Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Tangled Skein (Big Finish Audio)

Some mild spoilers

A few weeks after concluding the Baskerville case, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson become involved in the affairs of the Lord of the Undead himself, Count Dracula.

Big Finish’s follow-up to their highly enjoyable adaptation of Conan Doyle’s classic tale The Hound of the Baskervilles is based on David Stuart Davies’ original novel, and therein lies its problem. This is a really well put together production, with effects, music and performance all combining to create a high standard of audio theatre, but it’s based on a story that simply isn’t on a par with the Doyle canon.

The Tangled Skein is a sequel to The Hound, picking up what Davies perceives as gaps in the original (the final fate of Stapledon, for example, is never made totally explicit in the Doyle tale), and combining it with elements of Hammer’s Dracula – and I use the possessive deliberately there, since as Davies wrote him, and Giles Watling faithfully reproduces on audio in Richard Dinnick’s adaptation, this is the Christopher Lee version of the Count rather than Stoker’s.

It’s a highly melodramatic tale, with exclamation marks apparent at the end of most sentences, particularly in the very cinematic chase sequences. It’s instructive to compare the confrontation between Holmes and Moriarty in Big Finish’s recent adaptation of The Final Problem with Holmes’ encounter with Stapledon here. The first displays verbal fencing and dexterity; the latter is pure melodrama – Barnaby Edwards digs his teeth into the scene, but it’s hard to believe this is the same character we heard in Baskervilles.

One of the aspects I’ve most admired about the Big Finish rendition of Holmes is Nick Briggs’ performance as Holmes: there’s an energy about it that the Great Detective needs at appropriate times, and a lethargy and ennui at others. Unfortunately through this tale, Briggs and Richard Earl have to give very heightened performances to communicate the urgency of the story, and it feels occasionally a little too one-note.

There have been numerous stories written in which Holmes encounters Dracula – Loren D. Estleman’s Adventure of the Sanguinary Count, and the comic mini-series Scarlet in Gaslight among them – but this version doesn’t particularly serve Holmes that well.

That said though, if you enjoy Victorian melodrama, close the curtains, light the fire and prepare for an encounter with terror.  6/10

Paul Simpson

Click here to order The Tangled Skein from Big Finish

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