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Jeremy Brett portrayed the stoic and easily irritated Sherlock Holmes while Edward Hardwicke — who replaced David Burke on the series in 1985 — played his loyal sidekick Dr. Watson.
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|Sherlock Holmes’s sidekick (6)|
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The Case of the Sidekick: The Roles of Dr. John Watson in Sherlock Holmes Canon by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
John Watson who acts differently as a sidekick for Sherlock Holmes as a protagonist of the stories.
Throughout the canon, Watson does not merely act as a supporter or a man-behind who just follows Holmes’s moves.
In many occasions, Watson contributes varied significant things in supporting Holmes through some roles he possesses. Moreover, what Watson contributes is found out to be influential to Holmes.
The 100 Best, Worst, and Strangest Sherlock Holmes Portrayals of All-Time, Ranked
We’re ranking Sherlock Holmes performances. One hundred of them. Not Sherlock Holmes adaptations, but the representations within them of Sherlock Holmes himself. Now, you might think that you know the best Sherlock Holmes, but as the man himself has said, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.” I have just watched one hundred different portrayals of Sherlock Holmes. I have the data. And now it’s time to theorize. Even, to deduce.
There are so many excellent and varied takes on Sherlock Holmes. Please know that ranking them was very, very hard to do, and while I took lot of pleasure in researching and writing this piece, I took no pleasure in making any of the decisions. In fact, this was the hardest list I have ever had to put together. Hardly, if you’ll pardon the phrase, elementary.
Here are the rules:
What are the criteria we’re using to rank these portrayals? Fidelity to the source text? Creativeness of the interpretations? Resemblance to Sidney Paget’s illustrations? Quality of acting? Kind of. Simply put, portrayals are ranked in their ability to present a Holmes who makes sense as a derivation of the original character while exploring, interrogating, and expanding the character’s qualities in a thoughtful and meaningful way. And of course, yes, the quality of the performance itself matters.
There have been so many wonderful theatrical portrayals of our Man from Baker Street, but unfortunately, we can include almost none of them!
We can only rank Sherlocks that everyone has access to, so only ones whose representations are on video of some kind, which sadly excludes performances by Alan Rickman, Alan Tudyk.
and several other Alans, as well as men with other first names. (This also excludes any performance from the 1965 Broadway musical Baker Street, and I apologize, although not really.)
Excluded from this ranking, also, are radio portrayals of Holmes, which also sadly excludes performances by Orson Welles, John Gielgud, and Nigel Bruce (which is a cute twist, as he is famous for playing Watson in the Rathbone films).
Please note that we’re ranking Sherlock Holmes portrayals (characters who are literally supposed to be Sherlock Holmes), not portrayals of characters who are based on or inspired by Sherlock Holmes. Gregory House is not on this list. Repeat. Gregory House is not on this list.
Neither is Owen Wilson’s “Sherlock Holmes” in Shanghai Knights. And neither is Douglas Fairbanks’s spoofy Sherlock character “Coke Ennyday.”
such as Basil of Baker Street
Moving right along! If a character does not have the same name as Holmes (such as Basil of Baker Street) it is because virtually everything else about him is the exact same.
This might seem like splitting hairs (or fur, in Basil’s case) but it is important.
Characters named after Sherlock Holmes, but not literally adapting Holmes, are not on this list. So this excludes, WITH MY SINCERE APOLOGIES THIS TIME, Buster Keaton’s “Sherlock Jr.” I am, however, including performances of characters who falsely believe themselves to be Sherlock Holmes.
So, yes, I AM including those episodes of Star Trek about how Data thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes, yes, calm down, you nerds.
A final note. THE FOLLOWING TWENTY FIVE ACTORS played Holmes on film and/or TV, but their versions ARE NOT ACCESSIBLE.
(as they are in private/special collections in libraries I’m not able to visit, or international versions unavailable in the U.S., or, tragically, have been lost).
But I wanted to nod to them somehow, anyway. So, here is the brief list of ones we had to cut out, not ranked. Deerstalkers off to you, gentlemen.
100. Henry Cavill, Enola Holmes (2020)
My apologies to the Man of Steel, but he’s at the very bottom of our list. Henry Cavill’s Holmes, a distant older brother to the plucky teenage protagonist Enola (Millie Bobby Brown), is brawny, stony, stiff, and altogether dull.
In a performance that consists mostly of staring out from windows and filling out a navy double-breasted frock coat, nothing about Cavill’s performance suggests intelligence or even rumination of any kind.
Interestingly, Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate sued the film for making Holmes appear too sensitive, which is funny, because I’ve seen calabash pipes with greater depth.
99. Will Ferrell, Holmes & Watson (2018)
Holmes & Watson, which is such a vacuous movie, features gung-ho performances by Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as Holmes and Watson (respectively). Will Ferrell, who is otherwise a talented man, gives a performance of a very idiotic Holmes (who somehow is thought of as a genius, though it is unclear HOW this came to be). Any meaningful parody is weighed down by poor screenwriting, particularly jokes that seem more invested in spoofing both the Victorian and modern eras than doing anything with the character. Ferrell is capable of better, and deserves it. Though I did kind of appreciate what appeared to be his impression of Robert Downey Jr’s full-mouthed, pretentious British accent, the few times it appeared.
98. Johnny Depp, Sherlock Gnomes (2018)
Most days I enjoy my job, and other days I have to watch Sherlock Gnomes, a film in which Johnny Depp does his Jack Sparrow voice to play an anthromorphized ceramic figurine.
97. Bernie Winters, 3-2-1, “Sherlock Holmes” (1983)
The incomprehensible English trivia game show 3-2-1 had a “Sherlock Holmes” episode which also featured a clip in which actors played Holmes and Watson. So it’s on here.
Holmes is a large, wheezing man who owns a Saint Bernard and is bad at realizing Watson is talking instead of the dog. I’m sorry, did you expect better Holmesian content from a television show whose co-host is, and I’m not even joking, a robot garbage can?
96. Hans Albers, Der Mann, Der Sherlock Holmes War (1937)
The Germans made a lot of Sherlock Holmes movies in 1937, and a bunch of them involve guys with stereotypically English names who turn out to be Sherlock Holmes in disguise.
This film is no different; the German (and eventually kind of Nazi) movie star Hans Albers plays “Morris Flynn,” a guy who turns out to really be… Holmes.
Albers has a very spooky, bright gaze, as if if his irises are somehow clear, and I don’t like it. The good news about the film, on the whole, is that Watson’s alter-ego is named “Macky McMacpherson” .
and I really enjoy that the Germans thought this would be a believable name for an Englishman.
The bad news is, again, that Hans Albers was kind of a Nazi. Or, he didn’t not benefit from the rise of Nazis, let’s put it that way.
John H. Watson, known as Dr. Watson, is a fictional character in the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Along with Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson first appeared in the novel A Study in Scarlet (1887). The last work by Doyle featuring Watson and Holmes is the short story “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place” (1927), though this is not the last story in the timeline of the series, which is “His Last Bow” (1917).
The year of Watson’s birth is not stated in the stories. William S. Baring-Gould and Leslie S. Klinger estimate that Watson was born in 1852.