Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes
by Del Harvey
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The original Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes had its UK premiere in January of 2000. In September 2001, the BBC aired an all-new series of four stories based on the further fictional adventures of young Arthur Conan Doyle and his mentor, Dr. Joseph Bell. Returning as Dr. Bell in this new series is Scots actor Ian Richardson, with Charles Edwards replacing Robin Laing as the youthful Arthur Conan Doyle. Now MPI Home Video has brought these fascinating programs to DVD.
Although the series exaggerated the similarity between Bell and Holmes for dramatic effect, with Doyle acting as Watson, and included several scenes from the books, the overall impression is that the entire premise works. Retelling of a few select scenes from the books was done under the assumption that these would later inspire Doyle’s fiction. These moments did, however, remain true to the main points of the two men’s history.
One of the most notable Holmes references is a version of a scene in The Sign of Four in which Holmes deduces a pocket watch provided by Watson was formerly owned by a drunkard, at which a furious Watson believes Holmes has callously acquired information about his unfortunate brother for the sake of a cheap trick. The series’ version of the scene has Bell deduce the mental state of Doyle’s father, with much the same effect.
Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes tells the story of the relationship between the young Arthur Conan Doyle (Charles Edwards, Batman Begins) and his real-life mentor and a noted forensics scientist, Dr. Joseph Bell (Ian Richardson, From Hell), as they unite to solve the most baffling murder cases in Edinburgh in the late 1800s.
The Patient’s Eyes - A beautiful young woman is haunted by a masked cyclist who pursues her through the woods. To Doyle’s surprise, the pursuer is real. And so are the hideous murders connected to a gruesome incident in the Boer War.
The Photographer’s Chair - Doyle and Bell investigate a serial killer’s victims, all of whom bare unusual markings. Doyle looks to a spiritualist for answers and is cautioned about his investigation from beyond the grave. Little does he know about the murderer’s plans for his victims in the afterlife.
The Kingdom of Bones - When an ancient Egyptian mummy is unwrapped in public, a recently murdered Englishman is found, involving Doyle and Bell in a bombing conspiracy.
The White Knight Strategem - Two men with knowledge of a woman’s suicide are murdered, setting off a heated disagreement between Bell and an old police rival. At the risk of alienating Bell, Doyle sides with the policeman, but both men prove only partly correct.
Del Harvey is a film teacher and writer living in Chicago.
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