My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A very mysterious story of my most favorite fictitious character of all time, Sherlock Holmes.
"The Solitary Cyclist" is the fourth episode in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, illustrating the grab-bag approach to the Canon taken by the show's producers (the story was actually from The Return of Sherlock Holmes). That hardly matters, though, since "The Solitary Cyclist" is the most delightful episode yet. Not only do we get several scenes of Holmes and Watson being, well, Holmes and Watson, but we also get a story that encapsulates Doyle's narrative themes and presents us, yet again, with a strong and resourceful heroine.
The Victoran era was not the best time for women's rights, even though the modern feminist movement can trace its roots back to the suffragettes. Essentially powerless, women were at the mercy of men financially and physically; the Gothic tradition from which detective fiction sprang drew on this powerlessness, as did Wilkie Collins (in, for instance, The Woman in White). Doyle, as we saw in "A Scandal in Bohemia," seemed to be particularly sympathetic to the false position in which women often found themselves, and this episode (directed by "Bohemia" helmer Paul Annett) once again looks to the question. Of course, it turns out that the villain's plot is so hair-brained that it would never work, but for most of the episode's running we are made to feel intensely Violet Smith's sense of being beset on all sides.
Holmes almost certainly senses this as well; Brett's performance here is as sensitive as anything we've seen. The way he addresses Violet Smith, the look in his eyes as he meditates on her dilemma, is as far from the cold, rational machine Holmes would pretend to be as one could imagine. In his own way, he is as attentive to Violet as Watson is (Burke's performance here is reminiscent of Nigel Stock in The Sign of Four, although he is of course a bit less smitten). One hesitates to speculate, but surely the shadow of Irene Adler hangs over Holmes' interactions here; he has seen one woman wronged, and fears that Violet Smith--though she is certainly a capable young woman--might not be so fortunate.
"The Solitary Cyclist" presents us with an interesting glimpse into Victorian mores, particularly regarding the role of women. Violet Smith is yet another strong female character, willing to take matters into her own hands if necessary, even to turn around and rush at her stalker. If in the end she still needs Holmes to save her, it's through no fault of her own. It's been a while since I read the original story, but I'm almost certain the episode gets this right, in which case I'm inclined to think that the women in the Canon--including Irene Adler, Violet Smith, Violet Hunter, and I'm almost certain there are others--seem to have a strong resourceful streak. They're weak next to Sherlock Holmes, but next to everyone else they're powerful (within their Victorian gender roles, of course).
Considering the day and age in which these stories were written this is a very good and intriguing mystery. The Serials like CSI, Bones relies heavily on forensics. Serials like monk, mentalist, castle etc relies on hunches and unexplained guess work of leads. But todays VFX graphics movie generation will not be able to appreciate the mystery.
A very satisfying read. Must read for all those who like a good mystery. What sets apart Sherlock Holmes form Poirot, Miss Marple, Feluda, Byomkesh Bakshi and many others is that he explains everything logically. Holmes doesn’t rely on intuition, hunches or so called intelligent guess work. Holmes is the best.