For Balladeer’s Blog’s review of the first episode of this 1971-1973 series about non-Holmes detectives of the Victorian and Edwardian Ages click HERE
*** This review will cover the three Martin Hewitt mysteries that were dramatized in the first season of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes.
Episode: THE AFFAIR OF THE TORTOISE (November 22nd, 1971)
Detective: Martin Hewitt, created by Arthur Morrison. The first Martin Hewitt story was published in 1894.
Review: Martin Hewitt was created by the same author who created Horace Dorrington, covered in a previous review of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. Unlike Dorrington, Hewitt is honest and looks out for his clients’ interests more than his own. Unfortunately, as portrayed by Peter Barkworth, he’s also more than a little bland.
Well, “bland” might be uncharitable. “Professional” may be more fitting. Barkworth’s Hewitt is serene and reassuring, putting his clients at ease no matter what crisis they’re going through.
In The Affair of the Tortoise Martin Hewitt is hired by Miss Chapman (Cyd Hayman), a former governess that he has just located so she could receive an inheritance from a distant relative. Miss Chapman wants Hewitt to clear one of her neighbors, Goujon (Timothy Bateson), of murder charges.
Goujon is suspected of killing Rameau (Stefan Kalifa), a rowdy, hard-partying Haitian official residing in London. The drunken Rameau often played practical jokes on Goujon and recently went too far, causing the death of the Frenchman’s pet tortoise.
Rameau’s blood-drenched body was discovered, along with a bloody axe. The body then disappeared and Goujon is wanted for murder and the disposal of the corpse. Hewitt’s investigation uncovers additional suspects, including other aggrieved neighbors of the flamboyant Rameau, Haitian voodoo practitioners and even political enemies of the dead man.
Martin expertly sifts through the clues and solves the case while simultaneously outmaneuvering his old adversary from Scotland Yard, Inspector Nettings (Dan Meaden).
Hewitt makes for an interesting contrast with Sherlock Holmes. While Holmes is a gifted genius pursuing his natural calling, Martin is a hard worker whose powers of observation and skill at investigation have been honed through years in the competitive jungle of London’s private detective trade. Fools won’t last in that cutthroat milieu.
Peter Barkworth is pleasant enough, and his dry sense of humor as Hewitt is reasonably entertaining, but in this episode the engaging mystery outshines the detective investigating it.
Episode: THE CASE OF LAKER, ABSCONDED (December 9th, 1971)
Review: Charles Laker, a junior Walk Clerk with a major London bank, is suspected of absconding with his entire day’s haul of cash and fleeing to the Continent. The police, led by Inspector Plummer (Arthur Pentelow), are convinced of the young man’s guilt, especially given the fairly obvious trail he left behind.
Martin Hewitt, working for Laker’s fiancee Emily Shaw (Jane Lapotaire) to prove Charles’ innocence, finds that trail FAR too obvious and incriminating. He puts in a lot of legwork and brilliantly pieces together what actually lies behind this spectacular theft.
This episode gets extra points from me by being set around Christmas time, with the (fake) snow and festive decorations everywhere really adding a nice period glow. In my opinion this is the best of the three Martin Hewitt mysteries shown on The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. There’s even a distinctly Holmesian feel to the resolution of the mystery.
Episode: THE CASE OF THE DIXON TORPEDO (November 8th, 1971)
Review: Even though this was really a Martin Hewitt mystery, for some reason this episode substitutes Jonathan Pryde (Ronald Hines), an alleged partner in Hewitt’s investigative firm, as the featured detective. Martin’s name is prominently seen on the office doors several times, but Hines as the surrogate Pryde is center stage.
The Russian Embassy hires Martin Hewitt/ Jonathan Pryde to investigate a London ring which is counterfeiting Rubles. When Pryde wonders why the Russian government doesn’t just have the Okhrana handle the matter or officially ask HMG to have the Secret Service look into it, the visiting Russian official simply piles on the cash to shut up the detective.
It’s one busy week for Jonathan as the Royal Navy also hires him to locate stolen designs for a Top Secret torpedo being developed for England’s defense. Fairly early on in the episode Pryde realizes the two cases are related, as the Russian expatriate that he suspects of running the counterfeiting operation is also the man who was shadowing Dixon, the inventor of the new torpedo.
Juggling multiple criminal issues while trying to avoid an international incident, Jonathan Pryde, with some help from his beautiful and brilliant wife Jenny (Jacqueline Pearce), solves the dual mysteries and leaves both governmental clients happy.
This mystery was published BEFORE the Sherlock Holmes mystery The Bruce Partington Plans, so Arthur Morrison cannot be accused of imitating Arthur Conan Doyle’s tale.
The three Martin Hewitt episodes are the most Holmesian of this entire series and nicely anticipated the period-drenched Granada Television Sherlock Holmes series of the 1980s.
Writer Arthur Morrison’s work was featured in five of these first season episodes – the pair of Dorrington mysteries and the three Martin Hewitt stories. I don’t know the backstory regarding “Jonathan Pryde” replacing Hewitt in this particular story, but Hines got to reprise his role as Jonathan when he assisted Martin Hewitt in The Case of Laker, Absconded.
There were a total of 25 Martin Hewitt mysteries written by Morrison and it’s a shame that more of them have not been dramatized.
I’ll review the next episode soon. Keep checking back.
FOR MORE FORGOTTEN TELEVISION CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/category/forgotten-television/