Television Pilots: Houdini & Doyle

Television Pilots
Houdini & Doyle
Created by David Hoselton and David Titcher.
The Maggie's Redress written by David Hoselton and David Titcher
Broadcast on ITV

Houdini & Doyle premièred on ITV last Sunday, based on the friendship between Harry Houdini and Arthur Doyle. Doyle was a spiritualist, believing in life after death, while Houdini was a sceptic, and merely exploited spiritualism in building a career. It’s Sherlock meets The X-Files – Houdini is Scully, and Doyle is Mulder. Houdini & Doyle was commissioned as a series, without a pilot. The relationship between Houdini & Doyle was previously dramatised in Houdini, written by Nicholas Meyer.

The premise behind Houdini & Doyle is that Houdini and Doyle aren’t just friends; they’re crime fighters collaborating with Scotland Yard. Each week, Scotland Yard assign Houdini and Doyle a case, and there’s much arguing over its nature as science versus religion. Houdini questions his atheism and Doyle questions his theism. The resolution is ambiguous, but the case is closed regardless. The Maggie’s Redress establishes this status quo: Houdini’s interested in the apparent spirit as an illusionist, but does becomes scared at the possibility of it being genuine. Doyle believes it from the beginning, but can never definitely prove anything beyond that belief. At the end, Houdini and Doyle are excited about the prospect of solving more cases for Scotland Yard, where the same kind of clashing ideologies will occur.

The Maggie’s Redress begins at the climax: Houdini and Doyle are trapped under a closed floor grate, submerged in rising water. Before the audience can see how Houdini and Doyle escape a watery grave, the plot jumps to the beginning of the episode, and tells the events leading to this scene in chronological order. The eventual solution was Houdini – of all people – being saved by a third party. But this technique achieved its intended purpose of gaining interest from the audience at the beginning, instead of building toward it with the hope of that interest still being held by the time that scene actually occurs.

And it works in the context of the episode by being related to Houdini’s character. The cold open introduces Houdini as about to drown, only to feature Houdini’s chronological introduction as performing the famous water-torture trick. Not only does this establish that he definitely is Houdini, but it justifies the cold open, due to the nature of both scenes. It’s chronological, not chronoillogical.

The narrative follows Houdini’s adventure with Doyle to the point at-which the audience first come in: the cold open. We then proceed past that scene to the conclusion. Houdini and Doyle celebrate a job well done, and are enthusiastic to solve more cases for Scotland Yard.

There are nine more episode in Houdini & Doyle‘s first season.

Author: the Purple Prose Mage

I'm not Batman, but I wish that I were.

2 thoughts on “Television Pilots: Houdini & Doyle”

  1. I’ve always meant to visit Houdini’s gravesite. He’s buried not too far from me (just over the Brooklyn/Queens border on the bits of Long Island that belong to New York City). Kind of unthinkable that I’ve never gone to pay my respects.

    Liked by 1 person

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