Murdoch Mysteries

Murdoch Mysteries is a Canadian TV drama series aired on City and CBC Television (where it's titled The Artful Detective on the Ovation cable TV network) featuring Yannick Bisson as William Murdoch, a police detective working in Toronto, Ontario, around the turn of the twentieth century. The series is based on characters from the novel series by Maureen Jennings.

The series is set in Toronto starting in 1895 and follows Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) of the Toronto Constabulary, who solves many of his cases using methods of detection that were unusual at the time. These methods include fingerprinting (called "finger marks" in the series), blood testing, surveillance, and trace evidence.

Some episodes feature anachronistic technology which Murdoch uses that's a crude, improvised extension of existing technology of his time that 21st-century audiences immediately recognize. In one episode, for example, he fashions a primitive version of sonar to locate a sunken ship in Lake Ontario. In another, he basically invents wire-tapping. In yet another, a foreign police officer has a photograph that Murdoch needs as evidence, so Murdoch asks the other officer to overlay the photograph with a grid numerically coded for the colour in each square, and to transmit the numerical data to Murdoch via telegraph — with the end result that the foreign officer essentially sends Murdoch a bitmap image they call a "facsimile" — a fax.

Detective Murdoch is helped by the three other main characters: Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig), Doctor Julia Ogden (Hélène Joy), and the green but eager Constable George Crabtree (Jonny Harris), who has ambitions of being a mystery novelist.

Brackenreid, Murdoch's immediate superior, is a blunt and skeptical Yorkshireman with a taste for whisky who prefers conventional methods of detection over Murdoch's eccentric experiments, though he is typically pleased and proud when Murdoch succeeds.

Crabtree is often unable to grasp the more advanced methods, but his enthusiasm and loyalty make him a good assistant.

Like Crabtree, Dr. Ogden supports Murdoch's improvisations. Her skill in pathology often helps by revealing a great deal of useful evidence to aid Murdoch in solving his cases. Throughout the series, Murdoch's growing infatuation with her, and his inability to express his feelings, offers a pleasingly diverting subplot.

In the fifth season, after Dr. Ogden is married to Dr. Darcy Garland (a colleague she met in Buffalo), a new doctor is introduced, Doctor Emily Grace (Georgina Reilly). She and George Crabtree show some romantic interest in each other.

Real history figures importantly in most episodes, and the plots, though fictitious, sometimes include real people, such as:

  • Buffalo Bill Cody
  • Annie Oakley
  • H. G. Wells
  • Nikola Tesla
  • Jack London
  • Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Queen Victoria
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Orville and Wilbur Wright
  • Henry Ford
  • Winston Churchill
  • Bat Masterson
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • H. P. Lovecraft
  • Harry Houdini
  • Thomas Edison
  • Helen Keller

Future events are often hinted about. It is implied, for instance, that secret British-American government co-operation has produced a highly advanced aircraft similar to an airship, and Crabtree and Murdoch allude to the building of a secret government facility in Nevada and New Mexico "at Concession 51". Characters also refer to actual inventions of the 19th century and extrapolate from them to future inventions such as microwave ovens, night-vision goggles, computers, the games "Cluedo" (i.e. "Clue") and "Hangman", Silly Putty, and a silencer for small arms.

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