“The Final Problem/ The Empty House” is an audio double feature from Big Finish Productions featuring Sherlock Holmes starring Nicholas Briggs and Richard Earl as the crime solving duo of 221B Baker Street. Briggs has been quite busy in this one. He directed this release with the assistance of Ken Bentley as well as adapting the material written by the master himself, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This is a pivotal point in the original canon when Doyle tried to kill off his most famous literary creation and then brought him back to the pages of “The Strand” a few years later.
This has a pretty small cast that features Alan Cox as the malevolent Professor Moriarty alongside John Banks and Beth Chalmers. This is pretty much an audio book since Earl reads the narration as Dr. Watson almost word for word.
Nicholas Briggs gives a solid performance as Holmes. I am not sure why I have a bit of a hard time fully buying into his interpretation though. Sometimes he doesn’t sound quite as natural as I would prefer when reading some of the dialogue. He is a fellow Sherlockian so I don’t have the heart to be all that critical of his performance. Actually, I am getting used to his delivery, so I am not really that put off by him. I also do not find him to be bad in the role, but I may be too used to some of the prior thespians such as Basil and Jeremy. It may just be the way the prose is written in that it tempts him to sound a little more haughty than he needs to, although Holmes really isn’t the most humble of souls. Anyway, I actually have a tremendous respect for Briggs’ talents as a writer and producer, and he does well enough as an actor in other episodes. I enjoy his enthusiasm for Sherlock Holmes and the other ranges he works on for Big Finish. I am glad that Big Finish contribute to the Holmes legacy, and Briggs should continue to be a major part of that.
Richard Earl is the perfect choice for Watson. I found the way he pitched his voice when relating Watson’s reaction to Holmes’ sudden reappearance in his consulting room after being thought dead after the battle with Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland very enthralling. I have read these stories numerous times and watched the televised version starring Jeremy Brett as well, and it’s a great moment in all adaptations I have seen or heard. Earl probably has the hardest performance since he is the one speaking through most of the episodes, and he really is quite engaging.
John Banks plays the role of Colonel Sebastian Moran in “The Empty House”. He is a solid performer as well, but he delivers the hatred with gusto. He borders a bit on overacting during his brief moments, but Doyle’s style of writing can lend itself to such an approach at times.
I was pleased with how faithful this presentation was to the original stories published by Sir Arthur. The sound effects were quite convincing as well. The theme music also serves quite nicely in building the anticipation for the adventure to begin in earnest.
This is probably one of the strongest releases in this range, and it is largely due to the respect demonstrated to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original presentation of these two stories. It’s very enjoyable regardless of the how much I have read or experienced these two stories in the past.