Watson was known for his fictionalised accounts of the adventures of his friend Sherlock Holmes that were edited by Arthur Conan Doyle, in whose name they were published. Because of this, it was widely believed both contemporaneously and later that Holmes was in fact a fictional character created by Conan Doyle.
In 1887, he was asked by the Pope to investigate the missing books at the Library of St John the Beheaded. At the library, he encountered the Seventh Doctor who told him that he would help him find what he was looking for. He went with the Doctor to question Kate Prendersly before she spontaneously combusted. He witnessed an apparition when he and Holmes were following Baron Maupertuis and saw the doorman combust. On discovering that Holmes' brother Sherringford Holmes was involved, he accompanied the Doctor to Bombay encountering Bernice Summerfield, of whom he was enamoured. They then rode a Rakshassa through the portal. Arriving in Ry'leh, he went to spy on the enemy camp and was captured, but was rescued by Ace. They then climbed a mountain to the Rakshassha base. He watched Tir Ram transform into a Rakshassha. After the being known as Azathoth was defeated, he bought Benny dinner. (PROSE: All-Consuming Fire)
After the Third Doctor negatively compared Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart to Sherlock Holmes, the Brigadier jokingly said "Come on, Dr Watson," when another power failure hit Wenley Moor nuclear research facility. (TV: Doctor Who and the Silurians)
Behind the scenes
- On both occasions of their meeting the Doctor and his associates (and during the various references to said meetings) it is suggested that Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are not in fact their real names, but the pseudonyms used in the fictional stories written about them. Information regarding their encounters with Bernice Summerfield and Ace is only provided in subjective form by Bernice herself and Watson, each of whom maintained diaries of said events. (PROSE: All-Consuming Fire, Happy Endings)
- The television story The Snowmen suggested that stories of Holmes and Watson were inspired by the adventures of Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint, which might imply that Jenny was the "real" John Watson within the context of the Doctor Who universe. The reference book Doctor Who: The Secret Lives of Monsters includes an excerpt from a book called A Study in Green in which Vastra, Jenny and Strax encounter Holmes and Watson. Jenny bought all 200 copies of the book to keep it off the shelves.
- Within the Sherlock Holmes canon, Watson is referred to as "James" in the story The Man with the Twisted Lip. The inference of its use in Prelude All-Consuming Fire is that Doyle accidentally used his friend's real name.
- Gareth David-Lloyd played Watson in the 2010 movie Sherlock Holmes. He has also been played by André Morell in the 1959 film version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, Alan Cox in Young Sherlock Holmes and Andrew Sachs on BBC Radio. He has also been played by actors such as Bill Paterson, Nigel Stock and Robert Daws.
- According to producer Barry Letts, both Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks believed the relationship between the Third Doctor and the Brigadier had developed into one like Holmes and Watson. (DOC: Life on Earth)
- The character featured in the Sprout Boy meets a Galaxy of Stars bears a likeness of Martin Freeman, whom played Watson in Sherlock alongside Benedict Cumberbatch.