Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes

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Murder Rooms: Mysteries of the Sherlock Holmes
Genre CrimeMystery
Starring Ian Richardson
Charles Edwards
Simon Chandler
Composer(s) John Lunn
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 1
No. of episodes 5 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Rebecca Eaton
Jim Reeve
Producer(s) Alison Jackson
Ian Madden
Running time 90 minutes
Production company(s) WGBH Boston
Original network BBC1
Picture format 16:9
Audio format Stereo
Original release 4 January 2000 – 2 October 2001

Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes is a BBC television drama series co produced with WGBH Boston, a PBS station, originally broadcast in 2000 and 2001. Its premise is that during Conan Doyle's time as a general practitioner in Southsea, England he solved mysteries with his mentor, Dr Joseph Bell, who travels from Edinburgh for each case. It was inspired by the fact that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based the character of Sherlock Holmes on his tutor at the University of Edinburgh, Dr. Joseph Bell, and that Bell did occasionally do forensic work for the Edinburgh police. It is said that Dr. Bell had similar deductive and observation skills to the famous Sherlock Holmes.

Series history[edit]

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 assumption being that these would later inspire Doyle's fiction).

One of the most notable Holmes references is a version of a scene in The Sign of Four in which Holmes deduces that a pocket watch provided by Watson was formerly owned by a drunkard, upon which a furious Watson believes Holmes has callously acquired information about his unfortunate brother (to whom the watch had belonged) for the sake of a cheap trick. The series' version of the scene has Bell deduce the mental state of Doyle's father, inspiring much the same reaction. (This scene also appeared in the otherwise unrelated drama The Strange Case of Arthur Conan Doyle, also by David Pirie.)

The 2000 episode starred Ian Richardson as Dr. Bell and Robin Laing as Arthur Doyle, and was filmed in Scotland and in Cromer in Norfolk. Richardson had earlier played Sherlock Holmes in 1983 television versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign of Four.

The original episode was followed by an extended series of four feature-length stories under the same title. Richardson reprised his role as Dr Bell but this time Doyle was played by Charles Edwards. Produced by the BBC's Films arm rather than the drama division, no second series was commissioned despite critical and audience success. One BBC insider wryly commented that it was "too successful for the wrong department."[1]

Pirie also wrote three novels related to the series: The Patient's Eyes (2001), The Night Calls (2003) and The Dark Water (2004).


  • Dr Bell and Mr Doyle – The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes: Following the 'death' of Sherlock Holmes, Doyle (Laing) finds himself reflecting on his old friendship with Doctor Joseph Bell (Richardson), as well as his long-gone romance with fellow student Elspeth Scott (Dolly Wells), the victim of a killer he and Bell failed to capture.[2]
  • Murder Rooms – The Patient's Eyes: Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle and his mentor Dr. Joseph Bell investigate the case of a woman who believes she's being followed by an apparition while bicycling along a lonely road.
  • Murder Rooms – The Photographer's Chair: Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle and his mentor Dr. Joseph Bell investigate the strangulation deaths of two persons found floating in the river, Doyle finding himself captivated by spiritualism while Bell's suspicions lead him to a photographer who believes he saw his wife's soul leave her body at the moment of death.
  • Murder Rooms – The Kingdom of Bones: A museum curator hires two professors (one being Dr. Joseph Bell) to publicly unwrap an Egyptian mummy, but it proves to be a man's three-week-old corpse, the subsequent investigation uncovering a group of expatriate rebels plotting to create havoc.
  • Murder Rooms – The White Knight Stratagem: Dr. Joseph Bell helps the police investigate the murder of a money lender, but old animosity between him and the officer in charge leads to conflict, with matters becoming worse when Doyle sides with the lieutenant's theories over Bell's.


A DVD (Region 2) boxed set of the series was produced by IMC Vision in 2011 under the covering title of "The Ultimate Collection". It included a documentary titled "In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes" that was presented by Patrick Macnee.


  1. ^ "Back to the Murder Rooms". Retrieved 2012-01-29. 
  2. ^ "BBC Four - Murder Rooms the Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes". BBC Four. 26 September 2009. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 

External links[edit]