I'd forgotten that Bert Coules does not adapt all of the BBC Radio Holmes series; many stories are dramatised by other staff writers, who do not always make the same radical changes that Coules does. (For example in BLUE, Coules inserts scenes of the plumber John Horner who was falsely accused of stealing the carbuncle, and Holmes and Watson actually go get Horner released from jail in time for Christmas. Holmes also for some reason is in a bad mood throughout the case, and unable to say anything other than "Wait" until Watson invites himself to dinner with Holmes. Can't even say "Happy Christmas" or "I miss you" huh?)
Anyway, SPEC was done by Vincent Mc Inerney, which I only learned with difficulty, as the damn file would not play despite a dozen attempts. It's not often that I get mad at Apple, but fuck iTunes! Or rather some glitch in my iPod that I could not fix even by reformatting it and resyncing all the files on it twice. The SPEC file would play in iTunes just fine, all the way through, and it would appear to load on my iPod at least some of the time, but it would never, ever play on the iPod. Still don't know what's wrong, because the other Adventures that I downloaded (FIVE, TWIS, and BLUE) played just fine in both iTunes and the iPod.
But I digress. The BBC Radio SPEC begins very oddly with Helen Stoner writing a letter to Aunt Honoria. There's nothing odd about her writing to her aunt, per se, and it's an interesting way to open the case, but Helen specifically begins with the closing, "...Your affectionate niece, Helen Stoner" and then writes the opening, "Dear Aunt Honoria..." Why would she write her letter backwards? Or did she write the whole letter roughly, but now is recopying it in a cleaner hand?
Soon enough, Helen then hears Julia's scream, and we realize that it's the night of the murder. After the opening credits, Holmes wakes Watson, but sadly the "knocking up" dialogue is gone, and Holmes gives a quick description of Helen's appearance, because he passed by the sitting-room while going up to wake Watson. "Even said good morning to her." (How did he see her face and eyes if she only raised her veil once she sat with Holmes and Watson? Is the veil some romanticised invention of Watson's?)
Some of Holmes's dialogue with Miss Stoner is transferred to Watson, to give him more to say. Which is okay on occasion, but I prefer the new invented dialogue, such as when Watson asks Helen when exactly Roylott married Mrs. Stoner, in relation to the long imprisonment; she then specifies that it was in the "happier times" before Roylott killed his butler. Very good exposition there. Another purpose behind filching Holmes's words is to support the idea that Watson is the one who's always kind and chivalrous. He is, but Holmes should be allowed to be chivalrous too when he genuinely is so in the canon. Even the discovery of Helen Stoner's bruise is given to Watson, along with the words "cruelly used." Then Watson escorts her downstairs when she goes; Holmes does not invite her to breakfast.
Interestingly, Helen Stoner is depicted as fairly calm and rational, even in a mood to laugh and compliment Holmes's deductions, whereas in the canon she is written as being startled by Holmes's remarks on her trip into London. Mc Inerney's Helen is no damsel-in-distress, no "hunted animal." Indeed, when Helen describes her talk with Julia, she seems to be the stronger twin, while Julia claims to be weaker and less apt to defy Dr. Roylott. Helen also interestingly says that she has heard the gypsies signal to each other by whistling. She later suggests that she meet Holmes and Watson outside the manor in case Roylott comes home early. (I think this somehow circumvents the stile and the dog-cart driver, but it's not entirely clear.)
With such a cool and smart Helen Stoner, I wonder why Mc Inerney carefully removed her "I believe it was an excuse to move me from my room" and put a briefer version into Watson's mouth. Why not allow her to be perceptive enough to suspect Dr. Roylott? But perhaps Mc Inerney is trying to avoid conspiracy theories and/or evil Helen Stoner interpretations. But I'm annoyed that Holmes gets away with not only saying "Are you sure he doesn't keep a cat in it?", but also derisively mocks Helen Stoner when she mentions the cheetah. Yeah, the saucer of milk is not big enough for a cheetah, but a cat kept in the safe ain't exactly logical either, Holmes. If you ask an absurd question, then you'll get an absurd answer!
Meanwhile, Watson once again is forced to discuss the plausibility of the gypsies, but is thankfully interrupted by Roylott's storming into Baker Street. Mc Inerney really spoiled Holmes's "crocuses" joke at Roylott's expense, by inserting an awkward reference to Watson being armed. It's better for Holmes to continue ignoring Roylott's threats and acting as though he is unworthy to be frightened of. Holmes also instructs Watson to buy their train tickets and meet him in the carriage, where he brings his calculations about the will. Watson falls asleep because Holmes doesn't talk to him at first.
For some reason Holmes and Watson whisper while waiting at the Crown Inn. Why? No one's going to overhear them. When they whisper again, it's outside the house, before sneaking into Julia's room. It is somewhat logical for Holmes to say these things before they can be overheard, but there's still no logic about unrepaired breaches in the wall. It's interesting that Holmes specifically warns Watson to stay away from the snake while he's attacking it. No change in the swamp adder.
Having heard the scream, Helen insists on getting into Dr. Roylott's room to see his dead face and to ask questions about the snake death. "Who would believe it?" Then she agrees to Holmes's plan to lie about the death to avoid scandal and to allow Helen to rush off to her Aunt Honoria's in Harrow. Helen declares that she believes that "justice has been done." Seriously, how can Watson refer to her as "the frightened girl" if this is how she behaves after Roylott's death?
Holmes admits that he initially fell for the red herring, and during his explanation to Watson, Holmes rather clearly implies that he did plan to kill Dr. Roylott. There's hardly time for Watson's startled reaction before Holmes says that it shan't weigh on his conscience. I would like to know what Watson would have said beyond, "My dear fellow!"