Actors: Yannick Bisson, Helene Joy
Format: Box set, Color, DVD, Widescreen
Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
Number of discs: 4, 13 episodes
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Acorn Media
DVD Release Date: May 3, 2011
Run Time: 624 minutes
In a strangely entertaining mash-up of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Sherlock Holmes, and CSI, Canadian mystery show Murdoch Mysteries captures the wonder and constant changes of the Victorian age.
Set in Toronto in the mid-nineteenth century, the series follows Yannick Bisson (Sue Thomas: F. B. Eye) as William Murdoch, a geeky loner of a police detective why relies on his wits and cutting-edge science to outwit criminals. An outsider in a world where brutal fists still keep the peace (Toronto comes across in the show as a frontier town, large but still suffering growing pains), Murdoch is protected by Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig, Coronation Street) and assisted by the lovely pathologist and romantic interest Dr. Julia Ogden (Gemini winner Helene Joy) to solve unique cases. Murder among a cross-dressing basketball team, the death of a local cop, and an assassination attempt on the Queen (Canada is still part of the British Empire at this time) are all nothing to this crack team of investigators.
Season 3 is a good place to begin for those who have not yet watched the show. In the first episode, Murdoch is an amnesiac in London, desperate to find out who he is and why he is there. Viewers new to the story will learn who Murdoch is and what he is like as just as he does. There is no character baggage in this first episode and new viewers can gain familiarity with the character without feeling like they have missed something. After that, all the other episodes make sense and are easy enough to follow.
I found the show engaging, and particularly enjoyed the episodes where H. G. Wells and Nikola Tesla make appearances. The acting, directing, and scriptwriting isn’t awesome, and does not compare well with American-made shows of similar themes, but the material is fairly clean both visually and in script (there are scenes in a morgue and violent altercations and murders which may be off-putting – but they are by no means bloody) a nice touch that manages to reflect the social mores of the Victorians while also appealing to the crime drama crowd.
The action sequences give off a strong The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. vibe. They are a little bit campy, a little rehearsed, and the cinematography is always so bright and cheery that even the worst murder scenarios don’t inspire any dark moods.
The acting is fine, but nothing really stands out. Perhaps my favorite character relationship is the one between Murdoch and his sidekick Constable Crabtree (Jonny Harris). Crabtree is both sounding board and inspiration to Murdoch’s constantly turning mind. Harris and Bisson play well off each other in these roles, almost an Adam West/Batman, Burt Ward/Robin style duo. Too, the characterization of all the characters in the show is so profoundly Canadian, so pleasant and let’s-get-along-with-everybody that you just want to step into this world of niceness and enjoy it for yourself.
Ultimately, Murdoch Mysteries is a little bit campy but also a lot of good, clean fun that will appeal most to viewers of Dr. Quinn and Murder She Wrote.