I decided to start with this mini-episode as the first post in a series of reviews on TV series and film adaptations of Sherlock Holmes.
Many Happy Returns, released a few weeks before the launch of the third series of Sherlock, is a little masterpiece that is, quite often, overlooked.
I have found myself disappointed at not finding a copy of it in any current DVD or box set releases. Sure, you can watch it online but my Series 1-4 box set feels rather incomplete without this mini-episode within its sleeves.
If you are a completist like me, it’s something I’ve been hoping they would add some day.
BBC if you’re reading this … *hint*hint*
So what’s so special about Many Happy Returns?
Subjectively, I’m pretty sure that my appeal for this episode was cemented the first time I watched it back in December 2013. Following the tremendously long interval between Series 2 and 3, this 7-minute episode was the perfect cure for any Sherlock fan.
We have returning characters framed within a deceptively simple story focusing on the return of Sherlock Holmes, that maintains that whimsical wittiness so synonymous with the series.
The mini-episode acts as a bridge between The Reichenbach Fall and The Empty Hearse as a still-grieving John watches an unedited recording of his friend wishing him a happy birthday. This is intercut with scenes of a desperate Lestrade listening to the conspiracies of Anderson, whilst Sherlock Holmes makes his way back to England by cracking a series of worldwide cases undercover.
Beautifully shot, with some fantastic dialogue and one or two nods to the Conan Doyle stories, this “prequel” builds up the anticipation as we find the actors back on their stellar form to give us another powerful series thanks to this energised introduction.
It was originally planned to be the opening of The Empty Hearse, until it was cut due to fears it might slow down the pace. An excellent decision in my view and, rather than abandoning it completely, this segment was “re-packaged” as a standalone mini-episode.
The result was a fantastic Christmas present.
All we need now is a copy of it on disc to complement the rest of the series. Thank you very much.