DATELINE: Redoubtable Arthur!
Clunes as Doyle.
Julian Barnes, the noteworthy novelist, wrote his story about Arthur Conan Doyle and his real-life attempt to solve a crime about an Indian solicitor in England who was falsely convicted of animal mutilation, mainly because of racial hatred and class prejudice.
Arthur & George is a strange misleading title for a story in which Dr. Doyle showed his deductive reasoning to illustrate who really were the brains behind Sherlock. If you don’t know ahead of time, the title might lead to some bad book judging from the cover alone. Of course, that was Julian Barnes’ motive.
Julian Barnes in his original novel did not let on who the two men were until the story was well underway. That is completely lost in the movie version, which plays on the connection between Doyle and Holmes.
There has been in recent years a spate of this biographical tales dramatized about the author/spiritualist/doctor.
The BBC drama has all the top-notch production values and impressive acting you might expect of Masterpiece Theatre. The film is three parts of 45 minutes, probably could have been a one-shot film.
Martin Clunes is all you would ask for in a Conan Doyle figure, which contrasts greatly with the Watson figure of Charles Edwards—as Woody, Doyle’s servant.
Indeed, Edwards played Doyle a decade earlier and was miscast, especially against the grand Ian Richardson as Dr. Joseph Bell, his mentor and medical professor in the series Murder Rooms.
Also in this miniseries is Art Malik, the last of the stars of the granddaddy of epic series, the Jewel in the Crown. He plays a minister from India who is the object of prejudice and small-minded hate in a rural English shire. His victim son is George (Arsher Ali), a myopic limping solicitor.
These semi-true stories fit perfectly into the Holmes canon. And, Clunes as Doyle/Holmes features all the brilliant logic and bombast of his literary figure. This Doyle is more active and physical than Holmes, but he fits the tale perfectly.