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Series / Murder Rooms

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Dr. Doyle and Dr. Bell

"Life may be stranger than fiction. It is often more disturbing. Before I wrote my stories of the Great Detective, I had access to a terrifying world of mystery and murder. My companion and teacher on this journey was Dr. Joseph Bell. Here in this extraordinary man was my inspiration. But it is only now I have chosen to reveal the Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes."
Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle, Opening Narration

Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes note  has the premise that Arthur Conan Doyle (Robin Laing in the Pilot Movie and Charles Edwards in the series) based his character of Sherlock Holmes on surgeon Dr. Joseph Bell, his old medical professor (Ian Richardson) with whom he used to solve murders. Bell did in fact exist, and it is said some of Holmes' personality traits and observational methods were based on him, but Doyle and Bell certainly did not solve murders together. Originally commissioned as a one-off drama, positive reception led to a full series of four 90 minute episodes.

The pilot has Doyle as a young medical student at Edinburgh University, where he quickly catches the eye of Dr. Bell who makes him his clerk and takes him under his wing. Together they are drawn in the hunt for a nasty serial killer stalking Edinburgh.

The series takes place after a Time Skip where the now Dr. Doyle is attempting to start a medical practice in the resort town Southsea, Portsmouth. Doyle struggles to establish himself and inevitably finds himself involved in a murder case. Doyle sends a letter to Bell asking for advice, and Bell decides to come down in person. Together they find a valuable ally with the local Inspector Warner who willingly seeks their expert medical and forensic advice for the most bizarre murders that seem to haunt the seaside town.

The series only has six episodes (or five depending how the pilot is edited).


Series One (2000) note 

  1. "Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes Part One"
  2. "Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes Part Two"

Series Two (2001)

  1. "The Patient's Eyes"
  2. "The Photographer's Chair"
  3. "The Kingdom of Bones"
  4. "The White Knight Stratagem"

This series provides examples of:

  • Absence of Evidence
  • After Action Patch Up
  • The Alibi: It is a detective series.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Doyle and Bell obviously.
  • Asshole Victim: The medical examiner in "The Photographer's Chair" and the moneylender in "The White Knight Stratagem".
  • Be as Unhelpful as Possible: Bell expects Lieutenant Blaney to be this in "The White Knight Stratagem", but he actually goes along with him (albeit grudgingly and only under orders from the Assistant Chief Constable).
  • Bittersweet Ending: "The White Knight Stratagem".
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Doyle tries to do this to lieutenant Blaney but doesn't find anything out.
  • British Brevity: There are only four episodes and the pilot.
  • Casting Gag: Ian Richardson had played Sherlock Holmes himself back in the 1980's in two TV movie adaptations of The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign Of Four, that aired just before the Granda series.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The coins in the pilot episode.
  • Cold Reading: Bell is an expert at this.
  • Connect the Deaths: The pilot.
  • Costume Porn: It is set in Victorian Britain.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Loads in the pilot
    • Many students and professors are aghast that women are allowed to be in medical school, and the professors have discretion if they allow women into their class, and the anatomy professor point blanks refuses to teach them. The tension between the women and the sexist males get so bad that all the female students are suspended two months to keep the peace, much to Dr. Bell's fury.
    • Women in general are treated as second class citizens, prostitutes are seen as inhuman and any wife who accuses her husband of being unfaithful can have the accusation turned on them and thrown into an asylum.
  • Darker and Edgier: To the Sherlock Holmes canon itself.
  • Downer Ending: The pilot. The murderer escapes to Nova Scotia, Elspeth is killed, and Doyle destroys the only (unstable) evidence against him. However, at least some of this was a Forgone Conclusion,as the murderer was actually a real life Serial Killer who wasn't convicted of anything until much later in life - which is also detailed in the epilogue.
  • Eat the Evidence: One of the terrorists attempt to do this in "The Kingdom of Bones".
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Bell has this in the pilot.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In the pilot, Doyle is played by a different actor and is brasher and angstier and Dr. Bell has a horrible haircut.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The pilot is made of these between Doyle and Bell, but the one that specially stands out is when Bell examines Doyle's father's watch.
  • Evil Plan: "The Kingdom of Bones".
  • Fair-Play Whodunnit: The viewer has the same the access to the evidence as Doyle and Bell.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Every villain in the series.
  • Ear in the Mail: Elspeth recieves one in the pilot.
  • Flashback: Used in "The Photographer's Chair".
  • For the Evulz: The motivation of the killer in the pilot; which is quite noticeable as the murderers in the series were motivated by love, revenge, justice, etc.
  • Frameup: Neill attempts this in the pilot and Lieutenant Blaney in "The White Knight Stratagem".
  • Gentleman Detective: Bell.
  • Give Me Back My Wallet: Judd pickpockets Bell's wallet in "The Photographer's Chair".
  • Homage: The scene in which Bell examines Doyle's father's watch is an homage to a similar scene in The Sign of the Four.
  • Insufferable Genius: Some people (most notably Lieutenant Blaney) see Bell as this.
  • The Killer Becomes the Killed: "The White Knight Stratagem".
  • Last-Name Basis: Everyone except the Scottish police.
  • Locked Room Mystery: In the pilot.
  • The Lost Lenore: Elspeth. The main subplot of "The Photographer's Chair" is Doyle finally moving on.
  • Mystery Magnet: Lampshaded by Bell in "The White Knight Stratagem".
  • Mystery of the Week: Well it is a murder mystery drama.
  • Mythology Gag: Several of the mysteries contain elements of Sherlock Holmes stories, as if to suggest that they were the inspirations. For instance, "The Patient's Eyes" is about a young woman who is being followed on her bicycle commute, as in "The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist".
  • Never One Murder: The murderer of the week always has multiple victims.
  • Newspaper-Thin Disguise: In "The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes: Part 1", Arthur Conan Doyle uses a newspaper to disguise himself as he sneaks past the pack of angry Sherlock Holmes fans gathered at the entrance to The Strand Magazine building.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Doyle ruins the only evidence to convict the killer in the pilot episode.
  • No Hero to His Valet: In the pilot, Doyle doesn't think much of Dr. Bell's methods as a student. Bell is bemused but rather than kick Doyle out of his class he decides to make him his clerk as he believes the ignorant should be taught.
  • Not So Stoic: Doyle in the pilot episode.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Doyle identifies the true killer in "The White Knight Stratagem" when he reads a description the man wrote of a complex chess game; the account was far too detailed for the unobservant idiot the man had been presenting himself as to Doyle and Bell, which prompted them to analyse his actions up to that point from a new perspective and realise that he was the guilty party.
  • Old Friend: Bell and Fergusson in "The White Knight Stratagem".
  • Red Herring: In the pilot much suspicion is placed upon Sir Henry Carlisle played by Charles Dance He's innocent of the murders. He frequented a brothel, gave is wife syphillis and unknowingly gave her poisoned pills to make her better.
  • Sequel Hook: The pilot ends with Bell telling Doyle that one day they will find Elspeth's killer.
  • Scenery Porn: The series looks fantastic.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Doyle joins the practice of an old classmate in "The Patient's Eye" but it doesn't last. His classmate is very unscrupulous he does not charge a diagnosis fee but he makes a killing by prescribing medicine to his very poor patient cliental regardless of they need it or not. Doyle is appalled and promptly leaves and starts his own practice which sadly is not very successful despite Doyle's skill and compassion.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: More or less everyone but most noticeably Doyle and Bell.
  • Sherlock Scan: Bell. That part of his persona is backed up by historical data and it is said Doyle was inspired by Bell's use of the Technic on his patients to create Sherlock himself.
  • Smart People Play Chess: "The White Knight Stratagem".
  • The Smurfette Principle: Often applies.
  • The Stakeout: Doyle attempts this in "The Photographer's Chair".
  • The Summation: Always done in the last 10 minutes or so.
  • Suspect Existence Failure: "The White Knight Stratagem".
  • Twist Ending: All episodes except for "The Kingdom of Bones".
  • Two Dun It: "The White Knight Stratagem".
  • Victorian London: The climax of "The Kingdom of Bones" takes place here, all the other episodes take place in either Edinburgh or Southsea.
  • Wretched Hive: Edinburgh in the pilot, where crime is commonplace but largely ignored unless it affects the well to do or generates so much publicity it can't be ignored.