I often wonder if The Creeping Man could be considered one of the earliest crossovers of literature. There’s a distinct sense of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde about it. Considering that was written in 1886 and this was written in 1923, it’s very possible that Doyle had read Stevenson’s classic. But one thing we know well of Holmes, it’s that his tales always reside in the real world. So was Doyle trying to tell a fantastical story with a more scientific bent? Perhaps. Whether we like the story or the idea isn’t the point here; it’s that one might consider this a pastiche, even if it were written by Doyle and for that I give it credit.
I will dive into more of what that means in the coming weeks. The pastiche is something that has kept Holmes going well beyond the confines of the original 60 stories, but for today, let’s see where this story takes us!
Well this is a doozy and one might think Doyle was running out of ideas. A woman, Ms. Presbury, spots someone at her second storey window looking in at her one night. She promptly faints. She then tells her fiancé about this but he writes it off as a dream. She insists it isn’t and is willing to retract her hand in marriage if he doesn’t go tell Sherlock Holmes. Holmes comes to investigate and finds a very irate father and an even more snarly dog. Watson passes the casual comment upon looking at a display of a dog and a monkey that these are natural enemies. (News to me, I say!) Well, with loads of investigating, Holmes makes a connection with a recent spat of primate thefts. Because, you know, that happens.
Daddy Presbury is an older man engaged to a younger woman. She realizes he’s too old and breaks off their engagement with the reason: “You’re old. You’re too old!” Lovely woman. So Papa Presbury experiments using hormones from simians to make him young. Alas, his pet dog is not at all keen on this which turns the old fella into a snarling monster. You know, because dogs and monkeys…
Snarling people have snarling dogs, Holmes informs Watson. Doyle obviously thought well of dogs. This is yet another time a dog helped Sherlock solve a case, up there with Toby in The Sign of Four and the dog in the nighttime in Silver Blaze. Is it a good one? No, not really. It’s silly. Watching Papa Primate swinging from trees and making all sorts of simian noises is almost laughable.
Episodically, I’d say there’s an issue with putting this story right after The Illustrious Client. Holmes is easily felled by two thugs in that story, but here, he and Watson quickly dispatch two armed villains. Maybe he learned his lesson, but it felt out of place.
“Come at once if convenient. If inconvenient, come all the same!” It’s a classic summons and one I have used upon occasion myself. Usually to someone’s annoyance. But if you’re going to steal a line, you might as well make it a classic.
Watson is on form in this episode as the dog that attacks Daddy Baboon nearly kills him, so it’s up to Watson to save his life. Holmes gives the credit for the case to Scotland Yard so, like the episode itself, he never really earns the credit he deserves. And that leads me to…
The episode is not a great one but it’s the last of season 3 before we are hit with 3 movies. But there are a few interesting things here. First, Watson does talk to Holmes about giving the credit to Scotland Yard and Holmes says it will be filed away until one day when all will become known. One surmises that Watson’s journals are those truths. It’s nice to see that this is acknowledged finally. Second, in a bit of a meta-moment, the episode ends with Holmes activating a music box that plays the theme to the show. Holmes seems to take great joy in it.
While this was a lackluster way to end the episodes of season 3, it’s still fun watching Holmes and Watson… although I hope the movies are better. ML