It just won’t do! We’ve had this story already, haven’t we? It was called The Naval Treaty in season one, wherein top secret documents have gone missing. I suppose there’s something for it considering that had to do with Naval matters and this has to do with the plans for a submarine, but one wonders about the British Royal Navy at this point. Were they just terribly prone to losing critically important documents??
Charles Gray is back as the marvelous Mycroft Holmes. Again, I’ve no logical reason for liking the actor, but he’s intensely charismatic as the older brother to Sherlock. Also making a return is Inspector Bradstreet, played by Dennis Lill, last seen in The Man with the Twisted Lip. Geoffrey Bayldon, of Doctor Who notoriety, also has a brief role in this story. This episode also features as one of the main stories in the Steven Moffat series Sherlock, and it’s even better in that iteration. However, even if this is a repeated idea, it’s still highly enjoyable.
The body of Cadogan West (is Cadogan really a name?) is found on the train line, having suffered a massive head injury, but no blood is at the scene. He is in possession of 7 of 10 pages of a highly confidential set of plans for a submarine that would make naval warfare impossible. Mycroft turns to Holmes to help him retrieve the documents before they fall into the wrong hands.
These papers, unsurprisingly, would be of great value to a foreign power and those foreign powers would undoubtedly pay handsomely for a copy. West is not the seller, though. In fact, West realizes his own brother, Colonel Valentine, has them, tracks him down, and gets into a fight with the man to whom his brother was selling the papers, one Hugo Oberstein. In the scuffle, West hits his head and was dead in minutes. Clearly the brother is so broken up about it, he allows Oberstein to toss the body out the upper window and unto the train. When the train made it to the Points, an interesting area where multiple lines meet, the body was thrown off the roof. As for the reason the colonel went down this path? Stock woes. He needed the money!
Criminals are an unimaginative sort and Holmes even comments that it is fortunate for the public that he himself is not a criminal. I think this is an episode which showcases poor planning of those nefarious sorts. The most glaring issue, as I see it, is that they put 7 of the 10 pages on the body to begin with. Had they not put any on the man, there would have been no indication that he carried them at all! By doing so, they drew attention to the fact that the documents were stolen to begin with. Then, they fail to get one critical page which ends up allowing Holmes to set a trap for the buyer.
Holmes: (upon getting a letter from his brother, while speaking to Watson) “…He writes like a drunken crab. You’d better read it. Doctor’s are more used to hieroglyphics than normal human beings!”
Unlike the previous episode, Holmes uses his brain to solve the case and defeat the villains. This does lead to them breaking into a house (“You can keep watch! I’ll do the criminal part!”) which Watson and Holmes admit to Bradstreet later. Bradstreet is a practical man though and realizes for the right reasons, it was worth it, but does attribute Holmes’s less than conventional methods to be behind his success.
West does not get depicted in the best light though either, although for perhaps a more comical reason. While walking with his fiancé upon seeing his brother running through the pea-souper (intense fog), he turns to her and says “Go home immediately, please!” All I could think about was him leaving her on her own in that insanely dense fog. If he never saw her again, it could have been that she got interminably lost!
This at least brings the season to a close with a strong ending. Not flawless, though. I do get a little disappointed with trifles, but of all the series I watch, this one should pay the most attention to those. As Holmes says, nothing is so important as trifles. So what bothered me? When Mycroft is visiting, Holmes tells Watson that he has the most amazing memory of facts. One minute later, Mycroft walks into their rooms and cannot remember Watson’s name. Still, we can’t have everything and perhaps Sherlock just admires his brother to such an extent that he views him through a rose-tinted monocle. Nevertheless, a thoroughly enjoyable adventure and a nice return for Mycroft Holmes. ML