Friday, October 31, 2014

Murder Rooms Week: A Fandom I Love that Doesn't Get Nearly the Acclaim It Deserves

As you can probably guess, I'm participating, almost late might I add, in a BLOG PARTY for the great miniseries/book series Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes. If you've not heard of it, or if you have, come join me and may you come to love it as much as I do.

Do you ever have those moments when a fandom feels like it was only yesterday? When in reality it was 10 years ago? Because I have those moments, frequently, whether it's grieving the all-too-short run of Moonlight, the best ever vampire drama on television, or aching for the days when Lord of the Rings websites, blogs, and forums abounded online. Somewhere along the line, years passed, other people moved on, and I am left to remember in silence those beautiful stories that I loved for what felt like decades, but was, in fact, only a few years before everyone else found something new to love.

That's how I feel about Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes. Not just the brilliant miniseries starring Sir Ian Richardson before his untimely and much-grieved passing, but also the book series that the screenplay writer brilliantly penned before interest in his idea petered out. Murder Rooms only had 1 season. If you can call 4 episodes a season, which I don't, and a made-for-tv movie that would have been better how they used the same actor as they later used in the miniseries.

But what exactly is Murder Rooms? I can hear that question on the tip of your tongues and I'm going to kindly give you the answer. It is the story of Arthur Conan Doyle, the inspired creator of Sherlock Holmes, and Dr. Joseph Bell, the man who was the inspiration for the aforementioned character. The series cleverly pulls in moments of Holmes' genius from various short stories, giving them to Dr. Bell in unique ways that are a little like the originals, but not entirely, lending a uniqueness that avoids outright plagiarism.

What can I say? Ever since I joined the Sherlock Holmes fandom, and yes I am a much, more recent fan than you might suppose, I've enjoyed tracking down varying adaptions of the Holmes stories. But I had never seen anything like Murder Rooms. And what made it brilliant, you might ask? Why, Sir Ian Richardson is the easy and simple reply. I love that man. He was a confident actor, entirely immersed in his role as Dr. Joseph Bell, a man who might have been impossible to bring to life for any other actor. But it is, in fact, the character of Dr. Bell that intrigued me so much that I not only watched and loved the miniseries, but also read all 3 of David Pirie's books as well, my favorite being The Dark Water, the last book in the series and the only Pirie story that didn't make it into the miniseries since the series was canceled before a certain plot thread was neatly tied up.

The Dark Water answers all those questions that plagued me so desperately when the miniseries ended. Can Doyle ever catch his fiance's killer? Will he ever be whole and capable of loving again? What about all those mysteries that must progress past the end credits of the miniseries? It was insufferable, the not-knowing, so when Pirie dished out The Dark Water in 2006, I was ecstatic, and it is brilliant and cohesive as I had ever hoped, answering all my questions and then some. Some of my love for it might stem from it never being filmed. I was left with the what-ifs of style and the magnetism of the actors and how they would have handled certain scenes in the script. But that's all right, to love it for its mystery as it stands apart from the other stories in that I must use my imagination alone to conjure up the scenes with the actors. And it works!

I'm adjusting to television shows popping up and being gone 10 episodes later. I still don't like it, but I'm getting used to it. I would much rather that networks would give shows a chance of at least a full season, maybe even 2 full seasons, before deciding whether they're worth risk. Not everything is brilliant from the get-go, but gets to that point over time. I can only imagine what Murder Rooms would have been like if it had been given more than 1 movie and 4 episodes to tell its story. It was brilliant to start with and its magnificence would have only grown if given the chance. Ah well, life is full of what-ifs, and we must learn to move on from them, but not so far that I can't still look back with affection on a flash-in-the-pan phenomenon of 2001 that never quite filled  my longing and questions to capacity because it ended entirely too soon.


  1. Fandoms do rise and fall, and some of us hold on. I can’t say I dwell in dead fandoms but each time I revisit a project, my love for it is rekindled anew and suddenly… I want to talk about it with people. But, and it’s just that… they have moved on. (The real freaking out comes when I realize that many of the things I love, the newer generation is TOO YOUNG to know about! You and I grew up on LotR in a sense; they captured our maturing years. But a decade younger? Unless their family was into it, they never experienced it and probably won’t. Sad.)

    Do you remember? Richardson died the same weekend you were at my house for some event or another. It was an unexpected, terrible moment when I realized that. So sad. Such a talented man … and such a nice one … gone. Like you, he inevitably drew me to the project and held me there; my interest was great, but my appreciation for his portrayal of Bell captivated me, intrigued me, made me want to know this brilliant man with the wonderful bedside demeanor.

    I feel regret that they never filmed a final story, but books have their own particular charm… the ability to allow our imaginations to run unfettered through dark and gloomy streets.

    1. That's the thing. We don't permanently move on from fandoms. Well, maybe sometimes, but not always, and with The Lord of the Rings not ever. I still feel a deep-rooted frustration that people don't love it like they used to. They're supposed to love it, to treasure it, but they love something else now. It's hard.

      I'd forgotten that about Richardson! Wow! You know, he never seemed old to me. I think I supposed he would always be there, like Bob Hope. You never imagine there will be a day when an actor you love dies and you're left with a void. Hello, Robin Williams. I can't see anyone else playing Bell than Richardson. I've considered whether they might consider rebooting the series, but it just wouldn't be right without him so I hope they never go there. It wouldn't be the same. *le sigh*

    2. You know what's worse than people moving on from it? Never watching it in the first place because it's such old news. That's what gets my undies in a wad. :P

      Losing actors is a sad thing. I don't even like to see the younger ones get old, but unfortunately ... they age at the same rate I do!

      There are some people who think Capaldi would be a nice replacement for Bell. I'm ambivalent on that point. I have never seen him play anyone with a good bedside manner! ;)

  2. Hi! Just found you on Charity's Blog. It's thanks to this blog party that I've come to know about Murder Rooms--and now my library and tv list, of course, it lengthening. ;) Seems like such a terrific show! And then learning about the background, the inspiration, is a lot of fun. I know what you mean about wishing certain shows wouldn't have been called off. I understand the business aspect, but at the same time, the fangirl still wails. ;) Looking forward to getting to know your blog!

    1. Nice to meet you, Elora, and I'm thrilled that your horizons are expanding! As for Murder Rooms it is a terrific show, the series more so than the movie, but just having it be about Doyle and Bell makes it shine. I love historic figures, and I don't always mind people messing with them in the proper context. Murder Rooms does a lot of that, but in the most clever way imaginable. And it should have lasted longer, at least long enough to give us the last story, but do the networks ever listen to me? Nooooooooooo. Pooh on them. Can you sense I'm still a little bitter? *laughs*

      Hope you enjoy my blog and I'm excited to get to know you!

  3. I saw some of these but nowhere near enough.


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