Sherlock: The Hounds of Baskerville


We begin with a young boy being chased through an area of trees. It’s tense and the frames on the screen flicker. The boy becomes a man. It’s Russell Tovey, no stranger to canines in the woods (as a werewolf in Being Human).

Yes, it’s the 2nd episode of this 2nd series of Sherlock and a modern update of the most famous Holmes’ story – The Hound of the Baskervilles. Except this time there are plural hounds and a singular Baskerville. Henry (Russell Tovey) calls upon Star Trek Villain and Bilbo Baggins one morning when STV is in desperate need for nicotine and an interesting case. “Mr Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound” has STV hooked.

After a now customary “Sherlock” appraisal of Henry – came on first train from Exeter, had a disappointing breakfast, flirted with the girl who sat diagonally opposite, desperate for his first fag of the day – the case is on. STV and BB are soon driving through Exmoor to spy on the Baskerville Science Facility and check into a vegetarian inn. To solve the case of the giant hound that posh, rich Henry saw kill his father 20 years ago and reappear last night.

It’s handy that STV’s brother, Mycroft, works for the MoD as STV has stolen his ID card and is able to get access (for 20 minutes) to the Baskerville facility. We’ve already seen some familiar British TV actors – Stephen Wight (who I saw recently in the stage version of ‘The Ladykillers’) as a local tour guide who says he has also seen the ‘hound’, the top customs officer in The Shadow Line is Louise Mortimer, Henry’s therapist, and then in Baskerville we meet Dr Mike from Casualty/Greatjon Umber from Game of Thrones who is a Dr Bob Frankland and a regular reader of Watson’s blog, and a Dr Stapleton who was Head of Sustainability in Twenty Twelve. Sherlock recognises Stapleton as the mother of a young girl who had emailed him about her missing rabbit, who was last seen glowing in the dark, and realises that she had been doing genetic experiments on animals. Is there a link between her experiments and the giant hound?

When Dr Frankland offered Sherlock his ‘cell’ number I was confused. Gatiss/Moffat wouldn’t allow an Americanism to creep in, but were they pandering to an American audience? I’m glad it came up later that it was deliberate choice because Bob Frankland had lived in Indiana, US for a long time.

So they didn’t find anything in the lab and decide to visit the Moors at night with Henry. Watson sees a flashing light morse code signal, U.M.Q.R.A., but it’s actually the flashing light from some dogging (another canine connection). Sherlock “sees” the hound and is scared. To recover, back at the inn, he does some “Sherlocking” on a widowed mother and her adult son, and alienates Watson. They eventually make up, although Henry is becoming increasingly paranoid, seeing various memory flashes that include the words ‘Liberty’ and ‘in’.

Sherlock decides they must return to the lab again and this time gets Mycroft’s permission for a 24-hr visit. Locked in one of the labs, Watson thinks he sees the hound and locks himself up in a cage until Sherlock comes to rescue him. But there was no beast and Sherlock is convinced that a drug has induced these visions. He goes to his “mind palace” and eventually works out that Liberty In = Liberty, Indiana and a secret Science group called H.O.U.N.D.

And he hacks the facility’s computers to work out that the villain of the piece is Dr Bob Frankland, who had been a friend of Henry’s dad. He had been involved with the H.O.U.N.D. experiments on nerve gases that could be used in chemical warfare to induce paranoia and murder. He had secreted this gas in the fog in the hollow on the Moors where Henry had been with his father. He had then killed Henry’s father and Henry had seen the t-shirt Bob Frankland had worn which said ‘HOUND’ and had a picture of a wolf and the gas had played with his mind to conflate this to a gigantic hound. More recently, the same gas had played with the same paranoia and a normal-sized dog owned by the vegetarian inn-owners which roamed the moors was seen by Henry (and Sherlock) to be a gigantic one.

Other Comments:

  • Mrs Hudson is going out with Mr Chatterjee, the owner of the cafe next to 221B Baker Street until Sherlock lets slip that Chatterjee has a secret wife. As they’re leaving the house, Watson and Sherlock talk about Chatterjee’s wife in Doncaster, but that he also has another secret wife in Islamabad. I’ve got a friend who is a Chatterjee – people with that surname come from Kolkata in East India, not Pakistan. Yes, there is such a thing as migration but highly unlikely that you’d get a person with a Hindu surname living in London having a 2nd wife in Pakistan.
  • Lestrade also shows up in this episode. Although it is explained away that Mycroft insisted that he go down to check up on Sherlock, it seems a bit far-fetched that a London inspector would be needed down in Devon.
  • There’s an end coda with Moriarty being released from prison by Mycroft and his walls covered with the name Sherlock. Although I get that they’re trying to build up the tension for next week’s episode, it felt very tacked on and unnecessary for an episode that had really nothing to do with Moriarty (except for Sherlock’s flashes of him under the hallucinogenic gas on the Moor)
  • I wish Watson had more to do and was more useful in solving these cases then just mope and sigh at Sherlock, although his army background did come in handy when he was able to pull rank in the facility.

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3 Responses to Sherlock: The Hounds of Baskerville

  1. Tim says:

    A good, thought-provoking review. A few comments on some of the points you raised:

    I completely missed the reference to Frankland’s ‘cell’. D’oh! I’d dismissed Frankland originally because in the book he is a minor character, but as the story progresses you soon realise it has to be him and not Stapleton (who was the killer in the original).

    Not such a big episode for John, but didn’t you just love the way Sherlock admitted to him that: “I don’t have friends. I’ve got just one.” It was a beautiful, understated moment, and maybe the first time we have seen Sherlock openly acknowledge what John means to him.

    I agree it was a bit odd that Lestrade turned up, but remember he had been effectively sent by Mycroft rather than in an official police capacity. Lestrade also makes a brief appearance in the book, so Gatiss was also reflecting that. More importantly, he now has a name! The books only ever say his first initial is G.

    The coda was a bit tacked on, but it echoes the fact that we now know that Sherlock does actually fear him, as he sees his face when he unmasks Frankland.

    All in all, a pretty fine effort, although not quite on a par with last week’s episode.

    • Thanks for your comments. Yes, I do like the friendship between John and Sherlock – they play it really well and it’s obvious Sherlock relies on him, even if he doesn’t always use him. And the ‘friend’ line needed to be said.
      Last week was much better because it was also more fun; I wouldn’t recommend newbies to watch this episode first but I think this series, so far, looks like it will be more consistent than the first.

      • Tim says:

        Agreed. For sure, Baskerville was much better than last year’s second episode, the relatively mediocre Blind Banker. I think the fact quite a few people are grumbling about it shows just how high the bar has been set.

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