Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century (1999)

Directors: Robert Brousseau, Paul Quinn, Scott Hemming
Voices: Jason Gray-Stanford, John Payne, Akiko Morison, Richard Newman
Music: Eric Allaman
Based on characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle

Regular readers will have noticed that I tend to write television or film reviews rather than DVD reviews. I prefer to look at the show rather than how it is presented. I like to do this because quite a few of the films I look at are quite hard to come by, and the prints can be diabolical – but as they are the best available, they will have to do. Another reason is that DVD editions vary from country to country. For example: because I am currently looking at Sherlock Holmes, I can tell you that the Australian version of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is a bare-bones affair, whereas the US version is chock full of features. The covers are identical – but hey, those in the US get all the goodies. So I tend to look at the program itself. But sometimes a show comes along and I have to look at the DVD. Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century is one such program.

When I picked up a copy of this disk a few years ago, I didn’t know what I was in for. From the packaging I could tell it was a children’s show. But what I was really interested in was how they could contrive a story where Holmes is sent into the future. That is what I wanted to know. And that’s the thing with this disk, which contains four episodes of the 26 episode series – it doesn’t explain how Holmes ended up in the 22nd Century. Apparently another disk in the series has just been released which may answer my question. But this particular disk never shows how Holmes got to the future or how Dr. Watson got a robotic body.

I guess if the whole series was released and presented in original broadcast order then my questions would be answered. Instead, I will just regurgitate what is written on the packaging:
‘London in the 22nd century is experiencing an unprecedented crime wave orchestrated by a criminal mastermind from the past, Dr. James Moriarty. To combat this, New Scotland Yard brings Sherlock Holmes back to life, and with the help of Beth Lestrade and a robotic Dr. Watson, he will attempt to restore peace.’

Now that concept sounds quite okay to me – maybe not to Holmes purists; but you must remember this is an animated children’s show. You expect some artistic license to be taken. The problem is that the episodes on this DVD do not show a crime wave – nor Holmes being brought back to life – or the construction of a robotic Watson. Well, what’s a fella to do? Here’s a brief overview of the episodes.

The Sign of Four
This episode begins on the moon in a copernican mine. The owners of the mine, Shalto and Morston, are down below when a earthquake rocks the moon (or should that be a moonquake?) A large slab of moonstone breaks free an pins Morston to the ground. But it gets worse. Due to the quake, the mine’s oxygen generator malfunctions and stops working. Shalto puts on a space suit and rushes off to get help. But it seems that Morston is doomed.

Twenty years later, a young lady, Miss Morston pays a visit to Holmes and Watson. She arrives at Baker Street in a flying cab. She does not have time to explain – simply from her appearance, Holmes deduces that she needs his help on the moon. Holmes, Watson and Miss Morston catches the next space shuttle.

The Adventures of the Dancing Men
Elsie and Hilton Cubbert are scientists and have been working on a top secret experiment. Abe Slaney, a revolutionary from the moon tries to steal this formula, but in the process knocks Hilton into a freezer vat. Slaney escapes without the formula, but he plans to try again.

Beth Lestrade from New Scotland Yard is on the case, and calls on Sherlock Holmes to assist. But rather than doing all the work himself, Holmes allows the futuristic equivalent of the Baker Street Irregulars to solve the case – with Holmes overseeing of course.

Silver Blaze
This is easily the weakest of the episode on the disk. It is more akin to an episode of Yogi’s Space Race than a Sherlock Holmes story. The story starts with a time trial for the ‘Asteroid Belt Grand Prix’. The favourite to take out the race is a speeder called Silver Blaze and during the trial, Silver Blaze sets a new course record. After the race the press are clamouring for an interview with Colonel Ross, who is the owner of the speeder, and John Straker, who is the pilot. As they are interviewed, a reporter asks if she can see the Silver Blaze. Ross agrees and takes her back to the hangar only to find that the speeder has been stolen.

Beth Lestrade, who has searched high and low and has no leads, calls in Sherlock Holmes to investigate the crime.

The Gloria Scott
This episode on the DVD is considered a ‘bonus episode’, which is a shame really. It’s the best episode on the disk and the thought that it has just been tacked on at the end is stupefying. But I guess I should be grateful. Twenty five years ago, the Gloria Scott, which is a Prison Transport Shuttle, was taking a group of prisoners to a Lunar Penal Colony. On route the prisoners escape. One prisoner though, John Armitage, has all along claimed his innocence, and does not want to escape. It will jeopardise his appeal, but he has no choice really. The ring leader of the escape plan, Hudson, destroys the controls to the Gloria Scott and then, with the other prisoners, escape in emergency pods. The shuttle is left drifting in space.

Years later, Victor Trevor pays a call on his friend Sherlock Holmes. It appears that Trevor’s father, Edward is being blackmailed. He wants Holmes to investigate.

As far as the animation goes, Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century is pretty slick for its era combining traditional animation with early use of computer animation to create 3-D futuristic landscapes. Computer animation has come so far since this series was made, so it is easy to be critical and suggest that time has not been kind to this series – but I think that would be mean spirited. It doesn’t look too bad.

If this DVD was part of a series of DVDs, I would have no problem in recommending this show to you – beyond the constraints on it being a children’s animated televison show, which may not be to everyone’s liking. But as a stand alone DVD it is an extremely frustrating affair. I would only recommend it to those who MUST HAVE each and every single Sherlock Holmes program ever made.

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Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century (1999)

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