Doctor Watson -
The "Underestimated" Friend

The part of Doctor Watson, Sherlock Holmes's best and only friend, can be a thankless task for an actor.

And yet the character plays such an important role:

As readers of the original stories we see Sherlock Holmes through John Watson's eyes.

The stories are nearly all written from the doctor's point of view.

John Watson puts the superhuman detective into perspective for us.

Because of him we can relate to the intellectual genius of Holmes in the first place.

Dr Watson is a retired army surgeon who has seen battle action in Afghanistan.

A mutual acquaintance introduces him to the detective.

Eventually they decide to share lodgings.

John Watson is a stout and loyal fellow; willing to follow Holmes into every possible dangerous situation.

Sounds like the perfect companion for the detective?

I am sorry to disappoint you.

The original stories are not everything.

Some movies paint another picture.

Dr Watson looks like a bumbling fool and I ask myself how Sherlock Holmes could ever have put up with him in the first place.

Unfortunately, these movies are also some of the best known Sherlock Holmes movies.

Yes, I am talking about the Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce films.

Don't get me wrong. I like Nigel Bruce. His comic talent is fantastic. Some of his scenes as Doctor Watson are hilarious.

Check out the scene in "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes", where he lies on the floor playing a corpse for Holmes and the conversation which ensues, when a pedestrian asks him what he is doing.

But Bruce's portrayal also degraded Doctor Watson to a laughing stock. Many people still equalise his interpretation with the character.

This is really unfair.

Yes, the good doctor might be slightly less intelligent than the detective. But Watson is not stupid (he is a doctor of medicine for god's sake).

Nor does he blindly agree to just anything Holmes demands of him.

Fortunately most actors who play Dr Watson have shown their professional strengths.

Find out more about the men who had the privilege to play the detective's best and only friend:

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Hubert Willis joined Eille Norwood in a series of silent black and white movies in the 1920s.

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Ian Fleming (the Australian actor, not the creator of James Bond) played Doctor Watson opposite Arthur Wontner in a series of films during the 1930s.

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Ian Hunter took the reins from Fleming for one adventure alongside Wontner.

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The German actor Heinz Rühmann accompanied Hans Albers in "The Man Who Was Sherlock Holmes".

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The most famous actor duo playing Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, joined forces against different villains from 1939 until 1946.

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Howard Marion-Crawford is perhaps best known to the American audiences as Ronald Howard's Dr Watson.

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André Morell had to confront the "Hound of the Baskervilles" in his partnership with Peter Cushing.

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Thorley Walters as Doctor Watson first accompanied Christopher Lee and later joined Douglas Wilmer in the parody "The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother" as well as Christopher Plummer in "Silver Blaze".

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Donald Houston faced Jack The Ripper together with John Neville in "A Study in Terror".

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Nigel Stock offered his services as Watson to two actors playing the detective: Douglas Wilmer and Peter Cushing.

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Colin Blakely chronicled "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" with Robert Stephens in the title role.

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Patrick Macnee left Emma Peel behind and followed first Roger Moore in New York and later Christopher Lee.

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The American actor Robert Duvall intervened on behalf of his friend.

He duped Holmes and got him to Vienna to consult with Sigmund Freud in "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution".

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Vitaly Solomin was a youthful John Watson alongside Vasily Livanov in the Russian adaptations.

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James Mason's Watson challenged Jack the Ripper together with Christopher Plummer.

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Donald Churchill and David Healy both offered their services to Ian Richardson's Holmes.

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John Mills' older version of Watson supported Peter Cushing's ageing detective in "The Masks of Death".

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David Burke and Edward Hardwicke both played Holmes's Boswell in the Granada series with Jeremy Brett.

Burke played Watson in the first two seasons and Hardwicke after the hiatus in the remaining seasons.

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Ben Kingsley had a hard time convincing the editor of the "Strand Magazine" that he as John Watson was the mastermind behind the successful cases.

Everyone thought that Michael Caine as Reginald Kincaid was Sherlock Holmes.

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Kenneth Welsh accompanied Matt Frewer on his quests for the truth in a couple of films produced for Canadian television broadcaster, CTV.

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Roger Morlidge played a younger version of Watson alongside James D'Arcy.

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Ian Hart stood his ground as Dr Watson against two brilliant detectives; Rupert Everett and Richard Roxburgh.

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Bill Paterson helped the Baker Street Irregulars with their investigations in order to help Jonathan Pryce's Sherlock Holmes.

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Jude Law plays one of the latest incarnations of Dr Watson in the action movies from director Guy Ritchie with Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes.

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Gareth David-Lloyd left Torchwood to help Ben Syder against dinosaurs amongst other threats.

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John Rhys-Davies, widely known as Gilmli from the Lord of the Rings movies, voices a rather bumbly cartoon version of Watson in an adventure with Tom and Jerry.

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Martin Freeman is also a recent addition to the league of good doctors. His modern-day Dr Watson has seen battle in the current Afghanistan conflict. He is teamed up with Benedict Cumberbatch's Holmes in the BBC series "Sherlock".

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Lucy Liu is the only female companion to the Great Detective. She assists Jonny Lee Miller in New York in the CBS TV show "Elementary".

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