Brett, Burke, and the Greatest Friendship Ever

Some excerpts from a lovely interview with Jeremy Brett were making the rounds on Twitter recently. (The full interview was published in the Fall 1985 issue of The Armchair Detective.) In the article, Brett talks a bit about how he and David Burke approached character development, especially for Doctor Watson:

We asked ourselves, “Who’d stay with Holmes? Well, Watson does. But therefore why does he stay?” All right, he’s fascinated with deduction – he still has never recovered [from the surprise at] Holmes’s knowing he had just come back from Afghanistan – but there’s more than that.

Holmes was obviously not an easy person to live with, what with the indoor shooting practice and the chemical experiments and the impromptu violin practice at all hours. Yet, Watson stays.

I think that what I found in what I call the under-bedding of the part is that somehow Watson sees this man’s need. First of all, Holmes falls apart when he’s not working. […] So he’s obviously a problem child as well as a brilliant friend. Watson sees that. Watson sees that Holmes can’t say “Thank you”; he can’t say “Good night,” can’t say “Help.”

Best friendship in human history, Holmes and Watson. They balance each other. They need each other.

If Watson suddenly decided to go and live, let’s say, in Madagascar, Holmes would be dead inside of six weeks. And that’s what we chose to play.

Selena Buttons went in search of the original magazine issue to read the full interview, but, while the local used bookshop had several issues of The Armchair Detective from the mid-90s and even more from the late-70s, they did not have this particular one from 1985.

What do you think of the way the Granada series portrayed the relationship between Holmes and Watson? Do you have a favorite moment?

But what Holmes does occasionally is rather sweet little things like in “A Scandal in Bohemia” he tells Watson, “You see, I did remember you were coming; here are your cigars.” And it’s the little things that mean a lot. I tried to show how much Holmes does actually need Watson without actually saying it.

8 Replies to “Brett, Burke, and the Greatest Friendship Ever”

  1. I looked at the Toronto Public Library catalogue and they may have a copy of the Fall 1985 issue of The Armchair Detective. If so, I will forward a copy of the article to Selena Buttons.

      1. The Arthur Conan Doyle Collection at the Toronto Public Library had a copy of the Fall 1985 issue of the Armchair Detective.

    1. 1. I will not be able to get Julie Andrews’ voice out of my head for the rest of the day.

      2. That post is top-notch. I might just look at it for the rest of the day. (Take that, Rodgers and Hammerstein.)

  2. I like the little things that Holmes does for Waatson. I argee that shows for me the depth of the relationship between them. That is quite rare and one of the reasons I turn to the Cannon to help me through the days.

  3. It has been some time since I have watched the Granada series, so I cannot identify a favorite moment that portrays the friendship between Holmes and Watson. My favorite example from the Canon is when Watson is shot in the Adventure of the Three Garridebs and Holmes says, “You’re not hurt, Watson? For God’s sake, say that you are not hurt!” It shows how much Holmes really cares about Watson.

  4. I think the best friendship moment in the Granada series is the moment Holmes is terrified that Watson has been hurt by the Devil’s foot, and he calls for “John” rather than for “Watson”. I think it may be the only time in the series that Watson is called by his first name. My second favorite is in DYIN and Holmes tells Watson that he knows Watson is a good doctor, one who could not be fooled up close. Brett nails the moment perfectly: showing warmth and respect for Watson.

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