Last night I watched a couple of episodes of Houdini and Doyle. I couldn’t get the first episode, so I don’t know how it was all set up, but the premise is that Harry Houdini, who is in England for some reason, has teamed up with Arthur Conan Doyle and one of the UK’s first policewomen to solve a series of mysteries. Doyle tends to be credulous and Houdini skeptical about paranormal explanations, and the paranormal account consistently proves to be wrong. The title characters are true to their real-life personalities as I understand them, and they even look like the real Houdini and Doyle. (Just coincidentally, Michael Weston, who plays Houdini, reminds me of Rand Paul.)
In one episode, a villager sees a bright light and then a distant crash. He and his wife approach; he’s accosted by beings whom he takes for aliens, and when he regains consciousness his wife is missing. His neighbors treat him as the prime suspect. This time, breaking the pattern, it’s Houdini who’s more inclined to believe the alien explanation. What really happened gives the story a nice touch.
The research is good. I’m impressed that Houdini accepts certain notions that were generally considered scientific at the time (1901) but were later proven wrong, such as that there are canals on Mars and nine planets “in the universe.” Doyle’s family issues figure into the story and appear accurate from a quick look at Wikipedia. It’s amusing that when Dr. Doyle refers to a syndrome with a difficult Salvic name (which I don’t remember), Houdini later calls it “Rimsky-Korsakov syndrome.” I like jokes that require a bit of knowledge to get, at least when I get them.
This isn’t the first time Doyle has appeared as a fictional detective with a famous partner. Roberta Rogow has published a series of novels teaming up Doyle with Lewis Carroll. This take is quite different, and I’m hoping to catch more episodes.