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|Sherlock Holmes character|
Colonel Moran is arrested in "The Adventure of the Empty House".
|First appearance||"The Adventure of the Empty House"|
|Created by||Sir Arthur Conan Doyle|
Colonel Sebastian Moran is a character in the stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. An enemy of Sherlock Holmes, he first appears in the short story "The Adventure of the Empty House". Holmes once described him as "the second most dangerous man in London," the most dangerous being Professor Moriarty, Moran's employer.
Fictional character biography
He was educated at Eton College and the University of Oxford before embarking upon a military career. Formerly of the 1st Bangalore Pioneers (Madras), he served in the Jowaki Expedition of 1877-1878 and in the Second Anglo-Afghan War, seeing action at the Battle of Char Asiab, 6 October 1879 (for which he was mentioned in despatches); the Battle of Sherpur, 23 December 1879; and at Kabul.
A devoted sportsman and highly skilled shot, he was author of the books Heavy Game of the Western Himalayas in 1881 and Three Months in the Jungle in 1884, and reportedly once "crawled down a drain after a wounded man-eating tiger". Although there was no open scandal after his turning to crime, he was obliged to retire from the army and return to London. Outwardly respectable, with an address in Conduit Street, Mayfair, and membership of the (fictional) Anglo-Indian Club, the Tankerville Club and The Bagatelle Card Club, he was nevertheless recruited by Professor Moriarty, and served as his chief of staff. Ultimately he is used solely for assassinations that required his peculiar skill with the rifle-Holmes mentions the killing of a Mrs. Stuart in 1887 which he suspects-but cannot prove-Moran was involved in. In "The Final Problem" (early 1891), Moran escaped incrimination, and followed the Professor to Reichenbach Falls, where Moran attempted to kill Holmes by rolling boulders upon him. Thereafter Moran earned a living in London by playing cards at several clubs.
When one of the other players, Ronald Adair, noticed that Moran won by cheating and threatened to expose him, Moran murdered Adair with a silenced air rifle that fired revolver bullets. Dr. Watson and a returned Holmes took the case, and Moran attempted to kill the detective by firing his air rifle from a vacant house opposite Holmes' residence. Holmes having anticipated this, Moran shot a wax effigy of Holmes while the real Holmes, with Watson and Inspector Lestrade, hid nearby to seize Moran.
In "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client", Holmes mentions Moran as still alive (in September 1902). Moran is also mentioned in "His Last Bow" as an example of Holmes's many adversaries who have futilely sworn revenge against him.
Colonel Sebastian Moran was also the villain in Doyle's Sherlock Holmes play The Crown Diamond, written in the early 1900s but not performed until 1921. When this play was adapted as the short story "The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone", Moran was replaced by 'Count Negretto Sylvius'.
Moran appears in the Flashman Papers novella Flashman and the Tiger, and as a boy in the novel Flash for Freedom!, by George MacDonald Fraser. (MacDonald gives him a birth-date of 1834, and the full name "John Sebastian 'Tiger Jack' Moran".) In Flashman and the Tiger, on the retreat from Isandlwhana to Rorke's Drift, Moran demonstrates amazing speed and unearthly accuracy with a Remington Model 1875 .44 revolver.
In Martin Powell's short story "Sherlock Holmes in the Lost World" (collected in Gaslight Grimoire) Moran attempts to rebuild Moriarty's criminal empire after the latter's death, but is killed by Professor Challenger.
Moran appears in several works by Kim Newman:
- He appears as a vampire character in the alternate history horror novel Anno Dracula.
- In the short story "The Man Who Got Off The Ghost Train", Richard Jeperson is dispatched to investigate a decades-old mystery in which Colonel Moran played a brief but memorable part.
- In the book Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D'Urbervilles, a collection of related stories, Moran is the Watson to Moriarty's criminous Sherlock Holmes, from their first meeting in "A Volume in Vermilion" to their final parting in "The Problem of the Final Adventure". Moran, nicknamed 'Basher', is portrayed as debauched, violent and as something of an adrenaline junkie but also as educated and not entirely without morals. As the title suggests, the stories feature guest appearances by many of Moriarty and Moran's fictional contemporaries. Around half the stories in the collection had previously been published separately: "A Shambles in Belgravia" in BBC Online's Sherlock Holmes anthology, "A Volume in Vermilion" in Sherlock Holmes' Mystery Magazine, "The Red Planet League" in Gaslight Grimoire, and "The Adventure of the Six Maledictions" in Gaslight Arcanum.
Moran appears in two stories in the anthology Shadows Over Baker Street: "A Study in Emerald" by Neil Gaiman (reprinted in Gaiman's collection Fragile Things) and "Tiger! Tiger!" by Elizabeth Bear. In "A Study in Emerald", a reimagining of A Study in Scarlet set in an alternate world, Moran takes on the role of narrator usually given to Dr Watson, as he takes up residence in Baker Street with a consulting detective - although from then on events turn out very differently.
Moran appears as a minor character in Alan Moore's comic book series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume I, as an underling of Moriarty, where they are both agents of the British Secret Service, assigned to create a criminal empire through which the government can control the criminal underworld. After Moriarty is promoted to the Directorship of the Service, Moran maintains control of the underworld on his behalf.
In John Gardner's novel The Return of Moriarty, Moran is stated to have taken temporary charge of Moriarty's organization while The Professor was away from London following the events at the Reichenbach Falls (which are explained as never having happened as Watson [and later Holmes] described them). The events leading up to and of "The Empty House" are told from Moran's point of view. Naturally, The Professor is not pleased to hear of Moran's actions and arrest, and has Moran poisoned while in police custody to prevent him from talking.
He appears briefly in Michael Kurland's 'Professor Moriarty' novel Death by Gaslight as an associate of the professor, and in a much larger role in the later The Empress of India, where he enlists Moriarty's help in retrieving a golden statue.
He appears in David Stuart Davies's The Veiled Detective, a novel based mainly around a retelling of part of A Study in Scarlet, in which Dr. Watson is planted in Holmes's life by Professor Moriarty in order to monitor and report back on him.
In the anthology My Sherlock Holmes edited by Michael Kurland, a collection of stories told from the viewpoints of minor characters from canon, A Study in Orange by Peter Tremayne recounts how Moran partly outwitted Holmes on a case. Moran also appeared in Tremayne's The Affray at the Kildare Street Club in The Mammoth Book of New Sherlock Holmes Adventures where he was foiled in a petty theft by a young Holmes.
He appears as a minor character in the clockpunk/steampunk novel Whitechapel Gods by S.M. Peters (as does the blind mechanic Von Herder, the manufacturer of Moran's air rifle).
He is credited as having compiled the book The Moriarty Papers - The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes's Great Nemesis which claims to give an insight into many of Professor Moriarty's plots and schemes.
Moran appears in the Italian comic book Storie di Altrove/Stories from Elsewhere (a spin-off series of Martin Mystère). In 1910, he unsuccessfully attempts to kill Sherlock Holmes. In the end, he was killed by Sherlock's brother Sherrinford who was possessed by a demon from another dimension.
Moran appears in the book The File on Colonel Moran - Volume One: The Lure of Moriarty by Vernon Mealor, published by The Clyvedon Press, the first part being a first person account by the colonel of his pursuit of Holmes and his arrest for the Adair murder, the other two stories being accounts of his early days with Moriarty, presented as stories related by a reporter who conducted interviews with him.
Moran appears as the main villain in the 2012 Sherlockian pastiche “Charlie Marlow y la rata gigante de Sumatra” (Charlie Marlow and the Giant Rat of Sumatra), a novel by Spanish author Alberto López Aroca, set in Mist Island (an alternative name for Skull Island). This novel also features many other fictional characters from Arthur Conan Doyle works, as Fred Porlock and Parker (two Moriarty Gang Members), Joseph Conrad’s Charles Marlow, Rudyard Kipling’s Peachey Taliaferro Carnehan, and an ancestor of C.C. Beck’s Doctor Sivana (misspelled “Sivane” in the novel), among others.
Moran appears in the 2014 novel Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz. He is only revealed to be Moran at the end of the book but has a few appearances throughout.
In Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell by Paul Kane, it is revealed that Moriarty was able to escape his demise by using an incantation to transfer himself into the realm of the Cenobites, where he is transformed into the 'Engineer' of the Cenobites, intending to mount a new assault on Earth, eventually recruiting Moran for this purpose. In a confrontation in Hell, it isrevealed that he is responsible for the death of Mary Watson, Watson's wife, as he attempted to poison Watson during Holmes' three-year absence but Mary took the poison by accident. During the confrontation in Hell, Holmes is able to make a deal with the master Cenobites to transform himself into a Cenobite to oppose Moriarty's forces while Watson is aided by Mary's spirit, with Mary destroying the transformed Moran to avenge her own death before her husband and friend defeat Moriarty and return to Earth.
In The Thinking Engine by James Lovegrove, set in 1895, Moran is revealed to have escaped prison, and Holmes and Watson realize that he is acting as an agent to an initially-unknown employer to advise certain criminals in the city on how to commit particularly elaborate crimes. They soon determine that he is working for Moriarty- who survived the confrontation at Reichenbach in a hideously crippled state- and Watson manages to capture Moran in a final choice after Moriarty's role is exposed.
Moran was played by Eric Maturin in the BBC television series Sherlock Holmes (1951), the first television adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. Although he doesn't appear himself, Sebastian Moran plays a small part and is mentioned in the novel and Granada television series Young Sherlock: The Mystery of the Manor House written by Gerald Frow (his non-canonical younger brother Jasper Moran does appear however).
He appears in the Granada television adaptation of "The Adventure of the Empty House" opposite Jeremy Brett as Holmes, here played by Patrick Allen. In this Moran is shown in flashback attempting to shoot Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls, rather than rolling rocks upon him as in the original story. A similar event occurs with Moran in the Soviet television version of "The Adventure of the Final Problem".
He is introduced initially as the serial killer (actually hitman) "M.", played by Vinnie Jones, in the CBS television series Elementary, a former Royal Marine, known for hanging his victims upside-down via a tripod device and slitting their throats so that their blood all pools out, later dumping the bodies in a nearby body of water. He eventually reveals his true identity and becomes the first character in the show to give Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) the name of his employer, Moriarty; prior to this Holmes believed M was a simple serial killer. Moran subsequently confesses to his crimes when he learns that Moriarty had set him up to be caught by Holmes (Moriarty had seemingly killed Sherlock's lover Irene Adler and made it appear that Moran did it when Moran was in prison at the time), wanting Holmes to catch Moriarty for his betrayal of Moran. Although he later tips Holmes off to another plan of Moriarty's, when Holmes is tricked into showing Moran a coded text informing him that his sister will be killed next unless Moran kills himself, Moran slams his head against the mirror in his cell, and is last reported to be in critical condition.
"The Empty Hearse", the first episode of series 3 of the BBC television series Sherlock, features Lord Moran as a mole for North Korea and a member of the House of Lords. The North Koreans assign him with bombing the Palace of Westminster, but his plan is ultimately stopped by Sherlock. The actor who portrayed this version of the character is unknown.
"A Study in Sherlock", one of several episodes of the Canadian historical drama Murdoch Mysteries to feature Arthur Conan Doyle, also features a character named Sebastian Moran who is implied to be Doyle's inspiration for the villain of "The Empty House".
He appears in three films starring Arthur Wontner as Sherlock Holmes. In the 1931 The Sleeping Cardinal he is played by Louis Goodrich. In the 1935 The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes he appears very briefly played by Wilfrid Caithness. He then appears in a larger role as Moriarty's right-hand man in the 1937 Silver Blaze (a.k.a. Murder at the Baskervilles), here played by Arthur Goullet.
In the film Without a Clue, Moran (portrayed by Tim Killick) appears as Moriarty's tall bodyguard and has a scar down one side of his face. His weapon of choice is a switchblade which he uses to stab and cut his victims, and he is also a highly skilled knife thrower.
Moran, played by Paul Anderson, appears in the 2011 film Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Moran was renowned as one of the best marksmen in the British army, but following a dishonourable discharge he became a mercenary in the employ of Professor Moriarty, on whose orders Moran undertakes several assassinations throughout the film. He remains at large after the end of the film.
- Stories from Elsewhere: The Woman Who Lived Two Lives
- Stanford Jane, Moriarty Unmasked: Conan Doyle and an Anglo-Irish Quarrel, Jane Stanford, 2017, pps. 46-48.
- Buckland, Lucy. "Hardman Vinnie Jones to play killer in hit TV show Elementary...but is he Sherlock's arch nemesis Moriarty?" Daily Mail (London, UK), Friday 11 January 2013.