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Murder Rooms Dr Bell and Mr Doyle

Murder Rooms (also known as Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes) is a five-part BBC mini series, which was broadcast in between 4 January 2000 and 2 October 2001. The series premise was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes, working cases with Dr Joseph Bell, the real life doctor and teacher with similar level of deductive and observation skills that the famous detective was based on.


The series exaggerated the similarity between Bell and Holmes for dramatic effect, with Doyle acting as John 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. "Dr Bell and Mr Doyle"
  2. "The Patient's Eyes"
  3. "The Photographer's Chair"
  4. "The Kingdom of Bones"
  5. "The White Knight Stratagem"


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