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Timeshift: How to be Sherlock Holmes - Review * 11 January 2014


An excellent, thorough overview of the screen legacy of the greatest fictional detective, 'Timeshift: How to be Sherlock Holmes - The Many Faces of a Master Detective' features a superb array of interviewees and is an essential watch for any fan of the character. Narrated by Peter Wyngarde, it opens with a beautifully cut montage of striking spoken-to-camera-statements by Douglas Wilmer, Christopher Lee, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Gatiss, and Tim Pigott-Smith that highlight facets of the character, all intercut with footage of the myriad screen versions of Holmes including Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey Jr, Peter Cushing and Douglas Wilmer. As well as the actors, the piece also enlists other speakers such as P.D. James and Nicholas Meyer to examine the character.


The documentary pays particular attention to the growth and popularity of Holmes onscreen as the world changes through modern history, charting the shifts from modernity to period to modernity again throughout the every growing number of interpretations. From Gilette's initial stage appearance and Rathbone's patriotic efforts to Hammer's renowned version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, it brings us bang up to date with due attention paid to the legacy of Jeremy Brett, and a bookending focus on the current modern day BBC incarnation.  

It is also filled with remarkable, funny stories. Douglas Wilmer is excellent fun in particular - his Holmes was renowned for his melancholy, and so he reads an angry piece of fan mail received after he laughed in character onscreen - while the legendary Christopher Lee warmly remembers his great friend Peter Cushing. To say any more would be to spoil the tales and insight you'll discover when you watch this fascinating documentary, so it comes with our very highest recommendation.

Timeshift: How to be Sherlock Holmes - The Many Faces of a Master Detective premieres on BBC Four on January 12 2014 at 22:00GMT.