Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"The Hounds of Baskerville"

“The Hound of the Baskervilles” may be the best thing Arthur Conan Doyle ever wrote. In a collection of great, imaginative stories, it stands alone. “The Hounds of Baskerville” on the other hand is the least successful adaptation thus far put forth by the creators of “Sherlock.” Maybe it is due to the sheer greatness of the source material, but it fails to thrill the way the other episodes of the series have.

For one thing the quirky updates of Holmesian lore seem especially tacked on. Add to that the fact that the very heart of a Holmes story—the deduction of truth through all of the carefully presented facts—is almost completely absent from the primary mystery.

To be fair, the original story is a bit more atmosphere than mystery. It is fairly clear early on that the fear inducing ghost hound is going to end up being something far more tangible. In this teleplay, they try to turn things on their head by presenting a presumed tangible beast, albeit manipulated through science, only to have it be more ghost of fear than creature. Even that fact is not really hidden in any way. Here, the solution is about as clear to the viewer as it is to Sherlock.

That being said, there is an interesting examination of the nature of fear in this story. We get to see plenty of people helplessly give into fear when they are chemically forced to do so. John has a remarkably similar reaction that is not stimulated by drugs, but rather suggestion. That is really what this story, even back when Doyle was telling it, is all about.

We are all easily manipulated through fear. A majority of the things we are afraid of are not realistically dangers, they are simply things that we have been conditioned to be afraid of. Advertising, politicians, religious leaders, and pretty much anyone wishing to hold sway over us uses fear all the time.

If people would rationally consider the ridiculously long list of things society tells us to fear, the world would probably and ironically become a lot less dangerous.

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