The Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle (DVD)

I know this was broadcast some years ago but I feel that it is time to review it because for me it causes real issues.

My principal issue is that I love it even though it is littered with errors.

It remains, in my opinion, the best way to show a non-Sherlock Holmes / Arthur Conan Doyle fan the lead-up to Holmes' "death" (and the reasons for it) along with Conan Doyle's personal struggles. My wife, who likes the stories but is not a Sherlockian, got a good grasp of Conan Doyle the man courtesy of this drama.
It is also a hugely enjoyable piece that is, I think, well shot and acted.
However we then have to launch into the negatives...

Mainly the issues are those of chronology. The time line is all over the place. The story opens in 1893 just before Holmes' "death" yet the party depicted in the opening scenes took place in 1897. Conan Doyle's son is depicted as a baby (which he would have been in 1893) but at the party in question he would have been five years old.

Conan Doyle has a butler called Cleeve from the opening scene. However Cleeve here is too old and ACD did not hire him until 1897 when he moved into Undershaw in Surrey. All this happened four years after Holmes vanished at Reichenbach.

Back to the positives.

Louise Conan Doyle is given sympathetic treatment which is good as she is too often portrayed as the sick wife who is the obstacle to her husband's happiness.

Back to the negatives.

However Jean Leckie (later to be ACD's second wife) is still presented as the woman who saved ACD from his personal hell and gave him the happiness that he so craved. Precious little is made of the fact that they conducted themselves right under Louise's nose. All we get is one brief scene that alludes to the conflict ACD's conduct causes in the family.

Douglas Henshall and Emily Blunt as Arthur Conan Doyle and Jean Leckie

At the end, ACD's decision to resurrect Holmes is portrayed as springing from the realisation that Holmes was part of himself rather than the knowledge that Holmes would bring in good money. ACD was always very economically driven and made no secret of the fact that he used Holmes as a cash-cow.

Back to the positives.

The casting is excellent (butler excepted). Douglas Henshall in particular makes a first class Conan Doyle and the best I have ever seen portrayed. Emily Blunt (pre-Young Victoria) makes a good Jean Leckie despite the fact that she is more attractive than the original. However she plays a Jean that seems too innocent and unaware of the trouble that she is causing. It seems pretty clear that the real Jean Leckie saw what she wanted in Conan Doyle and got him. You get no sense of that in this drama. Allan Corduner makes an excellent Herbert Greenhough Smith (of the Strand Magazine) and, despite looking nothing like the original, Brian Cox makes a good Dr Bell. However for me the laurels go to Saskia Reeves for her sympathetic portrayal of Louise Conan Doyle.

It is hard to get hold of the DVD except as part of a larger set. However you should try your best to get hold of it. Despite its flaws it is a quality drama and educational too.

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