When Christopher Benjamin bursts into Sherlock’s apartment, I had completely derailed my hope for a normal episode, wishing instead that Henry Gordon Jago would make an appearance. Alas, I was not to be so lucky and while Benjamin may be an actor of great talent, there is no finer character for him to play than Doctor Who’s Henry Gordon Jago. So I was a little let down having him play a headmaster of the titular Priory School. Still, he does the role justice and I can’t knock his acting. I just wish he had more alliteration in his script. You know how it is… old times sake and all that!
Christopher plays Dr. Huxtable (not that Dr. Huxtable) and he’s come to seek Holmes’ help in locating the son the local Duke of Holdernesse. The young boy went missing one night and is feared to have been kidnapped. When the police fail, he knows who can help.
It appears the 9 year old boy, Lord Saltire, went missing one night and indications are that he was kidnapped by a German teacher, Heidegger. When Holmes begins digging into the mystery, the theory starts falling apart right away as the getaway vehicle appears to have been a bicycle. Even I can tell you that bicycles aren’t very effective for kidnapping people and escaping with them!
Well this is another complex case. It seems the Duke’s secretary, James Wilder, has arranged for the boys kidnapping out of jealousy more than anything else. James turns out to be the illegitimate son of the Duke and is forced to live in the shadow of his much younger half-brother. He arranges the kidnapping in the hopes of getting the Duke to change the terms of his will.
A huge mistake for villains is when they employ other villains to help them. It’s got to be in the Villain’s Handbook – I’ll check; I own the book! – but the idea of honor amongst thieves is misplaced. Wilder hires a local man named Hayes to help with the situation but when the law gets too close, Hayes scarpers. Wilder runs off with the child into some nearby caves. They climb to a height, but he slips and dies. The young boy is saved and the Duke gets his child back. He rewards Holmes with a hefty sum which would have been roughly equivalent to a million pounds by today’s standards.
Had Wilder survived, I imagine he’d have faced the gallows along with Hayes. They would not have had a good time of it either way, that’s for sure. They would also face charges due to the death of German professor Heidegger who is found dead on the side of the road, providing a tasty treat to the local carrion birds. Holmes said it in a previous story, but those who dig pits for others, often fall into them themselves.
Hayes: “How do you know my name?”
Holmes: “It’s printed over the door.”
Holmes never fails to entertain with his often brazen attitude and disdain for authority. When told that the Duke is waiting, he says “That’ll never do.” When he tells the Duke he has cracked the case, he asks for £6000, 1000 more than was originally offered. (The Duke signs off for 12,000 at the end of the case.)
Holmes also realizes very early on that things are amiss with the kidnapping when he learns that young Arthur is often heard in his room crying at night, but the night of the kidnapping was a quiet evening.
This is also the second time we hear Holmes speculate on the nature of crime in remote locales. “What is law in such a place as this.” I may indeed enjoy country life, but being as isolated as the Priory School leaves something to be desired.
While this is an interesting story, it was never one of my favorites. Having Christopher Benjamin as a member of the cast definitely helped, but still doesn’t make me love it. Mind you, with the episodes of the caliber that these are, even a weak one is highly entertaining. The victory for many of these tales is in the adversary being a strong one – like Dr Roylott or Moriarty – but this has a fairly weak enemy for Holmes to thwart. It’s entertaining, but slightly too … elementary to be among the top episodes. ML