If you’re a fan of police procedurals on TV such as the CSI franchises, there’s one that provides a refreshing change of pace. Here criminals are apprehended and mysteries solved when the lead character uses his skills of deduction, detection and innovation, solid police work without the help of the high-tech tools his counterparts enjoy today, at least on TV.
“Murdoch Mysteries” is a Canadian TV series that features characters created by novelist Maureen Jennings. Set in the 1890s, Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) of the Toronto Constabulary applies his scientific knowledge and improvises with available materials to devise gadgets to further crime solving. Murdoch makes collecting “finger marks” and trace evidence, not commonly done then, routine procedures at his crime scenes. He sets up a “scrutiny camera” to capture nefarious deeds as they happen, prompting his loyal assistant, eager learner Constable George Crabtree (Jonny Harris), to observe that he would “hate to be a copper of the future, just drinking tea and exuding intestinal vapors.”
Also assisting Murdoch as he untangles his cases is Dr. Julia Ogden (Helene Joy), a female pathologist with progressive ideas of her own. She and the detective obviously (for the viewer) share feelings for one another, and their future as a couple is an unresolved subplot in the series so far. Murdoch’s supervisor, Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig), often is impatient with Murdoch’s explanations of some contraption or method of analysis Murdoch is using, but Brackenreid supports Murdoch’s unusual ways and is proud of Murdoch’s successful sleuthing.
The plots suggest events and developments that we know came later in history. Story lines also show real-life personalities of the period in fictitious situations. In early episodes, Arthur Conan Doyle visits to observe Murdoch at work, H.G. Wells headlines a conference on eugenics, and Murdoch marvels at Nikola Tesla’s experiments. Harry Houdini becomes a suspect in one episode. When he exiles himself to the remote Klondike region, Murdoch befriends a young Jack London.
The Murdoch Mysteries series is not shown in the U.S. I became acquainted with Detective Murdoch in a serendipitous moment, while browsing through the library’s DVD collection, and started following the exploits of this fascinating character, awaiting my turn on the holds list for the later DVDs. I enjoy seeing how each episode captures the social attitudes of the time and provides reminders of how things have changed, how much of what we take for granted today in all aspects of daily living was unthinkable or totally unacceptable in the 1890s. See for yourself; the library has all four seasons of Murdoch Mysteries in DVD format. I can’t wait for the Season 5 DVD to become available.