Episode 9: The Copper Beeches

In this installment, Holmes and Watson visit the mysterious Copper Beeches, a new Violet appears, and brain-fever once again rears its sweaty head. Also, Gus and Luke reflect on their interview with Stephen Fry, they discuss their latest adventures in the UK, Frank Middlemass gets a little extra love, and more.  Plus, listener emails!

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One thought on “Episode 9: The Copper Beeches”

  1. Brilliant episode, as expected (and thanks for the shout-out, btw).

    This is my favorite short story in the canon, and has my favorite heroine. To be super-picky, I do admit to being a tiny bit disappointed that the book Violet Hunter is a bit different than the one on screen. I’ve always loved the idea of a rather small, freckled, plain woman of incredible strength and resilience with only one beautiful feature–her hair–that she’s forced to give up. I love the Doyle description of her as a woman with no one, who has had to make her way in the world, and her decision to accept the position, in the face of bills from her creditors, has a business-like aspect that’s missing onscreen. In the story, you really get a sense she knows this is a Very Bad Idea, but when you’re at the brink of financial desperation, sometimes you make poor choices. I’m projecting here about my own work history, I admit.

    The screen Violet–and Natasha Richardson is SUCH a great actress, don’t get me wrong–seems much more fragile and vulnerable. The book Violet pretty much solves the mystery herself, which is why (I think) Watson says she’d have been a good match for Holmes (although I can’t imagine Watson REALLY wanting to share his friend). On the other hand, I will say, thanks to Joss Ackland’s Rucastle, the Granada version is also great (more so than Doyle) at subtly suggesting the first thing that comes to mind regarding all of the specifications about her appearance, and the vague comment about sitting where she’s told. Namely that Rucastle has a less-than-wholesome interest in his governess. Why else would a guy want a woman with a special hair color, height, and want the right to dress her up? I think Richardson’s suspicion when she says “my only duties” subtly conveys this, as does Ackland’s leering at her during his inspection.

    The fact an employer tries to enact kind of a symbolic rape (cutting a woman’s hair) of his employee is horrifying in and of itself, and makes Miss Stoper’s refusal to do her duty and send Rucastle packing (as she ought to protect a woman she’s representing) really unconscionable. Such a horrible woman, and the actress is fabulous in that tiny part.

    I do love this episode, and agree that once again, it’s flawlessly cast, and the Holmes-Watson dialogue bracketing it lovely.

    The idea of Smith being Holmes’ sister is just silly, but I think (in my own flight of fantasy, but hopefully with a bit more textual justification), his cynicism about country life might reflect his own, unhappy childhood, perhaps even abuse, since he’s the descendant of country squires. I’ve also wondered if Smith, as part of her past employment, was an artist’s model. Chestnut hair was very popular in Pre-Raphaelite paintings. Anyway, I’m glad she ends as a headmistress of her own school, rather than married. It’s an interesting and ironically more feminist take on the Jane Eyre construct, as in this case, the guy keeping a family member locked in an attic is a monster (not excused as in the Bronte text), and rather than marrying him, the governess exposes him and goes on to profit from her intelligence and live as an independent woman.

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