Yesterday evening, I got round to watching the first of the DVDs recently purchased in London: Murder Rooms - The Dark Beginnings Of Sherlock Holmes. It was quite the spontaneous buy since I had never heard of it before, but when I saw that Ian Richardson plays a lead role, that it is set in victorian Edinburgh, and it is kind of a backgrounder to Sherlock Holmes, I was done for.
Anyway, as you can see from the official website, this original episode spawned some sequels because of its great success. And well founded that success is!
The plot goes as follows: Arthur C. Doyle (creator of the Sherlock Holmes character) is a medical student at Edinburgh University in the 1870ies and he is not at all satisfied with the lecturers. There is one lecturer however who challenges his somewhat parochially rationalistic mindset: the forensic pathologist Joseph Bell (Richardson). Crime detection based on careful observation & scientific methods is Bell's unconventional hobby horse and he uses his intellectual brilliance rather irreverently. This tantalises young Doyle, who invariable ends up as Bell's invaluable Watsonesque clerk. As it is in the nature of things, they come across a serial killing and solve the mystery rather splendidly - I shan't go into any spoilers.
The film is a fascinating genre-picture of the victorian period society with plenty of great acting, wit & style as well as social critique and tragic romance thrown in for good measure. Edinburgh University at that time opened up to teach female students, against fierce opposition from both the lecturers' and students' bodies, of course. And this is were I can end this post on a surprising, almost personal note: When I was toiling away for my Master's degree at Edinburgh University, I was a resident of Masson Hall in South Lauder Road. Masson Hall prided itself on having been the first Women Only student hall of residence at the University - bygone times when I was there, of course. Nonetheless, many a good natured quip was had at the expense of us male students there ...