gray as Holmes' brother Mycroft Holmes (who played the same character in the 1976 film The Seven-Per-Cent Solution), and Eric Porter who portrayed Holmes's nemesis Professor Moriarty in the second series of Adventures. The role of the servant Joe Barnes who impersonates Lady Beatrice in the 1991 episode The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place was played by Jude Law, who later played Dr. Watson in the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes and its 2011 sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Helen Ryan made two guest appearances in the show as different characters, appearing in The Adventure of the Norwood Builder as Mrs McFarlane, and in The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone as the Princess of Wales (a role she previously played in Edward the Seventh). Inspector Bradstreet appeared in "The Blue Carbuncle", played by Brian Miller and then in "The Man with the Twisted Lip", "The Adventure of the Bruce Partington-Plans" and "The Mazarin Stone", played by Denis Lill.

The series came to an end owing to the death of Brett at the age of 61 from heart failure in 1995.[10]

The series is considered to present the most faithful screen adaptations of many of the Holmes stories,[11] although liberties were taken with some plotlines and characters, particularly later in the run during the 1990s episodes (for instance The Mazarin Stone, filmed in 1994, combined the plot elements of two separate Conan Doyle stories).[12] A big change was Holmes quitting his cocaine habit in the episode "The Devil's Foot," which was done with the approval of Conan Doyle's daughter, when it was discovered that the series had a considerable child audience.[13] Nonetheless, the series has been highly praised for the performance of Jeremy Brett, its adherence to Doyle's original concept in the characterisation of Watson, its high production values, and its close attention to period detail.[14][15]

As well as being broadcast by ITV in the UK, the series was also seen overseas, particularly in the United States, where the episodes initially ran on PBS stations in the Mystery! strand. Later series gained co-production funding from Boston PBS broadcaster WGBH. The shows have also been transmitted on two US cable television stations, Disney Channel and A&E Network, and on CBC in Canada. In the UK, the series has often been repeated: on Granada Plus; on ITV3; and on BBC Two, which ran the complete series on Saturday afternoons from 2003 to 2005. This makes it one of the very few programmes originally produced by an ITV company for broadcast on their own channel to have subsequently been shown on the BBC. In March 2006, the series returned to its original channel for the first time in over a decade, as part of the daytime television line-up on weekday afternoons.

The complete series has also been released on VHS and on DVD, twice on the latter medium, with the most recent 2005 release taking advantage of the digitally remastered film prints originally prepared for the BBC Two repeat run. In December 2012 the series was released on Blu-ray in Japan, in Spain in May 2013 in France in October 2013 and in the US in September 2014.[16]


The series ran for 41 episodes as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984–1985), The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1986–1988), The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (1991–1993) and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1994); 36 ran for 50 minutes, and 5 were feature-length specials.

The Four Oaks Mystery

In 1992 Brett and Hardwicke appeared in a mini-episode (about ten minutes in length) as part of The Four Oaks Mystery, shown as part of the ITV network's Telethon 92 charity telethon. This episode formed one of a four-part sequence of stories featuring the stars of four ITV detective shows of the time all separately working to solve the same mystery, broadcast at two episodes a night across one weekend. The other shows that produced mini-episodes for the special were Taggart, Van der Valk and Inspector Wexford.

Home media

Region 1

MPI Home Video has released the entire series on DVD in Region 1, in various incarnations. MPI released The Adventures & The Return in single disc volumes as well as complete collections. The Casebook & The Memoirs were released as a single collection box sets. In addition, on 25 September 2007, a complete series set was released featuring all 41 episodes in one complete collection for the very first time.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Boxed Set Collection 13 30 April 2002
The Return of Sherlock Holmes DVD Collection 13 26 August 2003
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes DVD Collection 9 28 September 2004
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes DVD Collection 6 26 October 2004
Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Granada Television Series 41 25 September 2007

Region 2

ITV DVD has released the entire series in various collections as well as a complete series box set.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
Sherlock Holmes: The Adventures / The Return 26 21 February 2005
Sherlock Holmes: The Case Book / The Memoirs 15 21 February 2005
Sherlock Holmes - The Complete Collection 41 21 February 2005 and 24 August 2009[17]

The Complete Collection mentioned above has English subtitles only. The complete series was released on Blu-ray in Spain in 2013.[18] Though native to Spain, the 10 disc set is region-free and thus can be played in any region of the world.

The Complete Collection was released a second time on Blu-ray in Germany in 2016. It has German subtitles only but German and English soundtracks. This is a 14 disc set and is marked region 'B'.[19]

In other media


During 1988–89 Brett and Hardwicke appeared in a West End play, The Secret of Sherlock Holmes, a two-hander written specially for them by the television series screenwriter Jeremy Paul.


  1. Eyles, Alan (1986). Sherlock Holmes: A Centenary Celebration. Harper & Row. pp. 119. ISBN 0-06-015620-1.
  2. The wide world of Sherlock Holmes: Jeremy Brett (1933-1995) Archived 5 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  3. Jeremy Brett: The Definitive Sherlock Holmes review
  4. Sherlock Holmes on Screen
  5. Daniel Smith (2011). The Sherlock Holmes Companion: An Elementary Guide. Castle Books. pp. 81, 108. ISBN 9780785827849.
  6. Peter Haining (1994). The Television Sherlock Holmes. Virgin Books. p. 172. ISBN 0863697933.
  7. Alan Barnes (2002). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. p. 118. ISBN 1903111048.
  8. Redmond, Christopher (2009). Sherlock Holmes Handbook: Second Edition. Dundurn Press. p. 244. ISBN 9781459718982.
  9. A Not So Elementary List of Filming Locations, retrieved 29 December 2017
  10. Gussow, Mel (14 September 1995). "Jeremy Brett, an Unnerving Holmes, Is Dead at 59". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  11. Adams, Guy (2014). Sherlock: The Casebook. Random House. p. 140. ISBN 9781448140329.
  12. Barnes, Alan (2011). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Titan Books. pp. 26, 117. ISBN 9780857687760.
  13. Conroy, Sarah Booth (14 November 1991). "Stalking Sherlock". The Washington Post. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  14. Barnes, Alan (2011). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Titan Books. p. 26. ISBN 9780857687760.
  15. Haynes, Natalie (14 May 2012). "Natalie Haynes's guide to TV detectives: #9 – Sherlock Holmes". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  16. "Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett) Blu-ray releases". M2N Limited. 27 May 2013. Retrieved 27 December 2013.
  17. "Sherlock Holmes - Complete Collection [DVD]: Jeremy Brett, David Burke, Edward Hardwicke, Eric Porter, Charles Gray, Rosalie Williams, David Carson, Alan Grint, John Bruce, Paul Annett: DVD". Retrieved 25 June 2010.
  18. Sherlock Holmes: The Complete ITV Series Blu-ray (Spain)
  19. Sherlock Holmes: The Complete ITV Series Blu-ray (Germany)


  • Peter Haining, The Television Sherlock Holmes, W.H. Allen, London, 1986. ISBN 0-491-03055-X.
  • Keith Frankel, "Granada's Greatest Detective, a Guide to the classic Sherlock Holmes television series", Fantom Publishing, Coventry England 2016. ISBN 978-1-78196-267-1.
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