I thoroughly enjoy Sherlock Holmes stories. Most of them stump me while I’m watching but the end result leaves me satisfied. When I started writing about The Greek Interpreter, however, I realized I was stumped! George Costigan plays Wilson Kemp (Doctor Who‘s Max Capricorn,) a man who wants some papers signed and needs a Greek interpreter to get a reluctant signature out of an imprisoned man. I can’t really say why though but we’ll get to that in due course…
The real exciting part of this story may have less to do with the bizarre nature of the events, but the opportunity of meeting a member of Sherlock’s family, specifically his brother Mycroft played by Charles Gray. Gray is an odd choice for Mycroft; his heavy eyes and age don’t seem to fit the brother of Holmes, but he captures every scene! I was mesmerized by him and for the life of me, I could not say why!
Kidnapping, torture, murder… this is a gruesome affair. Mr. Melas is asked to accompany Harold Latimer late one night to help with an important translation. Immediately, Melas is knocked out and taken to a secret place where he meets a man, Paul Kratides, whose face is all bandaged and is forced to answer questions by writing them on a small chalkboard. His captors have Melas tell Paul that if he doesn’t sign, they will kill his sister. He signs, and the villains lock the starved and beaten Paul in a room with Melas and some noxious Sulphur bomb that kills Paul and leaves Melas in a bad way.
Paul’s captors are trying to get him to sign those papers I mentioned above, so that Latimer can leave to the continent with Paul’s sister Sophy and get married. But Sophy is Paul’s sister and surely wouldn’t be under his legal control, so I don’t really understand what he had to sign. It doesn’t change my enjoyment of the episode, but it did leave me stumped as to the nature of the document. Also, Sophy is a hard woman; she sees her bother being tortured and, though surprised, goes right back to Latimer. Later, she even states that she hates him and loves him, and would do whatever he asked. A confused young lady, at least!
This is an interesting one because the biggest mistake comes from Scotland Yard who refuse to help Sherlock without a warrant. They lose an hour getting the necessary warrant which potentially cost Paul his life. Melas survives, barely, and Holmes tracks the villains to a train where he confronts them. The only mistake made by the villains really is allowing Mycroft to bump (and pickpocket) Kemp. When Kemp reaches for his gun, he realizes it’s missing, and Mycroft shows up casually putting the gun to the villains temple. The Holmes’ brothers are periodically ruthless!
“I hear of Sherlock everywhere since you became his chronicler,” says Mycroft to Watson upon their meeting. I suppose we do have Watson to thank for that. This is the episode that introduced us to the Diogenes Club, the place for all those misanthropic men who want to sit in silence and not be seen!
Mycroft also observes of his brother: “You still retain your low opinion of women?” He probably didn’t hear about Irene Adler but then, she was the exception to Sherlock’s rule.
And this is the episode that gave us a wonderful repartee between Mycroft and Sherlock as they stare out the window and compare observations on the people they see in the street. It’s all remarkably enjoyable stuff.
“Brandy and ammonia at frequent intervals!” I don’t know if that is good medical advice, sounding a bit more like Doctor McCoy than Doctor Watson, but it seems to sum up this episode. The brandy – those moments where Sherlock and Mycroft are on the screen, are utterly delicious. The evil and somewhat convoluted story are a bit like imbibing ammonia. Having said that, when Holmes gets the better of him, Latimer attempts to escape through a door on a moving train. As he hangs there, he pleads for help, but Sherlock holds both Watson and Sophy back, preventing them from helping before the man is killed. I do wonder if Sherlock is effectively an agent of Darwin, allowing nature to take away those not fit to survive…
In all the years I’ve read and watched Sherlock, I never realized how much of a maverick he really is. He has occasionally allowed villains to die, while at other times, he has allowed them to walk free. In the fantasy genre, he might be called Unlawful or Chaotic Good. It might seem like an elementary observation but it’s a deeply satisfying one based on today’s heroes! ML