“How do I begin to tell you about The Adventure of the All-Consuming Fire? A case like no other began like no other. There was no client on the doorstep, no urgent telegram begging for assistance. There was instead the insistent burst of a train whistle cutting through the icy Austrian landscape. And with that sound, the metaphorical shadow of The Library of St John The Beheaded fell over the Orient Express and, inside her, Holmes and I…”
So begins Big Finish Productions’ audio adaptation of the 1994 Doctor Who novel. The first and to date only official Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes crossover. But I would be amiss if I didn’t tell you of the wonders of Big Finish Productions.
Big Finish started in 1999 producing official Doctor Who and Bernice Summerfield audio adventures with many of the original actors for both Doctors and companions ranging from Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred – The seventh Doctor and Ace – to the world famous Tom Baker – ‘The one with the scarf’and Louise Jameson as Leela. They have had many original masterpieces and since then have branched out to many other series ranging from Blake’s 7 to The Prisoner to Sherlock Holmes.
But the important thing to note today is Big Finish’s Sherlock Holmes range. Nicholas ‘Voice of the Daleks’ Briggs plays Holmes with an appropriate tone for radio. His style is very much akin to Jeremy Brett or Basil Rathbone and he mixes in humour and acerbicness wonderfully as he bounces off his Watson in the form of Richard Earl who sounds like the doctor came to life and is telling the story to you and you alone.
One final thing to mention is that from 2012 to 2016 Big Finish produced audio adaptations of some classic Doctor Who novels from the 1990s including this one. All-Consuming Fire sees the Seventh Doctor, Ace and Bernice Summerfield – a novel and audio exclusive character – rub shoulders with Holmes and Watson on a most exciting and mysterious caper.
The story begins in quite the unusual way.Holmes and Watson are called out on a case…by the Pope to find some missing books. Books from The Library of St John The Beheaded a repository of books that were, are, will be or may in the future be banned. As such all books originating from this Library are incredibly dangerous.They investigate as per their usual prerogative and receive a calling card from ‘The Doctor’ who is waiting for them at Baker Street.
The Doctor and Holmes have a perfect chemistry as intelligent rivals and partners. Holmes often tries to figure out The Doctor or engage in very intellectual…’disagreements’. Watson however begins to get on well with Bernice in a somewhat ‘improper’ relationship for his usual standards. I absolutely love the dynamic as they all try to figure out the solution or split into different entertaining groups, especially when the missing books set off a chain reaction of events involving flaming heads and much else besides.
This story as a whole is an absolute classic in written and audio form. I’ve listened to it at least five times since I purchased it a few years ago. I genuinely consider it in my top ten audios across their entire oeuvre. Andy Lane is a brilliant author of Doctor Who stories from the period and Guy Adams is excellent at adapting the tale to audio form. Without giving away everything the end does lead to more than a handful of surprises. I’m sure Arthur Conan Doyle would definitely approve. Part of me would love to see his reaction to the conclusion!
I genuinely consider this a ten out of ten tale and would highly recommend that either Sherlock Holmes or Doctor Who fans give it a fair chance. Everyone involved in the adaptations is definitely firing on all cylinders.
After all Watson…the game’s afoot!