'Murdoch Mysteries: Series 1'
(Yannick Bisson, Thomas Craig, et al / 4-Disc DVD / NR / (2002) 2009 / Acorn Media)
Overview: Cutting-edge Victorian science meets cunningly plotted mystery in this stylish period thriller. In the 1890s, Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) adopts modern techniques like “finger marks” and forensics to track Toronto’s most sinister killers. Though derided by his skeptical boss (Thomas Craig), Murdoch finds friends and allies in a lovely pathologist (Gemini®-winner Hélène Joy) and an eager protégé (Jonny Harris).
DVD Verdict: If you think you've heard the title before, you are probably very correct. For, 'Murdoch Mysteries' is not only based on the characters from Maureen Jennings’ Detective Murdoch novels, with Season One debuting in Canada on CityTV in January of 2008, but back in November of the same year, 'The Murdoch Mysteries Movie Collection' (starring Peter Outerbridge, Colm Meaney, and Keeley Hawes) was unleashed to the public via BFS Entertainment!
Indeed, as the story goes, three (3) television adaptions of Maureen Jennings' Victorian William Murdoch novels were so successful, the broadcaster (the aforementioned CityTV, UKTV in Britain and Granada International) commissioned a full fledged 13 episode series - of which this review is all about.
And so onwards and upwards on this new TV show, 'Murdoch Mysteries: Series One.' This winner of two Geminis® - whilst being nominated for 12 more - show follows the investigations of Toronto police detective William Murdoch at the close of the 19th century. A man of scientific progress as well as devout Catholicism, Murdoch (Bisson) approaches mysteries with such new, state-of-the-art techniques as fingerprinting, blood-testing, and trace evidence, collaborating closely with his department's pathologist, Dr. Julia Ogden (Joy).
Yannick Bisson as the handsome and dapper Detective Murdoch, as opposed to the steel-eyed Colm Meaney-version from the 'Collection' is goodness for the eye for sure, but the fact that he looks so, well, untouched by the job he's undertaken kinda discredits his depth of job satisfaction. That said, Gemini award-winning actress Helene Joy is wonderful to behold each and every time she spends on the screen as Dr Ogden!
Thomas Craig, as the ever-skeptical Inspector Brackenreid (Murdoch's boss) is broading and foreboding all in one, but the fact that he never lets up on the goading of Murdoch and his wonderment of scientific dealings to catch criminals is beyond me. I mean, if the man is succeeding in his job, even by ways and means you don't completely understand, just let him be, man!
But at least they agree (kinda) on one aspect of catching the bad guys - and that comes in the shape and form of a medium Sarah Pensell (Maria del Mar) to help him discover clues. Sadly though she is only in two (2) episodes - "Bad Medicine" and "Elementary, My Dear Murdoch" - but fingers crossed she comes back to enlighten us further in series two. That said, the latter of those two named episodes is one of the best. In which Murdoch attends a séance hosted by Pensell, where he is told the location of a recently murdered young woman. Skeptical at first, he soon finds himself investigating the murder of Iris Winston, a prominent member of the Toronto Paranormal Society, whose body is found exactly where Pensell foretold it to be! And, as luck has it, he is aided by Arthur Conan Doyle - played wonderfully by Geraint Wyn Davies.
Indeed, other standout episodes in season one include an adaptation of the novel Let Loose the Dogs, The Glass Ceiling, The Annoying Red Planet, and the touching Child's Play. A second season premiered in March 2009 and a third season is in production.
Finally, be on the look out for these wonderful spoken words, just as Murdoch has flipped a switch on a wireless: Nikola Tesla: "Detective Murdoch, you are the first to receive a wireless transmission from New York." Detective Murdoch: "I came to thank you in person." Nikola Tesla: "Do not attempt to transmit in return. The power of this unit is far too weak. While I do think this is a splendid invention, I have other ideas of much greater importance that must be explored." Genius, true, true genius. These are all Full Screen Presentations (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Feature of:
Episode Commentary by stars Yannick Bisson and Jonny Harris, production designer Sandra Kybartas, and executive producer Cal Coons
Interviews with the author and cast