Sherlock Recap: The Hounds of Baskerville

Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock: The Hounds of Baskerville

This week, we’re off on Sherlock Holmes’ most famous adventure, which means the risk of dislocation when the plot zags instead of zigging is far higher. And that’s just how it should be.

It begins with a terrified child on a moor, running from something. A kindly lady stops him to ask what the matter is, and her friendly spaniel has a good sniff to say hello. Cue blood-thickening scream and suddenly the boy is a fully-grown Russell Tovey, looking like he has not slept in years.

Meanwhile, Sherlock walks straight out of the pages of Moby Dick and into 221b Baker Street. He’s in something of a mood, as Mrs Hudson finds out, and not even the prospect of The Case of the Missing Luminescent Bunny Rabbit can cheer him up.

Luckily there’s a ring at the doorbell, it’s sleepless Russell Tovey with a news report about the Baskerville chemical and biological weapons research lab in the wilds of Dartmoor. They’re rumored to have been growing war dogs, big and black with red eyes, and Henry Knight (Russell) met one as a child, when it killed his dad. It’s fair to say this left something of an impression on the wee nipper, especially as it happened in Dewer’s Hollow, a local landmark ancient Devonians decided to name after Satan, for fun.

Time for a clearly unimpressed Sherlock to begin deduction, just as Henry is about to leave. Much to John’s disgust, he describes Henry’s morning in unerring detail and at high speed, in order to facilitate his own need for a bit of passive smoking. I say passive, it’s actually pretty active, and not a little unsettling for poor Henry.

Anyway it turns out Henry has attempted to confront his fears and return to the Hollow, only to discover the footprints of a big dog. This is all Sherlock needs in order to leap into action, and send John off to investigate.

Oh except he is coming after all. Cue an expressive eyeroll from the Watson end of the room.

To Dartmoor! The jewel in Devon’s crown and scene of many an eerie weirdness. Our detective friends have hired a Land Rover, and are doing some sightseeing before they check into their hotel. There’s a man outside in a wolf mask offering tours of the moor, and they’re very popular. Sherlock goads the guide into revealing that it’s all about genetic mutations, and dogs the size of horses.

Oh and Henry has remembered the word “liberty” and the word “in,” details that may become important later on. Off to Baskerville we go!

It turns out Sherlock has Mycroft’s ID, and is using it to try and gain entry. And it works (for a bit). They’re met by the chummy Doctor Franklin, the darkly intruiging Doctor Stapleton and some shouty monkeys.

It turns out Doctor Stapleton is the mother of the missing glowing rabbit girl. And while we’re pondering that, Mycroft’s magic ID runs out. Say hello to the incandescently furious Major Barrymore. Doctor Franklin (a fan) comes to the rescue, and the pair are free to leave. So they go to visit Henry and tell him they’re offering him up as monster dog bait, just like in Scooby Doo.

That night, on the moor, stuff happens. A torch signals UMQRA in morse code, Sherlock and Henry enter Dewer’s Hollow and come out rattled by trees that snarl like wolves. Henry saw a hound, Sherlock didn’t. Or at least, he says he didn’t, at first. Fear can do strange things to a mind, even on as great as his.

There follows a nasty set-to between Sherlock and John, in which Sherlock viciously proves what a deductive powerhouse he is (once more) just to rub John’s nose in it. And then there’s this:

One of those exchanges that feels like truth, except it isn’t, not really.

Outside the pub, there’s more morse code, but on further investigation, it turns out to be doggers, rather than dogs. Meanwhile Henry has a visitor, in the form of flashbacks and malevolently flashing lights.

Watson, perhaps enlivened by his close encounter with the sexcars, goes off to flirtily interview Louise Mortimer, Henry’s therapist. But as she’s a therapist, she sees right through his little ruse. And the arrival of Doctor Franklin scuppers everything. Time for bed.

Early the next morning, Sherlock harrasses Henry and apologises to John. It seems his senses have been fiddled with.

Which makes the arrival of Lestrade all the more odd. Last night he would have been dismissed as an apparition, but now… oh Mycroft sent him. It turns out the vegetarian restaurant in which John crashed and burned has been taking delivery of a lot of meat, in order to feed a monstrous dog, which is no longer alive. But could it be the actual hound? No.

Back to Baskerville, and this time, Sherlock has an errand for John. Up to the lab he goes for a look around. Some of the lights go off. Then some more. Actually, for a laboratory, it’s pretty dark in here. How is anyone expected to get any work don…oh, wait, it’s a sensory overload room. And John can’t get out. That’s worrying. And now it’s all gone pitch black, and something is after him. Something growly and big, and terrifying…

Sherlock arrives. It turns out they’ve all been drugged into thinking there’s a hound when there isn’t a hound. And Doctor Stapleton is to blame. But only for the missing rabbit, which had been injected with jellyfish genes.

The drug isn’t in the sugar, as Sherlock originally thought, so he goes to… well he pays a visit to… he, er… has to go to his “mind palace.”

Don’t giggle. It’s important.

And while he’s sitting on his mind throne, being attended to by mind servants, Henry is lost in his fears, and pulls a gun on Louise Mortimer.

Back from his palatial abode, Sherlock deduces Major Barrymore’s password in order to hack into the files of Project HOUND. And sure enough, it’s a drug, designed to create paranoia and homicidal tendencies, first worked up in 1986, with the lab assistance of (drumroll) Doctor Franklin.

(DAN-DAN-DAAAAAAAN!)

Louise rings John, Sherlock rings Lestrade, everyone converges on Dewar’s Hollow to find Henry pointing his gun at himself. His mind is unravelling, but Sherlock helps him pull it back together, fragment by fragment.

It turns out his dad was abducted and killed by a man in a red-eyed gas mask, wearing a project HOUND T-shirt, with the location “Liberty, In.” Then the drug took Henry’s memories.

Suddenly there’s a red-eyed dog, or is it Jim Moriarty in a gas mask? No, it’s Doctor Franklin. The drug is in the fog! It’s triggered by sensory pads in the floor! But there’s a dog! A real dog! Shoot the dog! It’s Doctor Franklin’s dog! And now it’s dead.

Except there’s another dog! Shoot that dog! Doctor Franklin has run off! This can’t end well for him. And indeed it doesn’t.

It turns out that the other dog belonged to the pub, and Sherlock dosed Watson with the drug, or at least he thought he had. So that’s that.

Oh except that Jim (remember Jim?) has written “Sherlock” all over a prison cell. This is probably the last we’ll hear of that, right?

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

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