Sherlock Holmes on the Radio Airwaves

A Digital Remediation and Analysis


Story TitleRefereeCount
The Problem of Thor BridgeSirSherlock Holmes12
Mr. HolmesSherlock Holmes1
old chapJohn Watson6
old fellowJohn Watson4
my dear fellowJohn Watson2
The Musgrave Ritual SirSherlock Holmes1
Mr. HolmesSherlock Holmes12
The Case of the Dead AdventuressMonsieurSherlock Holmes14
Mr. HolmesSherlock Holmes6
old chapJohn Watson1
The Adventure of the Tolling BellSirSherlock Holmes10
Mr. HolmesSherlock Holmes22
old chapJohn Watson1
Silver BlazeSirSherlock Holmes9
Mr. HolmesSherlock Holmes5
my dear fellowJohn Watson1
Elusive UmbrellaSirSherlock Holmes2
Mr. HolmesSherlock Holmes26
old chapJohn Watson5
old fellowJohn Watson1
A Scandal in BohemiaSirSherlock Holmes1
Mr. HolmesSherlock Holmes6
old fellowJohn Watson2
my dear fellowJohn Watson4
Murder in CasbahMr. HolmesSherlock Holmes14
old chapJohn Watson5
old fellowJohn Watson3
WatsonJohn Watson13
Iron Boxold fellowJohn Watson2
my dear fellowJohn Watson2

Althusser's Theory of Interpellation: Payment

Sherlock Holmes is often referred to a great detective by his audience, who read his many tales of crimes and mysteries he solved. However, was Sherlock Holmes always seen as the wonderful, noble man that he is now? Sherlock Holmes was often referred to as Holmes, Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes, and Mr. Holmes. The different ways that the society hails him follows the theory of interpellation, the name used reflects the subject's view of themselves within the context of the society.

Between the script and the original Conan-Doyle script, there were several instance of changes in the way that Holmes and the characters are hailed. For example, in "A Scandal in Bohemia", Conan-Doyle's version of Sherlock Holmes did not refer to the King as "sir" or "your Majesty" like Watson did, which may indicate that he does not view the King as any different than his other customers. However, the radio script's version showed Sherlock Holmes addressing the King strictly as "sir", which displays a level of authority of the King over Sherlock Holmes. In Conan-Doyle's original script, the topic of payment for Holmes's services to the King was explicitly mentioned.

“Then, as to money?” “You have carte blanche.” “Absolutely?” “I tell you that I would give one of the provinces of my kingdom to have that photograph.” “And for present expenses?” The King took a heavy chamois leather bag from under his cloak and laid it on the table. “There are three hundred pounds in gold and seven hundred in notes,” he said."

This direct request for payment was not seen in the radio script; there was simply no mention by Sherlock Holmes of a form of payment from the King for his services, the King had offered his ring but Holmes declined it. It could be understood that the depiction of Holmes in the radio script implies that he views his service for the King as an honor, while Conan-Doyle's version of Holmes simply sees the current task as any other task he was given, regardless of the high status of the client.

Althusser's Theory of Interpellation: Holmes

Holmes is often enlisted to help local police forces in their cases, and therefore would be expected to be seen as equal to the policemen. This can be seen by the tone in which Holmes interacts with Inspector Lestrade in “Elusive Umbrella” and “The Problem of Thor Bridge,” where Holmes called Lestrade “my dear fellow”, suggesting a friendship or acquaintanceship in the eyes of Holmes. Conversely, Lestrade always referred to Holmes with a level of authority, preferring to call him by “Mr. Holmes”, which sets Lestrade further away in personal connection to Holmes than how Holmes had viewed him.

While Inspector Lestrade may have had an authoritative view of Holmes and his relation to the society and state system around them, Colonel Ross in “The Adventure of Silver Blaze” may have disagreed with Holmes’s status in the community. The interactions and interpellation exchanged between Holmes and Colonel Ross may have seemed cordial at surface level, but Holmes had explicitly mentioned in the story that “his [Colonel Ross’] manner to me was just a trifle cavalier”. There are no clear depictions of disrespectful titles used against Holmes by Colonel Ross, but the content of their conversation suggests a slight dismissal in tone from Colonel Ross, who often headed off with Inspector Gregory instead of staying with Holmes for his investigation. This insinuates that Colonel Ross does not see Holmes on the same level in terms of authority as Inspector Gregory, possibly due to Holmes being a private detective and not a member of the local police force.

Conclusion: New Discoveries

Sherlock Holmes has always been a topic of great interest, regarding the character himself as well as the cases he was involved in. Conan Doyle’s stories were adapted into radio shows that were aired in the early 20th century, the stories of which mostly were consistent between the two versions as seen in the digital analysis conducted using the XML files. Some patterns could be noted across the two corpora: Holmes tends to employ more lawful methods of eliciting details and results to solve a case if the mystery involves a death, especially if the death involves foul play; sexist descriptions were consistent across both versions, where women were portrayed negatively, or only in relation to the beauty they exhibit, regardless of the nature of their character in the story; descriptions of characters that were of nationalities other than British were also consistently racist, focusing on the negative stereotypes of the German and Brazilian characters in particular.

Holmes’s relationship with law enforcement officials and agencies stayed relatively neutral and friendly, with only a slight altercation with French police, as they seemed to have interacted with Holmes in a disrespectful manner. Holmes and Watson’s relationship was explored, where the homosocial suggestions, as well as Watson’s possible inferiority complex compared to Holmes. The terms of endearment used by Holmes to refer to Watson were counted and displayed to show the level of closeness that Holmes had to Watson.

Conclusion: Future Direction

The digital project in its current state could not display a complete analysis of Conan Doyle’s original publications and the radio adaptations, as there are constant updates to the sources available online that could not be considered at this current time of the project. For example, new transcripts of the radio shows are being updated on the Generic Radio Workshop, with the latest being that of the “the Giant Rat of Sumatra” updated in mid-March 2022. Current files included in the corpus were stored in a GitHub repository, organized by the origin (Conan Doyle story or Radio Script). Other files and code that were used in the project were also included in the repo, to have a concentrated area to retrieve code to use for future development of the project.

The current corpus for the radio scripts only included the nine transcripts available from the Generic Radio Workshop, which provided a workable data sample for this project. However, the radio show contains many more adaptations from the original publications of Conan Doyle, which may not have downloadable transcript files available yet. Future research could include the manual or automated transcription of the rest of the radio shows to collect a complete corpus of the radio show. With an updated corpus, more analysis between the original publications and the radio adaptations could be completed, generating a better representation of the research into interpellation of the characters.

Additionally, the scope of the project could be expanded to include film adaptations. Film versions replaced radio shows as technology advanced in the late 20th century, as well as the wide-spread boom of the film industry both in the United States and the United Kingdom leading to an increase in Sherlock Holmes films. Some of the films focus on a particular collection of Conan Doyle’s publications, while others take stories from the whole collection and form their own collection sorted by their series. It could be interesting to note the changes that were made to the original stories in order to include or omit portions that would be considered socially unacceptable in the current society, such as clear mentions of racism or sexism that the society has been striving to eliminate from modern media.