Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Murdoch Mysteries: A Fun Steampunkish TV Series

I recently was pointed to a very fun TV series with a definite Steampunk flavor, called Murdoch Mysteries. It's a Canadian-produced series now in its fifth season and available through a variety of cable outlets and on DVD, but also with a lot of episodes up on YouTube. It follows the crime-solving career of police detective William Murdoch in 1890's Toronto, Canada. He uses many unconventional scientific techniques to solve cases -- fingerprints, trace evidence, etc. -- and is supported by his young assistant Constable Crabtree, his superior Inspector Brackenreid, and the lovely medical examiner Doctor Julia Ogden. The show has frequent nods to future science and regular encounters with famous historical characters. Nikola Tesla is in the first episode (dealing with a murder by electrocution and touching on both the commercial struggle between AC and DC current and the bitter rivalry between Tesla and Edison). H.G. Wells, Buffalo Bill Cody, Jack London, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Queen Victoria all appear in various episodes, to drop just a few names.

It's good fun. I think it suffers a bit from having only four regulars, which is a bit thin for an ensemble cast, (seven or eight seems about right) and a bit much for a classic mystery duo (Holmes and Watson, Poirot and Hastings, Dalziel and Pascoe, etc.), which keeps the character interactions between them fairly predictable. That said, the show is great fun and touches on a few interesting social issues, including the impossibility of Murdoch ever rising above detective due to his catholic faith.

Here's a link to the first episode on YouTube, the one featuring Tesla. It's worth a look. See if you like it.


  1. Maureen Jennings is the author of the books the series is based on. She was one of the featured guests at the Canadian National Steampunk Exhibition, a one-off con held in Toronto last year. She was rather surprised to find she had a strong following in the steampunk community.

    Apart from the books and the TV series webisodes that bring to life Constable Crabtree's novel The curse of the Lost Pharoahs are at the link below.

    Very Victorian Pulp.

    Sadly the promo print giveaway has ended. Here is what you missed:

    1. Thanks for the links. I saw the Curse of the Lost Pharoahs webisodes last weekend -- deliberately pulpy and cheesie, as if Constable Crabtree had written a dime novel about himself and his colleagues -- all of who come off well including himself (havinf been promoted to detective). They clearly have fun doing this.

  2. I will have to look it up. Wait one...

    Yes, they are available via Netflix as well. Some are even up for instant streaming viewing, though others you have to get the discs by mail.

    Added to the queue.

    1. I have not seen the earlier version, the one listed on Netfix as 2004 and starring Peter Outerbridge as Murdoch. The ones I've been watching are the more recent ones starring Yanich Bisson, which started (I believe) in 2008. They are currently spooling out season five and there are plans afoot for a season six. I notice Netflix offers season one as either streaming or DVD.