As a huge fan of all things mystery, be it books, movies, or TV, it is no surprise that I am delighted that BBC’s Sherlock series four has been green lighted for December 2015. But since we will have to wait over a year (NOOOOOO!!!!!!) before we can see a conclusion to the wonderfully tantalizing cliff hanger of series three, I’ve been satisfying my mystery cravings by rereading some of my favorite original Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And while doing so, I couldn’t help but speculate as to what short stories co-creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat will adapt for the modern setting we have come to know and love. So I’ve made a list of the top five original Sherlock Holmes stories I would like to see brought to life in series four, or beyond.
*Disclaimer: These are not ordered with any particular rhyme or reason in mind. They are each written in their own respective paragraphs, and I numbered them simply to keep track of my place.
1. The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
While the beginning of the adventure is relatively commonplace, it is quickly revealed to be something far more interesting than a “whimsical little incident” as Holmes initially believes. The story consists of Watson and Holmes tracking down the thief of the blue carbuncle, an extraordinary blue diamond found inside the most unlikely, but wonderfully Sherlockian of places: inside of a Christmas goose’s throat. Now, here we have before us perfect material for the basis of a Sherlock episode. The general trend in the show is to loosely base all the cases on the original stories to some degree or another, while still bringing in new ideas and new mysteries. With the scenario that we are presented with in “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle,” we have what I believe to be a great setup for something huge; perhaps a gang of international diamond smugglers who owe their success to Moriarty, and are now seeking revenge on Sherlock for taking out their leader. (They could be responsible for the mysterious message supposedly left by Moriarty at the end of series three.) Not only that, but since the original story is set during the holidays, we have what could be the basis of the Sherlock Christmas Special that we have been craving.
2. The Musgrave Ritual
The Musgrave Ritual has it all: ancient treasure, a secret code hidden within a coming of age ritual of one of Britain’s oldest families, mysterious disappearance, it’s just begging to be turned into a TV episode! Like “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” I see this as an episode that follows the original story fairly closely, with a few little modern twists. While the “Hound of the Baskervilles” had a military research facility and chemical weapons to up the ante, “The Musgrave Ritual” could perhaps feature a larger scale treasure hunt than the original story, maybe with a race across the continent to get to the treasure before the villain does. Additionally, the story is told by Holmes to Watson one afternoon at Baker Street, the original case taking place before the two had met and before Holmes was very well known for his actions. This could be an interesting opportunity for character development by showing us some of Sherlock’s past, in the form of telling John a story about one of his earlier cases. However, it would still be easy enough to simply write John in to the story and have it be set in their present relationship of detective and blogger.
3. The Red Headed League
This story, akin to “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans” or “The Five Orange Pips,” has potential to be influential on an episode, but not the basis of an entire story. A relatively straight forward bank robbery with a peculiar twist, it is one of the better known Holmes stories, despite being not very lengthy or puzzling. Singular, certainly; but not worthy of an hour and a half of screen time. But, as I mentioned earlier, it could still be influential in an episode that devotes more of its time to developing the overall storyline, particularly with Moriarty’s apparent return for series four. “The Great Game,” while being a fantastic episode and a brilliant reveal for Sherlock’s nemesis, has very little to do with the original books. The five beeps from the pink phone and Sherlock’s explanation for them are a brief nod to “The Five Orange Pips,” in which five orange seeds are used as a death threat/warning, similar to the Chinese numbers in “The Bent Banker.” The missile plans and the mystery surrounding them are from “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans” in which important naval secrets are stolen and the clerk in charge is the main suspect. However, the bombings and the thread with Moriarty are mostly made up out of Gatiss and Moffat’s heads, with little nods to the originals here or there. I see a main story episode being birthed from “The Red Headed League,” one that further develops our beloved characters and provides an explanation for the strange ending of series three.
4. The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb
One of the biggest things I find intriguing about the possibility of seeing “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” brought to life on screen is not the case itself, though it is an exciting one, but the fact that Watson is the one who first discovers it, and then brings it to Holmes’s attention. A patient arrives at Watson’s private practice early in the morning, with his thumb cut off by a large, blunt instrument. After explaining that he was attacked, but that there is very little evidence and it is unlikely justice will be served, Watson immediately calls a cab and takes him to Holmes to have the whole story told. I find myself imagining our modern Sherlock realizing that this time John has beaten him to the punch with such an interesting case as this, and can’t help but laugh. This alone makes it worth putting into an episode, just for the sake of seeing Sherlock so surprised, and probably a little peeved as well. As for the actual mystery, I envision this being one of the cases that they change the original name in such a way that they can write their own story, with bits of the original thrown in. The dying murderous cabby from “A Study in Pink,” for example, is quite different from the perpetrator of “A Study in Scarlet,” though the method he uses to kill is similar. I think that an story original to Gatiss and Moffat, entitled something along the lines of “The Astronaut’s Thumb” or “The Entertainer’s Thumb,” in which the start of the case is the same but the cause of the cut off thumb and eventual solution to the mystery is very different is more likely than an exact retelling of the events laid out in the original.
5. The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier
Again, my interest in this case has less to do with the case itself than it does with the characters surrounding it. “The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier” was chronicled, not by Watson, but by Holmes himself. Imagine, if you would, an episode focused on Sherlock, after being goaded by John to do so, attempting to write out a case for the blog readers. We would be in for a treat, that’s for sure. Writing in a way that is interesting to readers is not, I think, one of Sherlock’s talents. Indeed, when trying to write his best man’s speech he confides in Lestrade “This is hard. The hardest thing I’ve ever done.” So an episode focusing on those difficulties would be not only hilarious, but would give us another great opportunity to try and figure out how Sherlock ticks. The case itself is a good one too. A mysterious disappearance of an old Army friend and a strange disfigurement are enough to hold any reader’s attention, although it must be escalated for Sherlock’s purposes, as must all the original Doyle stories. I hope I do not spoil too much of “The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier” by saying that an deadly illness is involved. Perhaps we could have John and Sherlock prevent a pandemic, all told in retrospect as Sherlock tries in vain to write out the case as well as John writes all the others.
So, those are my five picks for original Arthur Conan Doyle stories to be featured in series four of Sherlock. Which one would you most like to see Gatiss and Moffat tackle? Let me know in the comments below, and until we find out what Moriarty is up to now, (Did you miss him?) check out some good old fashioned Sherlock Holmes, you won’t regret it!