East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

The Murdoch Mysteries

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While it is absolutely certain that we are living in a very exciting time for TV series, I’m not particularly fond of the recent explosion of superhero shows.
I watched Arrow out of loyalty for a character I had loved in the comics, but apart from a savage crush for Felicity Smoak, I did not enjoy the show that much.
Granted, YMMV, but… I don’t know – I still prefer superheroes in comic books.


What I get into, a lot, these days, are mystery shows.
And having already waxed lyrical about that absolute gem, the Australian Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, I thought I might as well do a few posts on a few other shows I enjoy a lot. Starting with Canada’s own Murdoch Mysteries (which, I just found out, is called The Artful Detective in some quarters).

Murdoch Mysteries Series 4

Now in its ninth season (with a forthcoming tenth, I’m told) the Murdoch Mysteries series is set in Toronto in the 1890s, and follows the adventures of a police detective, William Murdoch (played with wit by Yannick Bisson), as he untangles a variety of cases using smarts, observation skills and – most of all – science.

If the series does drift here and there into steampunk and anachronistic territory[^1], a lot of the scientific principles and techniques displayed in most of the episodes are sound and historically accurate – Murdoch is simply a forerunner, a guy that experiments and applies new tech, new knowledge.

Indeed, historical detail is as accurate as possible – which is certainly a big plus of this production.
Granted, we do get a few anachronisms, but they fit in,, ehm, seamlessly…


The general tone of the series is serious – it is listed as drama – but there’s a general tongue in cheek attitude that helps a lot.
Murdoch’s sideckick, constable Crabtree (Jonny Harris) does work mostly as comedy relief, but he’s still functional to the plots and not just a comedic character. Indeed, all the characters – that also include a female forensic doctor, and Murdoch’s pragmatic and sanguigne boss – have ample maneuvering space, and they do grow thgrough the series.
In a neat twist, Crabtree has dreams of becoming an adventure novelist – and his novel The Curse of the Lost Pharaos (about mummies out to kill Queen Victoria!) was actually made into a live action/animation web-series, as a sort of silly spin-off of the main, much more serious series.

In the end, the Murdoch Mysteries ride the fine line between mystery and science fiction, with an extra ample serving of historical fiction – lots of historical characters appear as guests in the series, and some of the stories involve historical or pseudo-historical events.
The crimes are varied and believable, as are the investigations. The authors throw in a fair amount of observation of social, political and religious issues that were at the time pretty hot (and in some cases, are still hot today).
Great cast and great production values, together with intelligent plots, make for an excellent way to spend one hour.

So, yes, I like it a lot.
I am told a series of novels exists about the character, but I have been so far unable to lay my hands on any of the volumes.

And if you’d like to get a look to make up your mind, there’s quite a few episodes and a lot of extra material (featurettes, trailers, actor interviews) available on Youtube.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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