Murdoch Mysteries is a Canadian show about a scientifically-minded police detective solving crimes in Toronto around the turn of the twentieth century.
The show has four main characters: Detective William Murdoch, Doctor Julia Ogden, Inspector Thomas Brackenreid, and Constable George Crabtree. In addition to those and a regular round of supporting characters, we also get a whole host of well-known figures from the era. It's really amazing how many well-known people paid a visit to Toronto and ended up embroiled in a murder! So far we've had Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Nikola Tesla, Henry Ford, and Buffalo Bill Cody among others
While a lot of the joy of the show comes from its sense of its own ridiculousness and playful use of anachronisms, it also does a great job of capturing the sentiments and practices of the era, both good and bad.
On the bright side, there's a degree of unselfconscious sincerity and enthusiasm and belief in progress that's rarely seen today, and that's startling to watch because of that. On the dark side, there was of course a great deal of open racism and sexism and anti-gay sentiment, along with a lack of contraceptives and abortion, difficulties in obtaining divorce, police violence, and a host of other issues that all get addressed at various points without being whitewashed, but also without being lingered on so long as to make one feel like watching the show is an act of virtuous suffering rather than a fun way to spend forty minutes. (The viewer is helped along by the fact that the main characters are largely fair-minded and progressive, and generally close to contemporary standards on issues like gender and race, and so when those issues come up, it's usually because of other people. Although not universally so!)
It's certainly not a show for everyone. If your main joys in television are complicated plots and morally grey anti-heroes, then this probably won't appeal. But it's a fun show, if that's your thing, full of well-meaning characters and improbable coincidences, and sometimes it's nice to sit down and watch people walk around in pretty costumes and do the right thing.
1. Detective William Murdoch
Detective Murdoch is upright, stalwart, honest...the kind of classic hero who can always be counted on to do the right thing, even when it's difficult. He's also something of a scientific genius, continually inventing new gadgets to aid in his investigations. Finger mark comparisons. Early eavesdropping tools. Devices for tracking a giant underground drill as it moves through the city in a series of robberies. (Yes, seriously.)
And of course, he's one of the few police detectives Toronto has, as the whole notion of police operating in that fashion was relatively new at the time.
2. Doctor Julia Ogden
Doctor Ogden is a coroner, and Detective Murdoch's on again/off again love interest. The daughter of a wealthy doctor, she's a woman in a man's field, and the show does a nice job of hinting at some the difficulties this has caused her without overplaying it. While Murdoch is the central character, Ogden is very much her own woman with her own life.
3. Inspector Thomas Brackenreid
Brackenreid is Murdoch's boss. He's a more traditional cop, the kind prone to relying on his fists rather than complicated chains of evidence to extract confessions, but he's basically an honest cop and over the years he develops a respect for Murdoch's methods that occasionally even leads him to try them out himself.
4. Constable George Crabtree
Crabtree is Murdoch's main assistant--the one officer who can be trusted to secure forensic evidence and help Murdoch obtain necessary equipment...when he's not busy working on his latest novel or dreaming up marvellous inventions for the future, like full-sized rooms that use microwaves to cook food. (So yes, comic relief. And very good at it.)
Sadly, there are very few fanworks out there, so I don't have a lot of recs. Although if you're looking for fic, king's is fine for courting by bossymarmalade (Murdoch Ogden, Teen, 1227 words) does an excellent job of capturing the feel of the show and Impossible Attraction of Like Polarities by Lizardbeth (Murdoch/Pendrick, Teen, 2639 words) is a lovely story for the slash fans. Or if you prefer something more explicit, there's Experiment by Maevanna (Murdoch Pendrick Adult, 2878 words). Of course, in both those cases, it would help to watch some of the Pendrick episodes first to find out who he is. ;)
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