The stories of the world’s greatest detective have been retold so many times that it’s hard to keep track of which ones to follow.
Recently there has been the immensely popular Sherlock series, the intense Elementary, and the comedic, computer-animated Sherlock Gnomes – all modern retellings of one of the world’s top literary figures. Taking Holmes out of his native Victorian era and into modern and strange settings has been quite a popular trend.
Yet despite these many compelling contemporary adaptations, the original time period of the Conan Doyle stories continues to be in demand across various mediums.
There’s Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter, a rich action/role-playing game in which the player steps into Holmes’ deductive shoes. Meanwhile, despite being a modern form of entertainment, the Sandlot online title Holmes embraces the Victorian period of the original stories.
Both games use elements of the original stories that have now become globally famous. And on the silver screen, there’s already talk of a third instalment of the Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes series slated to be released in 2020.
So while modern reinterpretations are fun, the increasing number of adaptations set in Conan Doyle’s time period proves that audiences still want stories from the original setting.
Here are five must-see Sherlock Holmes adaptations set in the Victorian era:
Speaking of Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr. (along with Jude Law who plays John Watson), no list of original time period adaptations would be complete without 2009’s Sherlock Holmes.
Apart from the fact that a third movie is already in the works ten years after the first film, what truly sets this film apart is how it has started many of the cinematic trends now prevalent in both period-accurate and modern Sherlock Holmes adaptations.
This includes the look and feel of director Guy Ritchie’s signature super-cuts and the slick combination of action and exposition.
Ian McKellen of Lord of the Rings and X-Men fame plays the titular detective – now 93 years old and living in retirement in Sussex.
Unhappy with how John Watson fictionalised his adventures as a detective, Holmes ventures to write his own versions of the tales, all while struggling to recall the details of his last case thanks to a faulty memory.
Thrown into the deep waters of his own mind, Holmes’ last big case is recalling his own past deeds and asking him to judge them.
Sherlock Holmes Baffled
This less-than-a-minute-long silent film was made in 1900. An unknown actor plays a Sherlock Holmes who is baffled as he struggles to catch and fight a female thief who seems to be able to appear and reappear out of thin air.
Although with very little plot, it’s a fun yet educational look at practical cinema effects in the early 20th century.
Intended to be seen using the single-viewer, hand-cranked Mutoscope, Baffled is a must-see relic of film.
Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars
While it’s uncertain for now whether Netflix’s own planned version of The Irregulars will be set in the original Victorian time period, the 2007 TV movie Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars without a doubt happens in the original timeline.
In the Conan Doyle stories, the Irregulars are a group of street urchins that help Holmes in solving cases, and this time, they’re involved in their biggest case yet – saving the detective himself from a murder accusation.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Considered by both fans and critics to be the definitive on-screen adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, Granada Television’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes ran from ’84 to ’94, lasting long enough to produce a total of 41 episodes.
Apart from the accurate reproductions of locations and events from the Conan Doyle stories, what truly set this show apart is its choice of Holmes – Shakespearean and musical theatre veteran (as well as My Fair Lady alumni) Jeremy Brett.
Having famously declared that “Holmes is the hardest part I have ever played – harder than Hamlet or Macbeth,” Brett dove deep into the original stories to create the quintessential Holmes that most audiences know and love.
If this list doesn’t wet your appetite for great period dramas, you can also look forward to the new Dracula TV show. It will be helmed by Sherlock creator Steven Moffat, and the good news is that he has already said that their new version will not be modernising the classic vampire story.
The complete Sherlock DVD box set is available on Amazon.