Our next series up for rewatching and rating is Murdoch Mysteries, a Canadian show about a scientifically-minded detective at the turn of the twentieth century. This show combines the spirit of Sherlock Holmes with a touch of steampunk as Detective Murdoch loves to tinker and invents everything from the lie detector to internet catfishing in the service of Victorian crimefighting. Here’s our take on the first season:
- “Power” – 6
- “The Glass Ceiling” – 4
- “The Knockdown” – 6
- “Elementary, My Dear Murdoch” – 4
- “Till Death Do Us Part” – 5.5
- “Let Loose the Dogs” – 4.5
- “Body Double” – 5.5
- “Still Waters” – 6
- “Belly Speaker” – 2
- “Child’s Play” – 5.5
- “Bad Medicine” – 5.5
- “The Rebel and the Prince” – 4.5
- “The Annoying Red Planet” – 10
Murdoch Mysteries gets off to a good start with an average rating of 5.3, modest but respectable. It takes the series a while to warm up as the actors find their roles, but by the end of the season our favorites are all on the screen: the thoughtful, soft-spoken Detective Murdoch; the erudite, self-assured medical examiner Dr. Ogden; the pugnacious Inspector Brackenreid; and the whimsical but good-hearted Constable Crabtree. This season mostly plays as a fairly standard police show, just set a century ago, but by the end of the season you can see the team starting to have fun with the series’ trademark of transposing modern ideas into a Victorian setting, suitably adapted to the society and technology of the time.
Most of this season’s episodes are solidly in the middle range from 4 to 6, competent but not always inspired, but there are two outliers, one in each direction. The lowest-rated episode is “Belly Speaker,” a 2, about a mentally disturbed ventriloquist who seems to be confessing to murder through his dummy. This episode was probably meant to be a tense psychological thriller that keeps the audience guessing, but it’s just a one-trick pony. One-trick ponies can be entertaining if the trick is good enough, but this one’s trick is a puppet with a bad attitude and a super annoying voice. It’s not enough.
On the other hand, the season goes out with a bang in “The Annoying Red Planet,” at a full 10, in which a dead body mysteriously lodged in a tree leads to fears of alien visitation and an international conspiracy. This episode deftly weaves together contemporary speculations about life on Mars and phantom airships with the tropes of modern political thrillers and UFO narratives. It also introduces one the series’ most delightful recurring characters in the mysterious man in (a) black (top hat), Terrence Myers.
It’s a good start to Murdoch Mysteries, showing the series’ potential while also leaving room to grow.
Are you a Murdoch fan? Got a take of your own on season 1? Let us know!
Image: Murdoch Mysteries main cast via IMDb
In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.