Sherlock writer Steve Thompson is bringing us a new drama adapted from the best-selling Max Liebermann novels, following a Victorian-era English doctor who solves some of Austria’s most unusual crimes.
- New crime thriller Vienna Blood from Sherlock writer is coming to the BBC
- The biggest TV shows still to come in 2019
Here’s what you need to know.
When is Vienna Blood on TV?
The three-part drama begins on Monday 18th November at 9pm on BBC Two, finishing at 10.30pm.
Episode two airs on Monday 25th November, and the series ends with episode three on Monday 2nd December.
Vienna Blood trailer
Vienna Blood review
Transport Netflix’s psychological thriller Mindhunter back in time to 1900s Austria, cross it with Sherlock, and you might end up with something a little like Vienna Blood.
Like Mindhunter’s FBI special agent Holden Ford, junior doctor Max Liebermann (Matthew Beard) is fascinated by the psychology of murderers and psychopaths; after talking his way into shadowing Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt (Jürgen Maurer) of the Vienna police force, he baffles everyone by building a “profile” of the unknown killer and raving about Sigmund Freud’s new “science” of psychoanalysis. Perhaps it doesn’t help his popularity that he has something of the Sherlock-style know-it-all about him, too.
Rheinhardt is initially irritated by Max and skeptical about his talents. Then, inevitably, Max begins to win him round as they form an unlikely crime-fighting partnership. We say “unlikely”, but actually there are no big surprises in Vienna Blood; in many ways, it’s just a straightforward (and reasonably entertaining) crime drama in a period setting.
Episode one gives us a storyline based around a riddle: how could a woman have been killed with a shot to the chest if the bullet and gun are missing – and the doors and windows are locked from the inside? Max and Rheinhardt’s mission to identify the killer and bring them to justice takes them over the rooftops of the city, through the graveyards and even to a séance.
The one aspect of Vienna Blood which makes it stand out from the crime drama crowd is its treatment of antisemitism. This is 1906, and the Liebermanns are a family of British-Jewish immigrants to Austria; though the city has a large Jewish population, antisemitism – casual and intense – is everywhere they turn. It’ll be interesting to see where writer Steve Thompson goes with that as the series continues – and how Max and his socially-ambitious father Mendel respond to the hatred of those around them.
What is Vienna Blood about?
Across three feature-length episodes, the English-language drama follows Max Liebermann (Matthew Beard), a brilliant young English doctor who studies under the famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.
According to the BBC, “Max is keen to understand the criminal mind and begins to observe Oskar Rheinhardt (Jürgen Maurer), a Detective Inspector in the Vienna Police Department, who is struggling with a perplexing case. Max’s extraordinary skills of perception and forensics, and his deep understanding of human behaviour and deviance, help Oskar solve Vienna’s most mysterious cases.”
The series is based on the Max Liebermann novels by Frank Tallis, and is set in 1900s Vienna, “a hot bed of philosophy, science and art, where a clash of cultures and ideas play out in the city’s grand cafes and opera houses.” It was filmed on location (in English!) in the Austrian capital.
Speaking about the two main characters, Tallis said: “It is through Rheinhardt that Liebermann becomes involved with police investigations, applying his psychoanalytic knowledge – particularly when suspects are interviewed. Liebermann’s technique, of course, is to allow unconscious processes to betray their misdemeanours ‘through every pore’.”
He added: “There are many commonalities that link detection and psychoanalysis. Fundamentally, Sigmund Freud and Sherlock Holmes were in the same business.”
Who is in the cast of Vienna Blood?
The stars of Vienna Blood are truly international, with actors from Ireland, Austria, Australia, Germany, and England. Here’s who plays who in the BBC drama – and where you’ve seen them before:
Matthew Beard plays Max Liebermann
Who is Max Liebermann? Serious young man Max is a middle-class British Jew who moved to Austria in his teens. Now, he’s in his 20s and working as a junior doctor. Unconvinced by the old-fashioned methods of his lecturers at the university, he has “fallen under the spell of the new science of the day” and is interested in neurology – specifically, the teachings of Dr Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis and a fellow Jew in 1990s Austria.
According to the BBC, “Fixated by the idea of analysing psychopaths at close hand, Max convinces the Viennese police to let him observe their work… The deeper Max journeys into other people’s madness, the less he’ll know himself.”
What else has Matthew Beard been in? English actor Matthew Beard starred as Blake Morrison in 2007 movie ‘And When Did You Last See Your Father?’ – playing the younger version of Colin Firth’s character. Since then, we’ve seen him as Guy in The Riot Club, Adrian in Kiss Me First, Arthur Potts in Decline and Fall, Peter Hilton in The Imitation Game, and Murray Cope in One Day.
Jürgen Maurer plays Oskar Rheinhardt
Who is Oskar Rheinhardt? Oskar is “a half-Slovak Police Inspector with something to prove to his superiors… despite being occasionally irritated by Max’s discursive approach to crime solving, Oskar is savvy enough to know that Max’s intuitions will help his career prospects.”
What else has Jürgen Maurer been in? The Austrian actor has had a successful stage career, but over the last decade he has shifted over to the screen. Credits include Vorstadtweiber, Tatort, and Harrinator.
Conleth Hill plays Mendel Liebermann
Who is Mendel Liebermann? Max’s father, a business-owner who brought his family to Vienna at the end of the 18th century. While Mendel did once hope that Max would enter the family drapery business, he’s now made his peace with his son’s decision to become a doctor – but is “unnerved by Max’s chosen field of neurology.” As he makes powerful “friends” in the city, Mendel must also grapple with anti-semitism and rising nationalism.
What else has Conleth Hill been in? Game of Thrones fans will remember Conleth Hill as Lord Varys. Since then, the Irish actor has starred as Superintendent O’Kelly in crime thriller Dublin Murders. Other credits include Suits, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, and Hang Ups.
Charlene McKenna plays Leah Liebermann
Who is Leah Liebermann? Max’s “fiery and defensive” older sister. She is a widow with a young son who she’s bringing up alone; “Leah has a tendency to deliver criticisms of Max’s behaviour with lashings of sarcasm.”
What else has Charlene McKenna been in? Irish actress Charlene McKenna made a brief but memorable appearance as Captain Swing in the latest series of Peaky Blinders. She is known for playing Rose Erskine in Ripper Street, and for roles in Pure Mule, Raw, Whistleblower, and Death and Nightingales.
Amelia Bullmore plays Rachel Liebermann
Who is Rachel Liebermann? Max’s mother, and Mendel’s wife. As the BBC says, “She lives for her family and has no ambitions beyond her children… Rachel is proud of her son but finds his work with the police distasteful. Rachel expects Max to marry Clara very soon.”
What else has Amelia Bullmore been in? You may recently have seen her as Eliza Priestley in Gentleman Jack, or as Olivia in Deep State. The English actress is also known for roles in Scott & Bailey, Power Monkeys, Twenty Twelve, and Ashes to Ashes. Back in the 1990s she played Steph Barnes in Coronation Street.
Jessica De Gouw plays Amelia Lydgate
Who is Amelia Lydgate? An English scientist who works at the Natural History Museum, restoring archaeological finds. She has “a dark and intense presence” and there are hints of traumatic experiences in her past. “Though Amelia can be passive and cool she has a lively intelligence and a quick wit.”
What else has Jessica De Gouw been in? Her most recent role is in season three of The Crown, starring as Lucy Lindsay-Hogg – the lover (and future second wife) of Tony Armstrong-Jones. The Australian actress’s other roles have included The Huntress in TV show Arrow, Mina Murray in an NBC adaptation of Dracula, and Elizabeth Hawkes in Underground.
Luise von Finckh plays Clara Weiss
Who is Clara Weiss? The woman Max is expected to marry. She loves Max, but after more than two years of waiting and dating, she is no longer sure whether their relationship will ever go anywhere at all. Clara is “engaging, vibrant and sociable” and “more interested in people than ideas.”
What else has Luise von Finckh been in? The Berlin-born actress is best-known for starring as Jule Vogt in Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten.