Having given their last future-based science fiction show the boot when Stargate Universe was cancelled, Syfy is taking things in a new direction: the past.

The cable network has secured the rights to Among the Spirits, a mystery show centered around legendary magician and escape artist Harry Houdini and British novelist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The show is based on the self-published graphic novel of the same name. Writers Steve Valentine and Paul Chart will transition to the TV project, producing along with Daniel J. Frey. Frey is a newcomer, whose only IMDb credits are art department roles on 2009’s underwhelming Gamer, indie movie Parasomnia and Discovery’s short-lived Bone Detectives.

Among the Spirits will play out in 1920s America, as the duo solves suspicious murders with the aide of a female police detective. According to Syfy original programming president Mark Stern, the show will draw heavily upon the “Steampunk” artistic aesthetic that’s become popular in the last few years.

Describing the show as a “turn of the century Fringe,” he went on to list the classic TV series Wild Wild West and the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie as influences (appropriate, considering the latter’s source material was written by Arthur Conan Doyle). The Steampunk aesthetic is an interesting choice for Syfy, whose fantasy web series Riese: Kingdom Falling also employed the technique.

The 'steampunk' visual style was used well, if sparaingly, in 'Sherlock Holmes.'

In the real world, Houdini and Doyle were fast friends, and the showmanship of the former complimented the practicality of the latter. In an interesting twist, Houdini was a fierce opponent of anyone who claimed to be a medium or fortune-teller, and would go to great lengths to disprove them. Arthur Conan Doyle was, in his later years, a great believer in the supernatural and an outspoken member of the Spiritualist movement. Houdini’s expose-style book A Magician Among The Spirits (from which the Syfy project gets its name) was at direct odds with Doyle’s beliefs, and caused the two to have a falling out. Presumably, the historical figures’ personal beliefs will be played as a counterpoint for the series.

If a pilot and initial season are ordered, Syfy will join the ranks of cable stations with period-piece dramas. AMC’s Mad Men has drawn critical acclaim for years for its steadfast depiction of 1960s America, and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire has received similar praise in its first season. The latter is of particular note, as its prohibition-era setting overlaps with the 1920s in which Among the Shadows will take place.

We’ll be waiting on news of a pilot order for Among the Spirits from Syfy.

Source: Deadline Hollywood