A lot of the time, I have no idea what’s going on in other countries. My wife told me she had heard a commercial for a new show coming to FOX called Houdini & Doyle. Well, she said Conan & Houdini, but I figured it out. But of course, by the time it aired on FOX, it had already run in the UK so I went looking for those releases and over the course of a couple of days, we burned through the entire first series.
So was it any good? Keep reading to find out.
In 1901, Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle join forces with the first female detective in Scotland Yard, Adelaide Stratton, to take on cases that pique the interest of the two. Houdini is the skeptic, Doyle is the believer and Stratton often plays referee as they take on mysteries with a potential supernatural bent.
Okay, it isn’t perfect. None of the actual cases are all that great, in fact, I “solved” them long before anyone on screen had the slightest clue. Comparing this to another Canadian historical production that I watch, Murdoch Mysteries, the mysteries do not compare favorably. However, a lot of what makes this show enjoyable is the interaction between the characters.
One thing I will mention is that they’re being relatively historically accurate here. In reality, Doyle’s first wife , Mary Louise, did die of tuberculosis and his children really were named Mary and Kingsley. Of course, they don’t tell the whole story as Doyle had a second woman waiting in the wings, whom he married almost immediately after his first wife died. This all tracks with the timeline in the series. For Houdini, not so much. They show his mother dying in the first season, when in reality she survived until 1913. And of course, in the series, Houdini isn’t married, allowing him to pursue a flirtation with Stratton, but in reality, he was married in 1894, a full 7 years before the series. And, of course, Houdini and Doyle, although they did end up being close friends in real life, didn’t first meet until 1920.
Regardless, I think the casting was quite good. In fact, Michael Weston, who played Houdini, actually looks quite a bit like Houdini. I think both actors, Weston and Stephan Mangan, have a very good chemistry and their interaction is quite believable. I’m not the biggest fan of Rebecca Liddiard, who played Stratton, although she did grow on me a bit by the end.
Maybe my biggest problem at the end was the complete and obvious lift from The Andromeda Strain, down to the exact cause why people weren’t dying from the “plague”. I called it within a few seconds and it never even tried to change things up. There’s a difference between inspiration and out-and-out theft and this definitely crossed the line. It was a black mark, in my opinion, at the end of the season that was completely unnecessary.
Even with the issues though, I really enjoyed the series and hope it comes back, some of the issues I think were resolved during the season quite satisfactorily. Houdini’s mother really just took up space, but now she’s dead. Doyle’s regret over killing off Sherlock Holmes gets resolved by the end as he starts to write Holmes again. The mystery of Stratton’s supposedly dead husband is resolved as well. Now we can get back to just having some good mysteries between characters with some great chemistry. I really hope we get to see some more of this series.