» » Murder Rooms: Mysteries of the Real Sherlock Holmes The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes: Part 1 (2000–2001)

Short summary

In the tumult that follows his killing off his fictional character Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle reflects on the man who influenced and provided the prototype for the great detective, Dr. Joseph Bell. A professor at the University of Edinburgh medical school where Doyle is a student, Bell is unconventional in his quest for knowledge and uses his skills of perception and observation to interpret events. He also believes that crimes can be solved in the same way as disease can be diagnosed if the same techniques are used. Having solved the murder of a young woman, Bell grants Doyle greater access to his research. This is also a time when women are being admitted to the Medical School for the first time and Doyle has become attracted to a fellow student, Elspeth Scott. Not all of the students and staff are as accepting as Doyle and someone is trying to frighten her and perhaps even do her harm. When Elpseth's sister Lady Sarah Carlisle takes ill, Doyle comes to believe that her ...

In Doyle's first conversation with Elspeth, she tells him that she's from South Africa. In real life, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's first published work of fiction, "The Mystery of Sasassa Valley", was set in South Africa. Citation: Owen Dudley Edwards, "Doyle, Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan (1859-1930)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: Akir
    There is something completely engrossing about this dark drama. The characters are all the more interesting because you know they exist, and all the brilliance of the Sherlock Holmes novels is present.

    And whats more, it's a fascinating insight into the beginnings of both Sherlock Holmes, and possibly, more importantly, Dr Watson, who is in fact Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself. It is dark, and may be considered gruesome, but all the while, this TV movie paints a vivid picture of turn of the century England. Entertaining and fascinating, "Dr Bell and Mr Doyle: The Dark Beginnings Of Sherlock Holmes" is possibly the best telemovie I've seen.
  • comment
    • Author: Meri
    "Murder Rooms" was a fair go at an original idea by David Pirie and it was the story of Arthur Conan Doyle when he was at university and began doubting his career as a doctor, and was inclined to writing.

    Have a very talented cast with Ian Richardson, Charles Dance and Robin Laing the acting was real. The main supporting cast of Dolly Wells, Alec Newman and Andrew John Tait did their job excellently adding some beauty to the background.

    It could have been put together better, as I believe that the drama was a bit staccato in places, scenes being to short etc. But all in all good for sitting in on a cold night in front of a log fire with some brandy and a pipe!
  • comment
    • Author: Vojar
    If you were a medical student at the University of Edinburgh in 1876, be prepared for cold, gray, grimy days, complacent and pompous professors, class consciousness and the occasional dissection. If you were lucky, as the young Conan Doyle was, you might wind up as a clerk assisting the brilliant Dr. Joseph Bell, a forensic surgeon and one of the professors. In Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle (subtitled, The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes), Bell, played by Ian Richardson, believes that one must "observe the small facts upon which large inferences depend." He can take a man's pocket watch, even though newly cleaned, and determine that the owner was poor but had come from a well-off family, that he had periods of income but they never lasted, that he was an alcoholic and that he was descending into madness. Bell can study a poorly clad man standing on stage in front of a classroom of students and determine, among other things, that the man was recently discharged from the army, earned a living as a horse driver and who drove two horses, one bay and the other white. This all comes in handy for two reasons. First, Bell uses his powers of observation and deduction to find criminals of the worst sort who otherwise would have been missed by the police. Second, and this is true, the real-life Bell served as the inspiration for Conan Doyle's great creation when Doyle gave up medicine for writing...Sherlock Holmes, of course.

    Young Doyle, played by Robin Laing, initially doubts Dr. Bell's methods. Gradually, observing Bell in action and being challenged by Bell to use his own powers of deduction, Doyle becomes a believer. "You see," Bell says to Doyle one afternoon at the Edinburgh morgue, "I believe that crimes can be diagnosed in the same fashion as disease if we use the same techniques. So...what can you glean from the late Mrs. Canning here?"

    While Doyle is learning from Bell, Bell and Doyle are caught up in several crimes which might be related. They involve a nobleman who often visits a house of ill repute and whose wife becomes ill; a mute street beggar who plays the violin for coins, and who dies in convulsions; a room bespattered and filled with blood, and then slaughtered sheep are discovered with their eyes gouged out; a woman who dies in a locked room with a husband who is perhaps too helpful; a pair of severed human ears placed in a box and delivered to one of the few women who are studying, with great opposition from most of the teachers and many of the male students, to be doctors; a woman of the streets who was given herbal pills and now is vomiting her life out. In fact, some of these cases truly are related, and the suspects include a moralistic, furious fellow student and an unknown psychopath who believes in simple, straight-forward evil. Bell, with help from Doyle, eventually pulls the pieces together. The conclusion, however, is not entirely satisfactory. There is loss and the promise of retribution. Even more, there is a sense that a part two was waiting to be filmed and, for whatever reason, wasn't made. Eventually there were four additional mysteries featuring Ian Richardson as Dr. Bell and a different actor as Conan Doyle.

    Through it all, Doyle and Elspeth Scott, one of the women students, hesitantly discover a mutual affection that could easily grow into love. Their recognition of a possible romance comes while she dissects a corpse's right knee. One of the attractions of the production is that it doesn't shy away from depicting the reality of autopsies and forensic experiments. We first encounter Dr. Bell while he is whipping the buttocks of a corpse, prior to firing a bullet into the dead man's chest. Throughout we see the reality of how the poor live in Edinburgh, the damp, cobbled streets, the constant chill, the smeared faces of the children and the grubbiness of the prostitutes. Even the medical students don't look too well washed at times. The production values are high and there is a solid depth of acting.

    Ian Richardson makes the production work. Laing does a fine job as the sincere and somewhat callow Doyle. Richardson, however, gives us a complex character who can at times be impatient, even irascible, but who has a sense of humor and irony and who has a strong feeling of humanity for those who are unfortunate, sick and poor. We can see how Bell slowly grows to feel affection for Doyle and how, in a moment of tragedy, Bell can provide comfort and strength to his student.

    The DVD transfer is first rate. There are one or two inconsequential extras, such as cast lists. One of the pleasures of this production, if you are a reader of the Sacred Texts, is to identify references to some of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. I found two, but I've been told there are several others. The affair of the watch references The Sign of Four. The severed ears are a key element in The Cardboard Box.
  • comment
    • Author: Taur
    I watched this two part bbc drama and thoroughly enjoyed it. It features on Arthur Conan Doyle's relationship with Dr Joseph Bell (Richardson). Some of the scenes are gruesome. But there is a lot of Holmes background within it. There are 2 main things I will draw your attention to, 1) Doyle gives Richardson his fathers watch to deduce from, this was used by doyle in the Holmes novel "Sign of 4" and 2) in the second part someone gives a girl a box containg a pair of severed ears, this was again used by Doyle in the Holmes short story "The Cardboard Box"
  • comment
    • Author: Voodoozragore
    Top notch drama, as per the BBC, (God Bless 'em). Historically somewhat wide of the mark. It's a pleasure to see Iain Richardson in anything, he is a superb actor & a chance to see him at work should never be missed. It's all good entertaining stuff, even if it is complete hogwash. And you wondered why the best stuff is on PBS ?
  • comment
    • Author: Nikohn
    Excellent production. Sir Ian Richardson does his usual exceptional performance. Dolly Wells, a truly beautiful woman, steals the show! She should become a superstar. We'd like to see more of her on this side of the Pond.
  • comment
    • Author: Dreladred
    Ian Richardson (who played Sherlock Holmes himself in his youth) plays the real "first consulting detective" in an excellent 2 part drama which also stars Robin Laing as Arthur Conan Doyle. WARNING! WARNING! STUFF POSSIBLY CONSIDED SPOILERS. A small part takes place in 1894 London, at the Strand, and the rest is in 1876 Edinburgh. Doctor Joseph Bell and Arthur Conan Doyle investagate a series of murders commited by the "Jack the Ripper of Edinburgh" where a heap of coins is found by the body. Doyle is also in love with a girl attending his medical university. There is one murder investagated by the duo NOT commited by the killer (the apparent inspiration for THE DEVIL'S FOOT). Other "inspirations" are a woman murdered and her ears severed (THE CARDBOARD BOX), poisoned pills (A STUDY IN SCARLET), an alcholic's watch (SIGN OF 4) and others. While gory (and showing a woman barf), it's an intruiging mystery, with some fun ideas of inspiration. The actors play their parts well (Ian is a walking version of old photos) and it's mysterious, with a supisinging conclusion- though I wish MORE SPOLILERS they investagated more crimes other than the series. Another Bell/Doyle mystery is a novel by Howard Engel entitled "Mr. Doyle and Dr. Bell" (Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson?), though I found it less exciting than this.
  • comment
    • Author: Cherry The Countess
    The pilot episode of this fascinating series from 2000 is a must see for any Holmes fan.The care taken with even the smallest details shows in every scene and the period is beautifully recreated.It's all about how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle came to create the character of Sherlock Holmes.

    Any fan will know that he based him on his friend and teacher,Dr.Joseph Bell.Bell taught him at University and had talents which had to be seen to be believed.

    The series opens with an older Doyle facing a public backlash over the publication of the Final Problem,which sees Holmes fall to his death during a bitter struggle with Professor Moriaty.People believed in Holmes so much that they couldn't except his death.(Doyle brought him back in The Empty House.)

    We are then taken back to the 1800's where Arthur Conan Doyle(Robin Laing)is a medical student at Edingborough Univeristy.He signs up for a class taken by the esteemed surgeon Dr.Joseph Bell(Ian Richardson)who has remarkable powers of deduction which astound those he teaches.

    Doyle thinks it's all a trick,however accepting the job of clerk and assistant to Bell soon makes him change his mind.He falls in love with fellow student Elspeth Scott(Dolly Wells)one of a small group of women students desperate to be treated as equals by the men.

    Things turn deadly when a prostitute is attacked and Bell discovers a room covered in blood,but which contains no body.Soon Bell and Doyle are in a race against time to stop madman Thomas Neill(Alec Newman)from going on a killing spree.Neill was in real life a fellow student of Doyle's and a suspect in the Jack The Ripper case.

    WIth strong performances and some truly chilling moments Murder Rooms is a fascinating and well made crime series.Holmes fans will enjoy seeing which Holmes traits were taken from Bell.These include his appearance,powers of deduction,intellect and at times cold and detached manner(looking at a case without emotion.) Also starring Charles Dance as Sir Henry Carlyle.And Aly Bain as a fiddler,who's murder is the first in a bizarre and frightening line of dark events which draw Doyle and Bell closer together as they try and stop it.

    Future episodes saw the growing friendship between Doyle and Bell and the beginnings of Doyles interest and belief in spiritualism.This is well worth watching especially if your a fan of Sherlock Holmes.
  • comment
    • Author: PanshyR
    Wow! What can I say, I'm a big fan of British mystery series. I've watch everything from "Touch of Frost, Prime suspect, Trial & Retribution and Wire in the Blood" to "Cracker, Jericho of Scotland Yard, Touching Evil, Midsummer Murders and Inspector Morse".

    And out of all those series I pick this fantastically brilliant 5 movie episode series as the best of the best. Murder Rooms is my favorite British TV mystery of all time.

    I was heartbroken to learn that a second season had not being commissioned by the BBC. I can only wonder why in the world not?

    If you like Sherlock Holmes, you will love Murder Rooms. If you love Sherlock Holmes, prepare to adore Murder Rooms.

    Ian Richardson commands a gigantic presence impossible to ignore in the fantastic portrayal of Dr. Joseph Bell. The relationship between Bell and Doyle in this series is very different than that of Holmes and Watson. Charles Edwards plays a very independent thinking young Arthur Conan Doyle. An almost equal character to Dr. Bell. Far from a sidekick. As a fan of 19th era this series wasn't hard to get into for me.

    My number 1 favorite SERIES of all time is MURDER ROOMS.

    By Dedoshucos.
  • comment
    • Author: Pipet
    There are some peculiar things about this, most of them having their own charms that add to its attractiveness.

    Sherlock Holmes is not translatable to the screen as I've explored in dozens of comments. Since we as movieviewers have learned to do everything by reference, we don't need to. So we have this bank shot on Sherlock.

    I enjoyed it because of what it signifies, not because of what it is, which is actually a hodgepodge of mystery components linked not because they naturally coalesce, but because they are the things at the front of the store.

    So, for instance, we have the notion of the serial killer who doesn't kill for himself but to "display" for the audience and his detective nemesis: clues placed to tease, the following of a "script," here from the Bible and the targeting of someone important only to the detective.

    And we have a detective staple that appeared well after the Holmes stories: possible solutions that the story reinforces and which prove false. There are more than the normal allotment here, even for modern detectives.

    We also have the BBC values of "faces and places" where we pause from time to time to enjoy the attention to prettiness or charming authenticity of the thing. Our designated sweetie here, a redhead, is particularly sweet.

    Does anyone pay attention to how these things actually work? By this, I mean the actual deduction. Holmes' notions were placed in a Victorian context where men of science believed that the mind was a machine that could be rationally dissected. (Doctors were men of science in those days.)

    Holmes' method depended on this assumption, plus a few other attractive notions about honor, the intrinsic beauty of intrigue and the joy of direct action.

    Look at this and see how poorly the author has captured the spirit of Holmes or Doyle. The deductions aren't linked to the logical machinery of the examined. In this story, in fact, there are a couple blind alleys that come from this oversight, this lack.

    Holmes would begin with the mind of the criminal: how would she or he think and move? Motivation and will. Bell never even goes there. Never tries, never is aware of the possibilities. He is all about the detritus that falls about.

    So he makes some mistakes that give us as watchers a couple nice plot twists. I guess these are required by modern standards. But they ruin the whole mental enterprise, don't they?

    Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
  • Episode cast overview, first billed only:
    Ian Richardson Ian Richardson - Dr. Joseph Bell
    Sean Wightman Sean Wightman - Mortuary Clerk
    Robin Laing Robin Laing - Arthur Conan Doyle
    Dolly Wells Dolly Wells - Elspeth Scott
    Charles Dance Charles Dance - Sir Henry Carlyle
    Ralph Riach Ralph Riach - The Strand Editor
    Aly Bain Aly Bain - The Fiddler
    Andrew John Tait Andrew John Tait - Eustace Stark
    Alan Sinclair Alan Sinclair - Medical Lecturer
    Alec Newman Alec Newman - Thomas Neill
    Tamsin Pike Tamsin Pike - Sophia
    Joel Strachan Joel Strachan - Crawford
    David Walker David Walker - Baxter (as David MacDowell)
    Sarah Collier Sarah Collier - Mary Doyle
    John Bett John Bett - Charles Doyle
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