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Sherlock Holmes and the Case of Dr. Who

An annotated guide to All-Consuming Fire

By Jamas Enright

Having recently read all of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books, I went back to Andy Lane's 1994 Doctor Who New Adventures novel All-Consuming Fire and noted the connections between the two. The result is this annotated guide to the Sherlock Holmes references in All-Consuming Fire.

I've also noted several Doctor Who references, but I haven't covered the Cthulhu connections, as this was done by Nicholas Withers in TSV 42.

Each annotation begins with a page number from All-Consuming Fire, hereafter abbreviated to ACF. For the Sherlock Holmes stories, I have dropped "The Adventure of" from the title to save space and repetition. Where I've put 'no known reference', that means it was really obscure, or, more likely, Andy Lane made it up. For each reference, I've included its origin.

The Case of the All-Consuming Fire

vi: Gillette's Sherlock Holmes play. American actor William Gillette played Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes to great success. Peter Haining, in the introduction to The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes suggests Gillette may have amended the play, which the telegram here would bear out.

Chapter 1

The Date

Both Dr. Watson (p5) and Benny (p153) give the year as 1887, and yet there are references that give rise to inconsistencies. On page 14, the Pope refers to The Affair of the Politician, The Lighthouse and the Trained Cormorant as having been published, yet Watson, when chronicling The Veiled Lodger, which takes places in 1894, says he has not published it yet. (The Veiled Lodger)

This book is supposed to be after The Talons of Weng-Chiang, yet that story is after the Ripper murders, which took place in 1888. (A History of the Universe)

If the Baron Maupertuis in ACF is the same as the one in The Reigate Squires, then he was captured in the spring of 1887, while ACF happens in the summer. There is no sign that Holmes knows him, so this could be a different Baron, but that's unlikely. (The Reigate Squires)

Holmes claims to know Bertrand Russell (p86), yet Russell didn't do any work on the subject of axiomitising mathematics until 1898.

What does this all mean? There are a few possible explanations.

(a) Events in the Doctor Who universe do not match the dates in our universe.

(b) Watson lied or forgot, although he usually states when he is hiding something, which isn't done here. (The Three Students, The Second Stain)

(c) Andy Lane just threw in as many references as possible, and damn the dates!

I vote for (c) myself, using (a) as an excuse for continuity.

5, etc: The chapter title 'In which Holmes and Watson return from holiday and an illustrious client commissions their services'. This title is not typical of Sherlock Holmes stories, but is in the tradition of Leslie Charteris's The Saint novels, of which Andy Lane is also a fan. (It is also similar to the by-lines used in episodes of The Avengers, but I prefer the Charteris link.)

5: 'the repulsive story of the red leech and the tale of the terrible death of Crosby the banker.' Although Watson gives the year of that adventure as 1884, it was actually handled in 1894. (The Golden Pince-nez)

5: 'the singular affair of the aluminium crutch' is given as happening in 1886, but Holmes handled the case before he ever met Watson. (The Musgrave Ritual)

5: 'my marriage to Constance Adams.' Watson's marriages are a tricky matter, but it appears that he was married three times (it's related to the large problem of dating the adventures). However the only name we know is of the second wife, Mary Morstan. Constance Adams would therefore be the first. (The Encyclopaedia Sherlockiana, Holmes and Watson, My Dear Holmes) (See Reference Material)

5: 'I had turned my hand to writing an account of my meeting with Holmes for private publication' which was printed as A Study in Scarlet.

6: 'for he had recently been remunerated by Lord Rotherfield'. No known reference.

6, etc: The Library of St John the Beheaded. No known reference in Sherlock Holmes stories, but used in later New and Missing Adventures (e.g. Millennial Rites)

6: 'Holmes and I were in the habit of taking dinner with Colonel Warbuton and his charming wife Gloria.' Watson introduced Holmes to the case of Colonel Warburton's madness, which, if this is the same Colonel Warburton, must have happened before ACF. (The Engineer's Thumb) (The case of Colonel Warbuton's madness was written as a novella in The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes, with other cases with only fleeting references, by Adrian Conan Doyle (Sir Arthur's younger son) and John Dickson Carr, in a story called The Adventure of the Sealed Room, largely written by Adrian Conan Doyle. However, as the novella revolves around Colonel Warbuton's death, and Holmes and Watson do not know him, this novella has no relation to ACF.)

7: 'Holmes was now waxing lyrical about violins'. Holmes has a Stradivarius, and has commented to Watson before about the difference between a Stradivarius and an Amati. (A Study in Scarlet)

12: '"His Holiness was most pleased with your discreet recovery of the Vatican cameos."' Holmes recovered the cameos in the same year he investigated The Hound of the Baskervilles.

13: 'After all, it had been five years before he revealed to me that he possessed a brother."' Holmes told Watson about Mycroft in The Greek Interpreter.

13: '"My fees are on a fixed scale," Holmes said severely, "except in those cases where I remit them altogether. The problem is everything. Pray explain what you wish of me."' Holmes said pretty much the same to Mr. Neil Gibson. (The Problem of Thor Bridge)

14: '"a copy of the notes made by Doctor Watson and picturesquely entitled The Affair of the Politician, The Lighthouse and the Trained Cormorant."' Watson mentioned this case when chronicling The Veiled Lodger, which was in 1894, and said he might publish it later (see The date). (The Veiled Lodger)

Chapter 2

19: '"Sleep is for tortoises."' A sentiment the Doctor uttered in Talons.

19: '"The agony columns,"' Holmes reads the agony columns (personal advertisements) as he considers them instructive, and they have helped in various cases. He keeps scrapbooks filled with them. (The Noble Bachelor, The Copper Breeches, The Engineer's Thumb, The Empty House, The Red Circle)

20: the description of the room comes from several places. The 'V.R.' in bullets, the Persian slipper of tobacco, and jack-knife were in The Musgrave Ritual, Watson's paintings were described in The Reticent Patient.

21: '"Poe is an American drunk and his fictional detective Dupin a fortunate blunderer."' Holmes expressed his disapproval for Poe and his works in A Study in Scarlet.

26: '"Oh, I know where [Redvers Fenn-Cooper] is. I meant it metaphorically."' Indeed, the Doctor found Fenn-Cooper at Gabriel Chase in Ghost Light.

29, 30: W. C. Minor. No known reference.

Chapter 3

37: '"Wilma Norman-Neruda is playing at the St James's Hall this evening."' Holmes often spends time at concerts while waiting for further details to develop in cases. He went to the St James's Hall to hear Sarasate play while investigating The Red-Headed League.

37: 'followed by dinner at Simpsons' Holmes has dined there before. (The Dying Detective, The Illustrious Client)

38: 'Holmes's research into the effect of employment on the shape on the ear'. Holmes published two short monographs in the Anthropological Journal on the shape of the human ear. (The Cardboard Box)

38: '"Thank you, Billy."' There have been a number of page-boys at Baker Street, and at least two named Billy. (The Marazin Stone, The Problem of Thor Bridge, The Valley of Fear)

39, etc: The Doctor and Sherlock Holmes. The Doctor told Ace he had met Sherlock Holmes before, although both he and Ace admit he wasn't real (which didn't stop the Doctor from meeting him). (Timewyrm: Revelation by Paul Cornell, p15)

40: '"The terrible murder of the Atkinson brothers in Trincomalee."' A case Holmes investigated while Watson was enjoying married life. No known reference to Spink. (A Scandal in Bohemia)

40: '"That soil on your gaiter, I do not recognize it."' Holmes is able to recognize the various clays and soils around England. (The Five Orange Pips, The Sign of Four, A Study in Scarlet)

40: '"a slurry of clay and dust from Menaxus. Now there's a place to go for a show."' And the Doctor had just been there in Theatre of War.

41: '"I am presently researching into coal-tar derivatives."' Holmes spent some months studying coal-tar derivatives during the time he was believed dead by Watson. (The Empty House)

41: '"Take care if you ever manage to distil coronic acid."' This was used by Chessene against the Sontarans in The Two Doctors.

42: '"Professor Litefoot. You may have heard of him."' Professor Litefoot was, of course, in Talons. (See The date.)

44: 'I had been drawing up a list of his interests in an attempt to more closely understand his character.' Watson included his list when writing up A Study in Scarlet.

45: '"a certain Baron Maupertuis,"' Baron Maupertuis was a swindler who was caught by Holmes in the spring of 1887 (See The Date). (The Reigate Squires)

45: 'Professor Challenger'. A character appearing in Arthur Conan Doyle's non-Holmes novel The Lost World.

46: '"Mack Yeovil and I have crossed swords before."' No known reference.

47: '"You were wondering where I came from."' Although the Doctor has mind-reading abilities, Holmes has demonstrated an ability to read Watson's thoughts. (The Illustrious Client, The Dancing Men)

48: 'We had returned various stolen sets of jewels to their rightful owners and averted a handful of scandals in high society.' Jewels were returned in, for example, The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet and The Marazin Stone. Scandals were averted in, for example, A Scandal in Bohemia, The Naval Treaty and The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.

Chapter 4

Reference Material

While researching texts to see where Andy Lane got various facts from, I came across a book which had so many elements that appear in ACF that there can be no doubt that this is a book Andy Lane used himself for research. It is Sherlock Holmes: A Biography of the World's First Consulting Detective by William S. Baring-Gould. In it, Baring-Gould gives several facts about Holmes' and Watson's lives, all without any signs of actual evidence.

The facts originating in Baring-Gould's book are as follows. Sherlock Holmes was born in Yorkshire; his father was Siger Holmes and he has two brothers, Sherringford and Mycroft. Watson lived and practised medicine in San Francisco for a while, where he met his wife, Constance Adams, who died at the end of 1887. (Which contradicts Andy Lane's dating.)

The title of this article is taken from Sherlock Holmes and the case of Dr. Freud by Michael Shepherd, which got me into my Sherlock Holmes reading binge and lead to this article.

59: Inspector MacDonald consulted Holmes in The Valley of Fear, Inspector Lestrade worked with Holmes in numerous cases including A Study in Scarlet, The Six Napoleons and The Cardboard Box. Inspector Bradstreet worked on The Man with the Twisted Lip, The Blue Carbuncle, and The Engineer's Thumb. No known reference to the others.

64: 'the strange case of Isadore Persano.' The affair of the painted pit pony is unknown, but the case of Isadore Persano was referred to by Watson in The Problem of Thor Bridge.

64: 'The Affair of the Walking Ventriloquist's Dummy.' A case where Holmes failed, but perhaps it would have been better titled The Talons of Weng-Chiang.

65: 'The Affair of the Noble Bachelor' was in fact printed as The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor.

65: '"I read it in The Strand Magazine."' The Strand was the magazine in which Conan Doyle's short stories were published. The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor was printed in April 1892.

69: 'Despite his jibes at my nascent literary hobby, Holmes had no ability at story-telling.' Holmes, himself, wrote The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier and The Adventure of the Lion's Mane, and possibly two unofficial stories The Story of the Man with the Watches and The Story of the Lost Special, all after 1887 though. (The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)

73: '"A giant rat, caught in the depths of Sumatra."' The case of the giant rat from Sumatra is a story the world is not yet prepared for. (The Sussex Vampire)

77: 'a small-time cracksman named Froome who had crossed Holmes's path before'. No known reference.

79: 'his knowledge of baritsu'. Holmes used baritsu (the Japanese system of wrestling) against Moriarty during the fight at Reichenbach. (The Empty House)

Chapter 5

82: 'should he discover cigar ash at the scene of a crime.' Holmes can distinguish between any known brand of cigar or of tobacco, and wrote a monograph called Upon the Distinction Between the Ashes of the Various Tobaccos. (A Study in Scarlet, The Boscombe Valley Mystery, The Sign of Four)

82: 'Indeed, Doyle and I had recently been paid the sum of twenty-five pounds to allow [A Study in Scarlet's] reproduction in the forthcoming Beeton's Christmas Annual.' Indeed, Doyle was paid twenty-five pounds for A Study in Scarlet, which was published in Beeton's Christmas Annual in 1887. (The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)

82: 'leaving Holmes almost invisible amongst a cloud of smoke...of Ships' Number One Shag.' Holmes is a chronic heavy smoker, and also partook of cocaine, although Watson weaned him off the stuff. Although Holmes likes Shag, it is Watson who smokes Ship's tobacco. (The Devil's Foot, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Red-Headed League, The Second Stain, The Man with the Twisted Lip, The Five Orange Pips, The Creeping Men, The Missing Three-Quarter, A Study in Scarlet)

83: 'the Great Detective could not discover, and that was the state of his own health.' Holmes has no interest in his own state of health. (The Marazin Stone, The Devil's Foot)

83: 'he was dressed in an Inverness travelling cape and a flapped travelling cap.' Which the Doctor wore in Talons

86: '"I will have no truck with the forces of Satan."' Holmes prefers to look for a natural, not supernatural, answer to the problems he encounters. Although he does imply that he is willing to allow a supernatural answer, in which he has no dominion, if no other answer can be found. (The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Sussex Vampire)

86: '"I have been corresponding with a young man named Russell upon the subject, a philosopher at Cambridge."' This would be Bertrand Arthur William Russell (1872-1970), who wasn't at Cambridge until 1890. (See The date) (The Doctor has a copy of Russell's Principia Mathematica, seen in Four to Doomsday)

89 onwards: Mycroft and the Diogenes Club. Mycroft and the club (of which Mycroft was a founder) were introduced in The Greek Interpreter, which also had the anecdote of a member dying and no-one noticing for three days. He involved Holmes in The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans, and helped Holmes before and after the death of Moriarty. There is no known reference to the Diogenes Club being involved in any outré activities. (The Final Problem, The Empty House)

Chapter 6

105: '"I seem to remember reading something like this in a Jules Verne book."' That could be From The Earth To The Moon or even Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

106: 'because of the wound I sustained in Afghanistan' in the left shoulder. Although there is some contention that the wound was in fact in Watson's leg, which is what Andy Lane uses in ACF. (A Study in Scarlet, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution)

Chapter 7

118: '"I myself have followed you"..."But I have seen nothing,"..."That is what you may expect to see when I am following you."' Holmes and Watson have this conversation in The Devil's Foot.

119: '"Because should any lady within a three mile radius show the slightest interest in Watson...he would know it."' Watson boasts of a large experience of many women, and even Holmes considers Watson a ladies' man. (The Sign of Four, The Retired Colourman, The Second Stain)

119: '"I have seen similar behaviour in Raston Robots."' The Doctor saw one in The Five Doctors.

124: Sherringford Holmes. Whilst there is no brother called Sherringford, Sherringford was to be Sherlock Holmes's original first name, so there is some kind of familial connection. (The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) See Reference Material.)

124: '"My family derive from old Yorkshire stock."' W. S. Baring-Gould, in Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, proposes Yorkshire as where Sherlock grew up, although Trevor Hall in Sherlock Holmes: Ten Literary Studies, gives his background as East Sussex, while there is evidence for Surrey. (The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) (See Reference Material.)

128: Siger Holmes. Sherlock went under the name of Sigerson during the time after the death of Moriarty. A literal case for his father's name. (The Empty House) (See Reference Material.)

Chapter 8

137: S.S. Matilda Briggs. This is the ship that is associated with the case of the giant rat of Sumatra. (The Sussex Vampire)

139: '"like horda in a pit."' The Doctor encountered a pit full of horda in The Face of Evil.

139: '"travelling to Australia with my father and brother"' Watson did spend some time in Australia, although he went to school in England. Watson's father had been dead 'many years' by 1888, and his elder brother died that year. (The Sign of Four, The Naval Treaty, Holmes and Watson)

141: '"I've had some very nasty experiences around the pyramids," he said.' Examples include Pyramids of Mars, The Daleks' Master Plan, The Left-Handed Hummingbird and The Aztecs.

143: '"I have commented before upon your pawky sense of humour, Watson."' In The Valley of Fear.

Chapter 9

155: 'Not Daleks, not Hoothi.' Love and War by Paul Cornell has Bernice's encounters with these two races.

159: '"Just like IMC and Lucifer, I guess."' As seen in Lucifer Rising, co-written by Andy Lane and Jim Mortimore.

Chapter 10

Spontaneous Human Combustion

All-Consuming Fire deals with the phenomena of Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC), which is largely considered unscientific (but then, so were meteorites). Yet, what we are presented with in ACF isn't anything like SHC.

On page 53, we have the death of Kate Prendersly. In the few cases where SHC was in front of witnesses, there has been only one case of a person having anything like heartburn. The fire starts in the torso, and spreads outwards, leaving no remains of the chest, and it does not explode, although fire issuing from the mouth is known. The smoke isn't orange, and smell, when noted in SHC cases, is either a normal burning smell, or an oddly sweet smell, not the smell of burning flesh. Due to the fire starting centrally, hands, feet, legs and arms usually survive.

The cases on p60-63: Charles Dickens's Bleak House is the most known of fictional instances of SHC, although it was widely criticised by his peers as unscientific.

The books by Carpenter, Beck and Beck, and Casper do exist, although I've not come across them in any SHC-related way.

The cases involving Nicole Millet and Grace Pett are real, and the events of Professor (not just Mr) James Hamilton was reported by his doctor in Transactions of the Medical Society of Tennessee (this is the exception noted above). Countess von Görlitz in fact died on 13th July 1847. The case of Mrs Rooney is correct. (All from Spontaneous Human Combustion by Jenny Randles and Peter Hough.)

On p114, the footman's head is engulfed in flames, which is unheard of in any recorded SHC case. Although it's getting obvious by this point (although perhaps only when rereading) that it's not SHC.

173: '"I was involved with a case recently where a Mr Matthew Jolly was murdered with a Carres Ice Machine."' No known reference.

180: 'Surely hair of that fiery hue would not be easy to forget.' Holmes and Watson would meet another fiery-hued man in The Red-Headed League.

Chapter 11

192: '"I am Professor James Moriarty"' Professor Moriarty, Holmes's nemesis, kept an eye on all of London's criminal activity, and controlled it like a spider in a web. In The Final Solution, Watson didn't know of him, but in The Valley of Fear, which is prior to The Final Solution, he does. (The Final Problem, The Valley of Fear)

195: '"Go and have a chat with Freud," she replied cryptically.' Actually, Holmes and Watson did, in The Seven-per-cent Solution.

Chapter 12

201: '"The process of searching is a painstaking one: I have often thought of writing a monograph on the subject."' In fact, Holmes had published an article on the science of observation and deduction, titled The Book of Life, around early 1881. (A Study in Scarlet)

202: 'one of the foremost authorities in the world on asteroid dynamics, having derived a result for the three-body problem using the binomial theorem' Professor Moriarty has a phenomenal mathematical ability. He wrote a treatise on the Binomial Theorem, and wrote the Dynamics of an Asteroid. (The Final Problem, The Valley of Fear)

203: '"I shall see you in the dock ere long, Professor."' Holmes nearly had the entire Moriarty gang captured and trialed, but a few, including Moriarty, escaped. (The Final Problem)

210: '"I'm not exactly one of the De Reskes Brothers myself,"' Holmes once asked Watson if he had heard of the De Reszkes (Polish brothers who became opera singers). (The Hound of the Baskervilles)

Chapter 13

218: '"He knows London back to front, for instance. He can identify the typefaces used by all of the daily newspapers, he knows the secret signs..., he can identify the profession of any man..."' See, respectively, The Empty House, The Red-Headed League, The Sign of Four; The Hound of the Baskervilles; no known reference; The Sign of Four, A Case of Identity, The Solitary Cyclist, The Norwood Builder.

221: '"The Great Old Ones are those gods."' The ones I can identify are Cthulhu: White Darkness; Gods of Ragnarok: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy; Fenric: The Curse of Fenric; Yog-Sothoth: The Abominable Snowmen, The Web of Fear and Downtime; Lloigor: The Web Planet.

221: '"You should have been with me when I fought the Vervoids."' Which the Doctor saw himself doing in The Trial Of A Time Lord: Terror of the Vervoids.

Chapter 14

235: '"Too many people have done that already, starting with a scumbag named Glitz."' Ace met Glitz in Dragonfire.

241: 'I used to play rugby for Blackheath' Possibly number 31. (The Sussex Vampire, The Retired Colourman, The Encyclopaedia Sherlockiana)

Chapter 15

249: 'this side of the planet Arcadia' Bernice visited Arcadia in Deceit.

Chapter 17

284: '"the rest deserted back on Peladon."' Which Ace et al visited in Legacy.

Chapter 18

289: '"E equals MC cubed in the exo-space time continuum', a fact the Master revealed in The Time Monster.

290: '"My five-hundred-year diary,"' Which the Second Doctor used a lot.

293: '"I practised medicine in San Francisco for nearly a year."' No known references (so no wonder Holmes looks sceptical). From page 296, San Francisco does seem to be where Watson picked up his first wife. (See Reference Material)

Chapter 19

297: '"we are several thousand miles and nineteen years from home." This isn't Holmes's first entanglement with time travel. In Exit Sherlock Holmes: The Great Detective's Final Days, by Robert Lee Hall, Holmes and Moriarty are revealed to be time travellers from 300 years in the future! Holmes visited America in The Adventure of the Stalwart Companions, by H. Paul Jeffers.

299: 'In quick succession he solved the bizarre problem of the paradol chamber, investigated the loss of the British barque Sophy Anderson and cast light upon the grotesque affair of the monkey and the plywood violin.' The first two were 1887 cases referred to in The Five Orange Pips, but there is no known reference for the last.

299: 'and I married again.' This time to Mary Morston. (The Encyclopaedia Sherlockiana, Holmes and Watson, My Dear Holmes)

300: 'the public rather took to these little amusements, and so I began to write more of them.' Actually, even after The Sign of Four, Sherlock Holmes remained largely unknown. It wasn't until Doyle decided to write a series of stories connected by continuing characters (now a common device) in The Strand magazine that they gained popularity. (The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)

301: 'the mysterious deaths of Patrick Grice Paterson and Cardinal Tosca on the island of Uffa,' While Grice Patterson died on Uffa in 1887, Cardinal Tosca didn't die until 1895, in a case the Pope asked Holmes to investigate. (The Five Orange Pips, Black Peter).

All books and stories referenced in this article were written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, except where otherwise noted, and the following: My Dear Holmes: A Study in Sherlock, by Gavin Blend; The Encyclopaedia Sherlockiana, by Jack Tracy; The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes edited by Peter Haining; Holmes and Watson: A Miscellany, by S. C. Roberts; The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, by Nicholas P. Meyer (based on his film).

This item appeared in TSV 58 (September 1999).

Index nodes: All-Consuming Fire