Professor Challenger Explained
George Edward Challenger, better known as Professor Challenger, is a fictional character in a series of science fiction stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Unlike Conan Doyle's laid-back, analytic character, Sherlock Holmes, Professor Challenger is an aggressive, dominating figure.
Edward Malone, the narrator of The Lost World, the novel in which Challenger first appeared, described his first meeting with the character:
His appearance made me gasp. I was prepared for something strange, but not for so overpowering a personality as this. It was his size, which took one's breath away-his size and his imposing presence. His head was enormous, the largest I have ever seen upon a human being. I am sure that his top hat, had I ventured to don it, would have slipped over me entirely and rested on my shoulders. He had the face and beard, which I associate with an Assyrian bull; the former florid, the latter so black as almost to have a suspicion of blue, spade-shaped and rippling down over his chest. The hair was peculiar, plastered down in front in a long, curving wisp over his massive forehead. The eyes were blue-grey under great black tufts, very clear, very critical, and very masterful. A huge spread of shoulders and a chest like a barrel were the other parts of him which appeared above the table, save for two enormous hands covered with long black hair. This and a bellowing, roaring, rumbling voice made up my first impression of the notorious Professor Challenger.
He was also a pretentious and self-righteous scientific jack-of-all-trades. Although considered by Malone's editor, Mr McArdle, to be "just a homicidal megalomaniac with a turn for science", his ingenuity could be counted upon to solve any problem or get out of any unsavoury situation, and be sure to offend and insult several other people in the process. Challenger was, in many ways, rude, crude, and without social conscience or inhibition. Yet he was a man capable of great loyalty and his love of his French wife was all encompassing.
Like Sherlock Holmes, Professor Challenger was based on a real person - in this case, a professor of physiology named William Rutherford, who had lectured at the University of Edinburgh while Conan Doyle studied medicine there.
According to The Lost World, the character was born in Largs, a village in Strathclyde, Scotland, in 1863. He attended Edinburgh University, where he studied Medicine, Zoology and Anthropology.
By Arthur Conan Doyle
By other authors
- The Footprints on the Ceiling by Jules Caister in his 1919 anthology of pastiches Rather Like. In the story, Edward Malone recounts how Sherlock Holmes was called upon to locate the vanished, seemingly kidnapped, Professor Challenger. The story has also been reprinted in the Ellery Queen -edited anthology, The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes (1944).
- Sherlock Holmes's War of the Worlds: Manly Wade Wellman and Wade Wellman. A slightly anachronistic romp, in which Sherlock Holmes and Challenger oppose H. G. Wells' Martian hordes and one of Holmes' old enemies. Holmes is the hero, but Challenger plays a major part. It is mentioned that Challenger helped Holmes solve the case of the giant rat of Sumatra.
- Osamu Tezuka published in 1948 a manga version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World. Tezuka's manga, however, is a Lost World unlike any other. Not an adaptation, this is a complete re-imagining of the story. There have been several other comic adaptations of Professor Challenger's exploits, but not too many and none that were particularly widespread and well known.
- Return to the Lost World: Nicholas Nye. A sequel set a year later than The Lost World, which almost ignores the dinosaurs in favour of a plot involving parapsychology, an extremely odd version of evolutionary theory, and ancient technology in the style of Chariots of the Gods. While Conan Doyle's Challenger is a foe of scientific fraud, this novel begins with him preparing a scientific fake.
- Challenger, alongside Nikola Tesla, plays a major role in two of Ralph Vaughan's four Sherlock Holmes/H. P. Lovecraft crossovers, The Adventure of the Dreaming Detective (1992) and Sherlock Holmes and the Terror Out of Time (2001).  
- Dinosaur Summer: Greg Bear. Thirty years after Professor Challenger discovered Dinosaurs in Venezuela, Dinosaur Circuses have become popular and are slipping out of the spotlight. The one remaining dinosaur circus makes a bold move to return their dinosaurs to the Tepuye plateau. Challenger himself never appears, but the protagonist's son attended Challenger High School.
- Book: Theaker, Stephen. Professor Challenger in Space. Silver Age Books. 2000. 0953765008. In this sequel Professor Summerlee, Lord Roxton and the narrator Malone accompany Challenger on a journey to the moon, in a desperate bid to save the people of Ell Ka-Mar, who have crowned Challenger their king.
- Challenger makes a guest appearance in the 2nd Plateau of Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari's post-structuralist philosophical text A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, in which he gives a lecture.
- Professor Challenger and his companions are said to play a role in the upcoming The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series. According to writer Alan Moore, Challenger had a lifelong friendship with the zoologist Dr. Dolittle.
- The Gorilla Comics series Section Zero, written by Karl Kesel, featured a scientific genius named Titania "Doc" Challenger, implied to be Professor Challenger's descendent.
- Cult Holmes: The Lost World: In this BBC 7 Cult Holmes story, Holmes is investigating the damage done by Challenger in bringing dinosaurs over from the Plateau. Interestingly, Malone's version of events is referred to as if it had been the version of events in the BBC TV adaptation of The Lost World, rather than the novel.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the first person to portray Professor Challenger, dressing and making up as the professor for a photograph he wanted included in The Lost Worlds initial serialized publication in the Strand Magazine. The editor refused, feeling that such hoaxes were potentially damaging. Hodder & Stoughton had no such qualms and featured the image in the first book edition.
Patrick Bergin played the angry professor in the 1998 film version.
Peter McCauley had the role of G.E. Challenger in the early 1999 cable-TV movie adaptation and the subsequent 1999-2002 television series.
A 2001 TV movie adaptation with Bob Hoskins portraying Professor Challenger. Airing in the UK in two parts over Christmas Day and Boxing Day in 2001, it was the first British film adaptation. Directed by Christopher Hall and Tim Haines, producers of the BBC's dinosaur documentary Walking with Dinosaurs, this BBC/A&E version (like all the other films) adds a female member to the expedition; here, she's the ward of an unsympathetic Christian missionary.
In the 2005 film King of the Lost World, by The Asylum, Professor Challenger is remodelled as the United States Air Force officer Lieutenant Challenger, and is portrayed by Bruce Boxleitner.
Notes and References
- http://www.schoolandholmes.com/charactersc.html Sherlock Holmes Pastiche Characters - C
- http://www.schoolandholmes.com/summariesv.html Sherlock Holmes Pastiche Story Summaries - V
- [John Dickson Carr|Carr, John Dickson]
- [John Dickson Carr|Carr, John Dickson]
- http://members.tripod.com/~MaryJensen/alienvoices/lostwrd.htm Alien Voices official site