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Showing 1-10 of 40 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 60 reviews
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon September 4, 2006
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.
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on October 2, 2011
I own all the Jeremy Brett "Sherlock Holmes" dvd's. They are the best representation of Conan Doyle's stories. This series is even darker but it also is very realistic. It is a prequel to all the other stories from Conan Doyle's perspective. It is very insightful into Doyle's background for his stories.
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on November 9, 2006
On its own, or combined with the follow-up series Murder Rooms, 'Dr. Bell and Mr. Doyle' is well worth the price. While I was already familiar with the follow up series, I was sadly unaware of the telefilm that started it all. I'm very pleased with the purchase.

Fine sound and video quality, though lacking in other features. You get what you pay for, it seems. I recommend it as I recommended the Murder Rooms DVD. If you like Holmes and Victoriana, it's a sure bet. If not, look elsewhere.
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on October 18, 2011
This is an intriguing and entertaining story inspired by the original Holmes tales colored with the more modern sensibilities of maybe "Silence of the Lambs" and "From Hell." The production looks much less teevee-like than most British teevee shows. And, by the way, it's not really 1.33:1; it's a decently letterboxed, non-anamorphic 1.66.
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VINE VOICEon July 3, 2005
I'm not a Sherlock Holmes fan. I watched this DVD solely because it was produced by the BBC. What a surprise it turned out to be!

The DVD provides background information Doyle and how he became the writer of the Holmes novels.

The acting is superb, the filming remarkable, and the viewer really feels like he/she is in Victorian England.

Another reviewer says that this isn't the only episode and one can only hope that the others will become available in the US.
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on October 28, 2005
I enjoyed this DVD, but the good news is that MPI Home Video is supposed to be releasing the remaining episodes on region 1 DVD's in March 2006. Yippee!
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on October 2, 2013
This is an interesting tale of a friendship between Arthur Conan Doyle and his medical professor, Dr. Bell. Bell uses much of Sherlock Holmes deductive logic to solve mysteries for the police, and we are led to believe that Dr. Bell was the prototype for Holmes. At least one Holmes tale is used in the exposition of this DVD, that is, The Blue Carbunkle. There may be other tales spread out in this story, but I m not expert enough to identify them. Sherlock Holmes fans will like this. The only drawback is the funny curly wig they put on Ian Richardson, who, nonetheless, does very well in the role of Dr. Bell.
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on December 20, 2013
Jeremy Brett IS Sherlock Holmes, bar none! Even so, Ian Richardson is excellent as Dr. Bell in this one-episode beginning tale of a young Arthur Conan Doyle and how he met Dr. Bell - the real life character he based Sherlock Holmes on. The second installment "Murder Rooms" is also excellent and contains about four shows.
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on March 4, 2016
I enjoy anything to do with Sherlock Holmes and this DVD sustains that enjoyment. If you passed Ian Richardson on the street today you would
exclaim "there goes Dr. Bell". At first I didn't care for the performance of Robin Laing however, I changed my opinion on the second viewing and realized what a great job he did in the movie.
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on November 20, 2013
One time Sherlock Holmes, Ian Richardson, does a splendid job portraying the character upon which Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes is based. The basic story line is quite imaginative.
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