Thursday, May 26, 2016

How Disappointing. . . . 'The Adventure of the Doctor and the Duellist'

When ever I first recieve my copies of the publications for the John H. Watson Society I always quickly glance through the pages checking out the art work and illustrations (I do that with the BSJ also).
And towards the end of this booklet is an illustration of Holmes and Watson in a romantic embrace.
As I have let be known here before I am not a fan of most fan fiction in general and 'shipping' of Holmes and Watson in particular.

Now I guess this can be taken as I have no sympathy for the LGBT community, but that would be very untrue and of no need to be discussed in this format.

I really don't care if 'fans' want their Holmes and Watson to be lovers, to each his own.
I just don't make that a choice of my reading.

The biggest problem with this display is the strange need too some how have to explain the sexual relationship between these two men and why that has become such a big part of Sherlockian lore now. And why that in the world of Sherlock Holmes that is becoming the acceptable norm. We are asked in society now to accept people for who they are, yet there is now a need to have this 'shipped' relationship continually played out and that if we don't like it, we just aren't open minded enough.

I found Elinor Gray's writing very good, and her style worthy of a good pastiche on Holmes and Watson. She knows her subject, and is indeed a fan. However, her agenda was always apparent (I guess as an agenda should be) from the very beginning, and I only continued to read the booklet hoping that I would be surprised at how it turned out. I was not.
While inside the her story was indeed the possibility of a good mystery, it was not allowed to be enough and really only provided filler for her purpose.

Now with that said, I have no problem with Ms. Gray wanting to write this type of fan fiction, and I am sure there is a willing audience for that kind of work. But to have a society like the John H Watson publish it to a membership paying group of people is, to me, troubling.
There is, no matter how well it is written, no scholarly value to it, with the exception of creating a discussion on the subject. But with no Canonical references included to back up her claim (which I am sure was not her intention) it was hardly worthy.

I was very disappointed that such a talented writer could not make a stronger case for the, well, case than for Holmes and Watson's romantic relationship.

But like I said, it is not so much about the subject matter, as not having a choice whether to add it to my collection or not. Yea, I know, if I don't like it I can give it away or something. But that is not the point. The JHWS is now making a non-scholarly stance on the sexuality of Holmes and Watson and members dues are helping to make that happen.

As I have said, I am not a big fan of 'fan fiction' but will defend others rights to write it and read it, even if the best you can do is 'ship' these two.
I do however not want to participate in it.

I don't understand how the most important thing you can come up with about Holmes and Watson is their imagined love life.

I have not read every single thing published in the JHWS publications, so maybe I have missed this position of theirs in the past. But I am not sure I want to continue membership in a group that wants to support a 'shipped' relationship of Holmes and Watson.
I apologize to all those more used to using phrases like, 'shipping' and 'shipped' if I used them wrong.
Kinda of like fan fiction, I find those words annoying.

My first response is to discontinue my membership with the society ( a gasp goes up!) but will think about it a little longer and see what kind of response this gets.

I would imagine with this rant my readership will drop in half, so the the two remaining readers, thanks mom and dad for sticking by me.

You heard it here first. . . or second. . . . or third. . . but you did hear it here.

'Sherlock Season 4' Release Date, News & Update: Benedict Cumberbatch Bare In Morocco? 'Harry Potter' Actor Is Legendary Villain In S4

By Zee Mara, Parent Herald | May 26, 12:57 AM

"Sherlock Season 4" will reportedly take the adventure to Morocco as lead star Benedict Cumberbatch chases up clues and mysteries. Also joining Holmes' world is "Harry Potter" actor Toby Jones turning villainous in "Sherlock Season 4."
A New Location For 'Sherlock Season 4'
According to Metro, fans can hope to see Benedict Cumberbatch take time to frolic in the sands of Morocco as production for "Sherlock Season 4" progresses. What clues or character(s) will lead the "Sherlock Season 4" storyline to Morocco are kept secret - for now.
Scenes in colorful Morocco for "Sherlock Season 4" is a welcome change from the English-situated earlier episodes of the series. This makes for easier expectation build up on "Sherlock Season 4" topping "The Abominable Bride" special.
Some are even wondering if Benedict Cumberbatch will do a Tom Hiddleston-type baring in Morocco between takes for "Sherlock Season 4." Or if detective Holmes himself will have to do something similar well within the "Sherlock Season 4" plot.
Legendary Villain For 'Sherlock Season 4'
CinemaBlend points out that "Sherlock Season 4" definitely will have a meatier addition in Toby Jones. "Sherlock Season 4" is not the first time Toby Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch and John Watson actor Martin Freeman will be associated.
Like Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, "Sherlock Season 4" villain Toby Jones also played a Marvel character. Citing CinemaBlend's highlight, "Captain America: The First Avenger," "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," and "Agent Carter" all had the "Sherlock Season 4" villain play evil Hydra scientist Arnim Zola.
Deadline reports that Steven Moffat promised that Toby Jones will definitely play one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classical villains in "Sherlock Season 4." Fortunately, there's a fine list of villains to guess from while "Sherlock Season 4" details remain under wraps.
'Sherlock Season 4' Release Schedule
Toby Jones, Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch will be rejoined by Amanda Abbington, who plays a very pregnant Mary Watson in "Sherlock Season 4." BBC is expected to release "Sherlock Season 4" in 2017.

Something we would know little about over here in the Colonies.

Panto villain David Leonard to switch sides to play Sherlock Holmes in The Hound Of The Baskervilles

YORK Theatre Royal pantomime villain David Leonard is to be seen in a new guise this summer, as the iconic detective Sherlock Holmes in The Hound Of The Baskervilles.
Billed as the Theatre Royal’s summer blockbuster, this fast paced family-friendly romp will be directed by artistic director Damian Cruden, whose cast of up to six actor-musicians will be announced in full within the next few weeks.
Together with the director, they will part-devise the show during a playful five-week rehearsal period, creating a Victorian troupe of storytellers. who will  take on multiple roles to tell Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s adventure.
Damian Cruden says: ‘We plan to use every theatrical trick in the book, using our new staging following the theatre's renovation. Expect music, mayhem and lightning-fast action from a very talented team of actors. David Leonard will make a superb Holmes, he’s made for the role and our York audience will love seeing a different side to him."
In addition to his celebrated panto villain, Leonard has appeared on the Theatre Royal stage as Elyot Chase in Noel Coward's Private Lives in 1991, Shakespeare's Richard III in 1994 and Vic, a crook turned TV megastar, in Alan Ayckbourn's Man Of The Moment in 1998.
The Hound Of The Baskervilles will run in York Theatre Royal's main auditorium from July 29 to August 27. Tickets can be booked on 01904 623568 or at

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Update, Update. . . that got you all excited didn't it? Always on the alert for breaking news, that's us.

Toby Jones to star as Sherlock villain

Toby Jones is to play a villain in the fourth series of BBC One's Sherlock.
Jones will join Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the second episode of the new three-part series. Filming began on Monday.
Jones said: "I'm excited and intrigued by the character I shall be playing in Sherlock..."
The show's co-creator Steven Moffat said: "Delighted to have Toby Jones on board, bringing to life one of Doyle's finest villains."
Co-creator Mark Gatiss added: "We're thrilled to welcome one of our finest actors to the Sherlock family. I know Toby will embrace the part with true relish!"
It was announced last month that series four will begin with Holmes (Cumberbatch) back on British soil, as Doctor Watson (Freeman) and his wife, Mary (Amanda Abbington), prepare for parenthood.

It's almost for sure a maybe. . . .

EXCLUSIVE: Downey Jr. confirms Sherlock Holmes 3 shooting this year

In an exclusive interview with ShortList, Robert Downey Jr. said he and director Guy Ritchie, who directed the first two instalments of Sherlock Holmes, would be starting work on a third film before the end of the year.

“We’re talking about it right now,” said the actor. "We can do some preliminary stuff.”
He admitted that their busy schedules caused the delay in following up 2011’s A Game of Shadows, which saw Holmes fake his death after a fight with his nemesis Moriarty.
“If we could shoot it on Skype, we could have the whole [movie] done in a week,” he admitted. “When we’re making those Sherlock movies it is off the hook. [So] we’ll attempt to make one this year. It really is a big deal to go and do those movies. I’m tired all the time, but I’m so excited about it."
The scampish star also let slip to ShortList he would be in the UK as part of the promotional tour for Captain America: Civil War, and was looking forward to discussing Holmes with Ritchie as part of his trip to London.
“He’ll say ‘I’ll meet you on my bike’, all that sort of macho stuff,” he said. “I’ve always considered riding a bike in London as taking your life in your own hands. Guy makes it look easy.”
Captain America: Civil War sees former allies Tony Stark and Steve Rogers come to blows over government plans to curb the Avengers’ vigilante behaviour by making them work for the UN. Trailers have shown the pair leading their own factions of Marvel characters – including Black Widow, Vision, Hawkeye and Falcon – into a huge battle.
Downey Jr. praised the new additions to the Marvel universe – including Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and Tom Holland as Spider-man, saying “I have so much admiration for everybody.
“[Boseman] is a really big deal. Softly spoken, but extremely dynamic. And that takes nothing away from [Anthony] Mackie [The Falcon], who knows how to hold court.”

Are you ready for this?

Hey, remember how we told you the rather surprising news that basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had written a novel about Sherlock Holmes’ brother Mycroft? Well, now he’s writing a comic about it. Featuring the sexiest Mycroft Holmes ever.
Here’s the full cover, bask in its glory:

If you’re wondering if I have questions about how the legendarily fat and sedentary Mycroft—whose club forbid talking—ended up being a bare-chested adventurer, you bet I do. They are “What?” “Why?” “What?” “No, really?” “How?” “Can someone help me understand?” and “What?”, in that order.

You heard it here first. . . unless you have other sources for your new;)

Sherlock series 4 cast: Toby Jones joins Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman

The new series has finally started filming, with fans promised “ghosts of the past” and a baby on the horizon
Sherlock series 4 has landed its first new cast member, in beloved Brit actor Toby Jones. 
The actor, who often sports supporting roles in huge franchises such as Harry PotterCaptain America, and The Hunger Games; now joins the BBC 1 drama, Radio Times reports. "I'm excited and intrigued by the character I shall be playing," the actor stated. 
He'll join the returning Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, alongside Amanda Abbington, Una Stubs, Rupert Graves, Jonathan Aris and Louise Brealey; with his character making an appearance in episode 2 of the new series, though his identity so far remains mysterious.
Series co-creator Stephen Moffat hinted, "Delighted to have Toby Jones on board, bringing to life one of Doyle's finest villains"; with fellow co-creator Mark Gatiss adding, "We're thrilled to welcome one of our finest actors to the Sherlock family. I know Toby will embrace the part with true relish."
Knowing only that Jones is playing a famous Arthur Conan Doyle villain opens up a whole number of possibilities, considering the author's own Holmes had a knack for making enemies. Could he be the sinister Austrian murderer Adelbert Gruner? Or smuggler John Clay? 
Or could he somehow be connecting back to Moriarty, with the hint that "ghosts of the past rising in the lives of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson" possibly signaling some sort of return for the villain? We'll have to see when the series finally airs, with reports claiming with "near certainty" it will debut on New Year's Day 2017.

Monday, May 16, 2016

On the same link as the last post you can also find some othe Sherlockian book connections

An interesting piece on the author of a popular new Holmes book.

Sherlock Holmes the girl genius

He has been a hound, one half of an African-American duo busting crime in modern-day Harlem and has, over the years, matched wits with everything from Martian invaders to flesh-eating zombies.
But Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, the great detective who continues to inspire legions of adaptations across mediums, is rarely reimagined as a young girl.
With her debut young adult novel A Study In Charlotte, American writer Brittany Cavallaro, 29, fills that gap.
"There's been a gold rush of adaptations, but it seemed like Sherlock was getting reimagined every which way but as a teenage girl. It was important for me to do a feminist retelling of Sherlock Holmes," she tells The Sunday Times over Skype from her home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
"I thought it was crucial to give girls - especially now, with young girls so interested in the television and film adaptations of Sherlock - a genius character that looked like them. I love that Elementary (a television series with Lucy Liu as "Joan" Watson) reimagined Watson as a woman, but it's important to have the complicated, difficult genius - the person actually calling the shots - be a girl."
She experienced firsthand the casual assumption that mysteries are a man's domain.
Would we accept Sherlock's flaws if he were a woman? We're tougher on female characters than we are on men.
When she was a young girl, her grandfather gave her little brother a leather-bound edition of the Holmes stories.
"It went to him - you know, the boy, the one who my grandfather automatically identified as the one who'd be interested in reading about and solving mysteries. And I stole it," she says with a laugh.
Holmes became a life-long interest for Cavallaro, who would go on to study detective fiction when she did her PhD in English literature.
And when she started on A Study In Charlotte, the first book in a planned trilogy, she knew right off the bat that it would be built around a prickly girl genius.
Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson, descendants of the original Holmes and Watson, are teenagers struggling to figure themselves out, but are already burdened with the legacies of their ancestors.
Marooned in an American boarding school, the two develop a tentative relationship when they find themselves framed for a classmate's murder.
The fun, fast-paced novel dangles new twists and mysteries that pay tribute to Doyle's canon. It is also Cavallaro's way of confronting expectations attached to gender.
"People don't tend to look to girls to be the genius. And when they do, they still want them to be pleasant and social and likable. Charlotte isn't any of those things and I wanted to see what the consequences of that would be," she says.
"When you're a girl who doesn't really understand her place in the world, when you're a girl who has the same kind of self-destructive eccentricities Sherlock had, how would that play out? Would we accept Sherlock's flaws if he were a woman? We're tougher on female characters than we are on men."
Her Charlotte is flawed and fumbling: She was sexually assaulted by the classmate whose death she is now being blamed for, and indulges a drug addiction.
American author Brittany Cavallaro puts her spin on Sherlock Holmes, who has been a huge part of her life, in her debut novel, A Study In Charlotte (above).
Cavallaro says it was also crucial that she stick to Doyle's tradition of telling the story through Watson's eyes. In the book, Jamie - whose problems are of the run-of-the-mill teenage variety, among them hormones and grades - reports on Charlotte's frenetic, self- destructive fervour with fascination and confusion.
"I wanted him to be the storyteller and for the girl to not be there just to further his story. She's not a manic pixie dream girl. She's not just a love interest or arm candy," says Cavallaro, who is married.
"She's somebody who's driving the story, who's just fine without him, and he knows it, shows it and respects it."
She started on the novel in 2013, while she was trying to put off studying to sit a big examination for her PhD. She banged out the draft in about six weeks and finished revising the novel with her literary agent in early 2014.
Months later, the book was snapped up by HarperCollins.
Cavallaro has just turned in the second book and is getting started on the third.
She says: "Holmes has been a huge part of my life - I'm a Sherlockian and proud of it. So to have this as my Sherlockian calling card, to put my own spin on a character that's been embedded in the common consciousness for so long, is amazing."
•A Study In Charlotte ($32.13) is available at Books Kinokuniya.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Okay, this is funny. . .

Ah, . . . the roar of the grease paint, the smell of the crowds. Wait, wrong venue. . .

Broadway-Bound Sherlock Holmes Sets Director

Tony nominee Daniel Evans will direct the Broadway premiere of the play that promises to bring a new edge to the classic tale. 

Daniel Evans, who directed the London revival of Show Boat and was seen on Broadway in the revival of Sunday in the Park With George, will direct a new Broadway-aimed production of Sherlock Holmes that promises to bring “thrills and dynamic energies” to the classic mystery series.
Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel have written the play that will have its U.K. premiere in summer 2017 prior to a Broadway arrival. Specific dates of a Broadway premiere have not been determined. Antonio R. Marion is lead producer.
The creative team will also include Tony and Olivier Award-winning scenic designer Christopher Oram, Tony and Olivier-winning lighting designer Hugh Vanstone and six-time Tony-winning costume designer William Ivey Long.
“We have worked long and hard to assemble a creative team that will not only bring a compelling new edge to the beloved characters of Sherlock Holmes, but will also bring to life a dark, Victorian underworld, where everyone, including Holmes, has something to hide,” Marion said in a statement. “With one of London’s hottest young directors, and a pedigree design team, audiences will experience the thrills and dynamic energies of Sherlock Holmes in a way that has never been rendered on stage.”
“Staged as a mystery within a mystery, the case presented to Holmes forces him to confront his murky past,” press notes state. “But is the unravelling of his childhood just a dangerous diversion? Sherlock Holmes is an original tale which will offer a new and deeply theatrical exploration of the mind of the famous detective, while remaining faithful to the mysterious world created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.” 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The season ends - S4 E's 23 and 24, my thoughts.

Speaking of bombs!

Okay, okay. Maybe it wasn't that bad.

Season four came to an end this past Sunday with episode 24, 'A Difference in Kind',
A continuation of episode 23, 'The Invisible Hand'.
I must admit that the fact that my 'The Woman', Natalie Dormer, did not return may be clouding my review, but I will do my best not to be jaded.

In 'The Invisible Hand' people surrounding Morland Holmes are dropping like flies. And it is eventually determined, by Sherlock, that the lead suspect, in his book, Vikner, is responsilbe.
Vikner also turns out to be the leader of Moriarty's crime sydicate, and the father of her daughter.

In episode 24, 'A Difference in Kind', the Holmes' try to get another top ranking boss in Moriarty's orginazation to help bring down Vikner, An Iraqi diplomat, she feels Vikners death is the only way to really bring him down. (Why she would want to bring on Moriarty's dipleasure about this is beyond me.)

It is shortly after this that we find Morland has been recruited to head the organization, and he accepts the job to protect Joan and Sherlock.

Morland has spent most of this season trying to get back into Sherlock's good graces. And unless Morland dives in front of a bullet to save Joan, that does not seem likely to happen. And the ending of this season may have been a way to get him out, at least for the time being, of the story line.
While the Canonical Moriarty and the 'Elementary' Vikner seem to be able to carry on a normal life in public view as teachers, I doubt if Morland will be allowed to do so.

While in the canon we never really find out what happens to Moriarty's organizaion, every one telling Sherlock in these last two episodes seems kind of like a dig to his abilities and that he left something unfinished and now Morland needs to clean it up, as he did with Sherlocks drug problem by finding Joan. It felt to much like, "What do I have to do to prove myself to you Sherlock, die?"
Canonically many of us believe Holmes spent a good part of his time in hiatus helping to round up most of Moriarty's compatriots in crime, finishing off with the capture of Moran in EMPT.
(The spotting of someone in the flat from across the street rang of EMPT.)
If the cliff hanger of this season had been the bomb going off and Joan and the rest of us not knowing what happened to Sherlock, it may have worked better. But since B.C's. 'death' as Sherlock in 'Sherlock', the public may have seen that coming.
At this point in time, if Dormers 'Moriarty' will not be returning they need to come up with their own 'FINA'. Dormer was Elementary's Moriarty and it will be a shame if they can not bring that story to completion without her presence. And if indeed John Noble's 'Morland' is pretty well gone, it leaves very much about this season unresolved.

 That also leaves Sherlock as the least effective of all individuals involved with the resolution.

The way this episode ended, did however make room for new story developments that do not include Morland or Moriaty and actually help the show advance into better stories.

While I find this season the strongest so far, for me, these two episode, along with 'Hounded' are the weakest.

A good question from these two episodes would be; Could a Sherlock Holmes in modern times take on an organization like Moriarty's?

If I look at these two episodes as the season finally ending a story line I was getting tired of, I can fairly give these episodes;

I'm okay with this. . . .

Elementary: John Noble Not Returning as Series Regular for Season 5

After taking over Moriarty’s organization in order to protect Sherlock and Joan, the senior Holmes said goodbye to New York City during Sunday’s Season 4 finale. (Get scoop on that twist and more here.)
“This was always the plan that we would have John aboard for Season 4,” and he would then exit, executive producer Rob Doherty tells TVLine. “We wanted Morland — and, by extension, John — to help us define Season 4, and he absolutely did that. I feel like we told the one long story we wanted to, but we [also] got to tell a lot of smaller stories about Sherlock and his father, and then Morland trying to develop a relationship with Joan. We feel like we did everything we set out to do.”

Monday, May 9, 2016

Houdini played by Watson . . under 'I did not know this!'

Known for his Watson in Young Sherlock Holmes, Alan Cox at one time played Houdini.

Houdini and Doyle, what can we expect. . . . .

This weekend I watched the first episode of Houdini and Doyle not knowing what to expect.

The episode, and I am guessing the rest of the series will be like it, centers on  a murder case that seems to center around spirits and ghosts.
With Houdini trying to prove it wasn't a supernatural killer and Doyle, of course, trying to prove it was. In between is a sensible female constable trying to prove herself in a mans world.

Doyle is of course irritated that the public is still crying for more Holmes while he is trying to prove he is capable of more than that.

Lots of Doyle connections are made throughout the show. Two of Doyles children are present in the household, as is Doyles first wife.

The most fun about the new show is the Victorian settings and costumes and the young female police constable played by Rebecca Liddiard. While women were still not present on the police force at this time, her character balances Doyle and Houdini. (Nor had Doyle and Houdini actually when this show is set.)(And the context of how much Doyle was involved with spiritualism at this period of time is a little off also.)

I think this will be a fun show, and much like Sherlock and Elementary it could become a game of catching as many Doyle and Sherlock Holmes references as one can.

I will let Doyleokian tell us how much is fact and how much is accurate.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Okay, this one is for my love of Yorkshire Pudding. . . . don't know if Sherlock ever had any or not.

3 local pubs that are fantastic for Yorkshire Puddings

THIS week, we are looking at not one, not two, but three superb Yorkshire pubs.
They're separated by many miles but linked by one common thread: their reverence for the beauty that is the Yorkshire Pudding.
We've hunted high and low, north and south, to bring you today's recommendations, especially in honour of Yorkshire Day.
And now, after a bitter but brilliant batter battle, we have three recommendations. So if you're looking for a splendid lunch, look no further....
York Press:
1 - First up is a pub we have recommended before: The Ship Inn in Aldborough, a pretty little village near Boroughbridge.
I headed out here in 2012, after a letter writer to The Press said the beef was the best she'd ever tasted and the Yorkshires the most amazing she’d seen - and we weren't disappointed!
This is a fantastic place, reputed to have been a pub since the 1300s, and run by Brian and Elaine Rey for the past few years. It's splendid, but the roast dinner in particular is hard to beat.
The beef is matured for 21 days and slow cooked for 20 hours, and the portions are enormous. The piece de resistance is what they call "Brian's world famous Yorkshire puddings" - humongous crisp balls the size of grapefruit, which I still remember fondly.

York Press:
2 - Next up, a couple of miles south of Pickering on the A169, is The Black Bull.
This place changed hands in March, and the new owners are full of fighting talk. A roadside sign declares: "We serve probably the best Yorkshire pudding in Yorkshire" - a claim that demanded to be put to the test.
There's no shortage of choice here. There are giant filled Yorkshire puddings and the house speciality - homemade loaf tin Yorkshire Puddings with a choice of five fillings. I plumped for steak and ale and chips and it was fantastic.
The method was inspired; the result was a hefty brick-shaped pudding, topped with steak and ale and with a mound of chips on the side.
Best in Yorkshire though? It's good - but it can't beat our final pub......

York Press:
3 - Step forward The Crooked Billet at Saxton, directly opposite the historic Lead Chapel near Towton battlefield, just south of Tadcaster.
I've had this pub on my radar since a visit to its sister pub (The Cross Keys in Hillam) introduced me to the some of best pub burgers I've encountered. Here, the speciality in a vast and varied menu is the filled Yorkshire pudding, and the quality is outstanding.
All come filled with mash, veg, gravy and a choice of two sausages, roast meat of the day, steak and kidney, or vegetables and veggie gravy.
I've tried the first two now (on separate trips) and both were excellent. It looks a bit messy, buckling under its own bulk, but it tastes tremendous.
If you're in this neck of the woods, and want a proper lunch for Yorkshire Day weekend, in surroundings laden with Yorkshire history this is the place to go.
York Press:
The puddings at The Crooked Billet (left) and The Black Bull.

York Press:

A good question. . .

Would Sherlock Holmes be a coke addict today? It’s an interesting question

US opioid sales quadrupled from 1999-2010, but there can serious side effects even when taken as directed

Legions of Benedict Cumberbatch fans will be delighted with the news that filming has just got under way for the fourth Sherlock Holmesseries. Feature- length episodes are due to hit our screens in the autumn.
With a modern rather than a Victorian setting, the writers had to decide how to tackle the issue of Holmes’s addiction to cocaine and opium when the series began. Steven Moffat said: “I think you’d have to ask the question would a man like Sherlock Holmes be a coke addict today? In Victorian times everybody was taking some kind of drug, largely because there was no such thing as a painkiller. It is a very different thing to say that Sherlock Holmes is a coke addict now.”
It’s an interesting perspective. There has been an explosion in opiate prescribing, especially in North America. US opioid sales quadrupled between 1999 and 2010. This was in part a response to undertreatment of patients receiving palliative care and those with acute pain. However, opioid therapy for chronic musculoskeletal pain, including back pain, also grew substantially and disproportionately. And as US opioid sales quadrupled, admissions to substance misuse treatment programmes and opioid- related overdose deaths also increased fourfold.
Opiate prescribing dates back to Sir Thomas Sydenham, who, in the 1660s, promoted laudanum, a tincture of opium and alcohol. Sir William Osler, a famously cautious prescriber, called it “God’s own medicine”. For the first time doctors had access to a reliable painkiller, a sedative and, because of its tendency to constipate, a useful treatment for diarrhoea.
People bought opiates in much the same way as they buy paracetamol today: patented formulations such as Dover’s powder were kept in the kitchen cupboard. Godfrey’s Cordial or Street’s Infants’ Quietness not only reduced colic in infants but made it easier to sedate children. The intoxicant effects of opium were also appreciated – brewers added it to their products.
Opiates are compounds found naturally in the opium poppy plant Papaver somniferum. Heroin is perhaps the most famous opiate, but there are numerous derivatives including methadone, oxycodone and fentanyl.
Some experts rank heroin as the most addictive drug. It causes the level of dopamine in the brain’s reward system to increase by up to 200 per cent. In addition to being arguably the most addictive drug, heroin is dangerous, too, because the dose that can cause death is only five times greater than the dose required to experience a high.
By 2010, deaths related to prescription opioid overdose had reached 16,500 a year in the US, far exceeding deaths from cocaine or heroin. Deaths from prescription opioids have also increased in the UK. The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) reckon as many as one in four people receiving prescription opioids in a primary-care setting struggles with addiction.
Earlier this year the CDC issued a formal warning to doctors about opiate prescribing. Acknowledging the important role of opiates in relieving suffering for patients with active cancer or others in hospice or palliative care, it noted that “studies are not available to indicate whether opioids control chronic pain well when used long-term”.
In addition to the serious risks of addiction and overdose, the use of prescription opioids can have a number of side effects, even when taken as directed. These include: physical dependence (ie symptoms of withdrawal when the medication is stopped); increased sensitivity to pain; vomiting; drowsiness; itching and sweating; and depression.
No one likes being in chronic pain for months or more. But before you move to a prescribed opiate for non- malignant pain it’s important to discuss with your doctor all pain treatment options. Be open about past or current drug and alcohol use. And have a detailed discussion about the risks and benefits of taking prescription opioids.