Review: Arthur and George - Part 1

Last night saw the UK broadcast of part one of Arthur & George starring Martin Clunes. This review is spoiler free.

One of the curses of knowing a lot about the events on which the drama is based is that I was constantly looking out for obvious clangers. Now there are things that are clearly fiction or speculation in the drama but nothing so far has really messed with the underlying events in a way that crosses any of my personal red-lines. I hope it remains that way across the remaining two parts of this drama.

I think Martin Clunes is an excellent Conan Doyle and Charles Edwards makes an admirable Woody (Conan Doyle's secretary). Edwards has, of course, played Conan Doyle in the excellent Murder Rooms series but he excels here in his pseudo-Watson role.

The drama certainly pulls no punches and opens with a horse slashing that features plenty of blood but the terror lies in the way it is portrayed - leaving a lot to your imagination. The expression on the unfortunate horse's face is something that will stay with me for some time. Most screen dramas tend to shy away from showing pain to animals (especially in the animal loving UK) and I was wondering how they would tackle such a tricky subject (given that they could scarcely avoid it). In short they conveyed the horror of the act without thrusting it (too much) into your face or dwelling on it.

The death of Conan Doyle's first wife is swiftly but emotionally handled as is Conan Doyle's inner turmoil regarding his association with Jean Leckie. Small flashbacks are used to show how they met and the scenes in which they tip toe around Lousie's death and how long they should wait before formalising their relationship are well handled. Clunes has really impressed me with his ability to portray Doyle's inner turmoil without being melodramatic.

Art Malik makes an excellent Reverend Edalji and Arsher Ali is simply excellent as the accused George.

One thing I particularly liked was the scene where George corrects Arthur on how to pronounce his surname. This was something I discovered during my researches into the events for my book An Entirely New Country. Newspapers of the time actually taught their readers how to pronounce the name yet people today get it wrong.

In short, I was very impressed with the opening episode and hope the standard is maintained as the drama progresses. Even though I know how events unfolded I am still excited to see how this drama handles those events.


My book An Entirely New Country does cover the events being dramatised. Go on - buy a copy.

Written by Alistair Duncan
Buy my books here


  1. Great review, looking forward to when we get it over here.

  2. Nice! I'm looking forward to watching it. Thanks for your review!

    1. Well when you do I'd appreciate a blog post from you :-)

  3. Alistair, I tried to post this yesterday but it hasn't appeared so hope this doesn't turn out to be a duplication.

    I wonder what you think of the scene showing ACD commencing to write the "Wisteria Lodge" story shortly after Louise's death in 1906? This story wasn't published until 1908. It's possible, of course, that he started it in 1906 but didn't finish it until years later, but none of the literature I've looked at about his life suggests this. The consensus is that he wrote it in April 1908.

    1. Hi Bill. That's a fair point and one that I'd missed. It's a niggle for certain but it doesn't mess with the main events and therefore doesn't detract from the story being told.

      It remains to be seen whether or not anything else crops up.


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