Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in motion

An interview with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

He walks with a peculiarly relaxed kind of purpose, taking the time to glance back at his dog and let out brief, regal mutterings. He puts down his book, takes off his hat, and reveals a distinct lack of any meaningful hair on his head.

”I’ve got to speak one or two words, and just try my voice I understand?”

He sounds like he’s calling out through time, like his voice box has been replaced by an old gramophone. Of course he sounds like that, of course, but it still comes as a shock to me. That voice, walking over the distorted crackles of background noise, is his voice, the voice of a man almost mythical to people with incorrect priorities such as myself. That’s his voice, and that’s his moustache, a great thick hairy tongue laying back oh so unappealingly across his top lip. He looks… Well, he looks like Dr Watson, in a funhouse mirror version of the world. He’s got the posture, the knowing confidence, the tiredness in his speech. Tired of talking about that idiot Sherlock Holmes, no doubt. But I can’t pretend I’m not glad he’s being made to do it again, because never in a million years did I realise I could see him, hear him, the real, actual Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The magic of this video has more to do with my own stupidity, I think, than any truly brilliant discovery. 1887 isn’t that long ago, I guess. Except it really is. The Sherlock Holmes stories feel so rooted in some distant world, a world of carriages and carts, of tin hats and smog. Like Westeros or Azeroth it’s a place of fantasy, not a place I could reasonably expect to glance into. Seeing him, that man who so expertly regaled me with those genius, perfect, preposterous mysteries, and who kept me alive in this land of brilliant minds and complicated criminals, to see him in motion and sound… It’s like realising there’s always been a bridge, stretching out across the burning, impassable river below. That world really isn’t so untouchable. That place really isn’t so far away.

He speaks as though he’s had to tell these stories every day for the last ten years, which I imagine he has, and his cadence is so inherent to these relics. It’s a manner of speaking that seems forced and cartoonish, only because we’ve moved so far away from it. His words almost dance through ideas and spontaneity. There are no ums and urrs, just well considered speech, and the croaking mirth of a well lived life.

The simplest reason this video is so magical to me is that I just never expected I would see it. I never even considered he might be alive in a time where he could be on film, able to communicate to me the answers to those most basic and important questions. I never imagined it could happen, and now that I’ve seen it, I still can’t quite believe it’s really him. Which, yeah, is a magical experience. The world hasn’t quite run out of surprises just yet.


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