Saturday, 25 June 2011

Taking Watson Seriously

In 1987 the Radio Times for December 5-11 printed a series of articles in honour of the first appearance a hundred years earlier of A Study Scarlet in Beeton's Christmas Annual. Tim Piggott-Smith, one of the few actors to have played both Holmes and Watson, had this to say about the latter: "You always have to take [him] seriously as a practising doctor, and some of the bits that work best are when Watson is examining a victim and naming the bones which have been damaged." While this is a moot point for some of us and may have been made in stage productions rather than stressed in the canon, the Doctor "represents the average reader". He is there "so that Holmes can think out loud." But for Piggott-Smith, the most important point about Watson is that he stands for decency and straightness -the perfect upright citizen. "It all serves to throw the character of Sherlock Holmes into even sharper relief." A strange man, with something chilling about him, a sense of cruelty beneath the surface. "If you had to choose between Holmes and Watson as holiday companions, you might find Watson a little dull, but a much easier person to be with [and] I think it's pretty terrific what Conan Doyle has achieved with him."    

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