Murder Rooms: The Kingdom of Bones was a feature-length film in a short series of fictionalised dramas based on the relationship of Arthur Conan Doyle and Doctor Joseph Bell, the Edinburgh lecturer who was to be Doyle’s ‘model’ for Sherlock Holmes.
The series was created by David Pirie for BBC Films. Preparations began for a second season but despite good audience and viewer appreciation figures it was not commissioned. One BBC insider wryly commented that the drama had been “too successful for the wrong department”.
I loved the idea of doing Holmesian stories without all the added baggage that Sherlock Holmes has picked up over the years, but out of Conan Doyle’s work I love The Lost World even more. So the underlying scheme of The Kingdom of Bones was to deconstruct The Lost World and scatter its elements in Doyle’s imagination so that they could re-emerge as the completed work a dozen or so years later. Rather than do Holmes pastiche, I followed Doyle in adopting the more fast-moving, action-driven style of Rider Haggard in the plotting. In the course of this I brought in Professor William Rutherford, another of Doyle’s real-life teachers who was to serve as his inspiration for Professor Challenger. Rutherford was brilliantly played by John Sessions – as I’ve said a number of times now, if I’d known how good he was going to be I’d have made the part a lot bigger!
Despite the episode title, it’s unrelated to the novel of the same name. That’s a whole other story.Stephen Gallagher