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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - "The Final Problem"

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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes aired "The Final Problem" on April 17, 1955. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's short story was originally published in the December 1893 issue of The Strand Magazine. While one of the most popular of Doyle's Holmes' stories, it is also without doubt the most controversial, for it is with this story that Doyle decided to end the Sherlock Holmes character in order to write more serious work, and do the unthinkable by killing Holmes off. Fans were furious and campaigned long and hard enough that a few years later Doyle would resurrect Holmes following the events in "The Final Problem," wherein it was assumed both Holmes and his dread nemesis Professor Moriarty had fought each other to the death, crashing to their mutual deaths in Switzerland in hand to hand combat, falling over a narrow precipice at the edge of (the now rather famous and real) Reichenbach Falls (see plaque at right, written in English, German, and French).

There have been several incarnations of Sherlock Holmes during the Golden Age of Radio, dating from 1930, when a diehard Holmes fan--and a woman--was solely responsible for bringing Holmes and Watson to radio, and to which all Holmes fan owe a great debt. From an episode we ran back in November of 2013, we recount the highlights concerning the remarkable story of Edith Meiser (1898-1993), and how, while beloved of Holmes' fans, she was not allowed into the all-male Baker Street Irregulars until its policy changed in 1991. That story is here, along with other facts of interest to SF fans.

From Sherlock Holmes first radio broadcast in 1930 there have been a handful of actors playing Holmes and Watson, some excellent and all acceptable. One of the excellent pairings of Holmes and Watson can be found in this episode, with none other than Sir John Gielgud as Holmes, and Sir Ralph Richardson as Watson, who had been performing in their respective roles for some time. A real boon to this ultimate Holmes episode, however, comes in hearing the rich tones of none other than Orson Welles as Professor Moriarty.

Sherlockian trivia buffs will know that while Holmes' fans were vocal in their outrage at Doyle killing of the great sleuth, it would be nearly 10 years before his reappearance with 1902's full-length novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, which was set before Holmes' "death." In 1903, however, Holmes was resurrected in a story set after his and Moriarty's supposed demise, in 1903's short story "The Adventure of the Empty House." When ranking his personal favorite Holmes stories, Doyle placed "The Final Problem" fourth and "The Adventure of the Empty House" sixth. Not bad considering there were a grand total of 56 Holmes stories (and only four novels, The Hound of the Baskervilles being the third).

(Illustrations: top right, Holmes and Moriarity; above left, Reichenbach Falls by Sidney Paget, from The Strand Magazine, December 1893.)

Play Time: 27:05

{After listening with rapt attention to this Sherlock Holmes broadcast and in the mood for more, the neighborhood gang would head for the corner drugstore to look for more in the same vein. Unfortunately, the pulp magazine crash of 1953 would decimate the pulp magazine ranks of all genres, hitting the detective pulps perhaps harder than others. Times had changed by 1955 and the "new" detective digests just didn't look the same. Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine began in the Fall of 1941 and still runs strong today. The Saint Detetive Magazine ran from the Fall of 1953 until 1961. And one of the last of the pulp detective magazines, Famous Detective Stories would end its long 20-year run in 1957. Top row below shows covers of these three from April of 1955. While the Famous Detective Stories' cover held some nostalgic appeal, it wasn't enough to get any of the gang to check it out. And the "new" more streamlined and comparatively unexciting covers of the other two failed to empty pockets as well. And since Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine wouldn't see its first issue until 2008 (it has published but 16 issues from Winter 2008 up to its most recent issue of April 2015), our imaginatively starved little aliens decided to purchase those magazines they knew and loved, examples of which are shown on the bottom row.}

[Left: EQMM, April 1955 - Center: The Saint, April 1955 - Right: Famous Detective, April 1955]

          

[Left: Astounding, April 1955 - Center: Imagination, April 1955 - Right: Startling Stories, Spring 1955]

                 

To view the entire list of weekly Old Time Radio episodes at Tangent Online, click here.