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Blu-ray Review: Murdoch Mysteries, Season 1

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Set in in Toronto, Ontario in the 1890s, Murdoch Mysteries: Season 1 is based on Maureen Jennings’s Detective Murdoch novels. Jennings is also a show advisor, which helps lend authenticity to the period setting and characters. Season 1 originally aired in Canada in 2008.

Yannick Bisson stars as Victorian police detective William Murdoch, a man with a quick, scientific turn of mind, who is haunted by his wife’s recent death to consumption. He is eager to employ the new science of forensics to help solve the murders that cross his desk at the Toronto Constabulary.

Murdoch frequently re-imagines the crimes, a la CSI, tracking blood spatters and bullet trajectories. He utilizes modern technology, much to the chagrin of his superior, Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig). While Brackenreid doesn’t hold with Murdoch’s new-fangled methods, he usually gives him free reign in his investigative techniques. Completing the team are coroner Dr. Julia Ogden (Hélène Joy), with whom Murdoch has a great rapport, and Constable George Crabtree (Jonny Harris), who is a faithful sideick and provides some much-needed comic relief.

In Season 1 Murdoch encounters real-life public figures who assist him on his cases, such as Nikola Tesla, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria’s grandson. Their discussions and the turn-of-the-century setting hint at the potential of all of future innovations such as radio and television.

The episodes:

Disc 1

Episode 1, “Power” – The clues in this mystery combine electricity (DC vs. AC current), animal rights, and the scientist Nikola Tesla – Murdoch must determine what was the real reason behind the electrocution death of Miss Toronto Electric and Light.

[Murdoch visits Tesla in his laboratory]

Episode 2, “The Glass Ceiling” – Murdoch’s boss Brackenreid may be the next on the list of city figures marked for death, and the detective must protect him, as well as try and solve the case.

Episode 3, “The Knock Down” – Fannie Robinson has been charged with the shooting death of her husband Amos, a professional boxer. Murdoch’s intuition tells him she’s innocent, and he tries to track the real killer through a blood trail at the scene of the crime.

Episode 4, “Elementary, My Dear Murdoch” – Spiritualist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Geraint Wyn Davies) tags along with Murdoch when they learn the location of a dead woman from a medium, Sarah Pensell (Maria del Mar), at a séance.

Episode 5, “‘Till Death Do Us Part” – A murdered groom may have been hiding many secrets – including his sexuality. When his male lover also turns up dead Murdoch must look into whether love or money played a part in the crimes.

Disc 2

Episode 6, “Let Loose the Dogs” – Murdoch’s father Harry Murdoch (Stephen McHattie) turns out to be the prime suspect in a murder. Murdoch may believe his father is innocent of this crime, but he still blames him for the death of his mother. Can he treat his father and the case fairly?

Episode 7, “Body Double” – A performance of Macbeth is interrupted by the discovery of a (very) dead body. Murdoch and Dr. Ogden utilize dental records to identify the body as Virgil Smart, the owner of the theater. Facial reconstruction helps identify another corpse who had been assumed to be Smart a year previously.

[Dr. Ogden, Constable Crabtree, and Murdoch examine a victim’s body]

Episode 8, “Still Waters” – Murder strikes the newest member of a rowing club. Murdoch employs an early lie-detector machine to determine the truth behind the crime.

Episode 9, “Belly Speaker” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle returns, this time to use Murdoch as the inspiration for a character in his new novel. Meanwhile, Murdoch’s latest case features a ventriloquist’s dummy named Mycroft …

Disc 3

Episode 10, “Child’s Play” – Could a young child or gang of kids be behind a wealthy man’s murder?

Episode 11, “Bad Medicine” – Conan Doyle’s favorite medium Sarah Pensell returns to claim that she has had a vision of future murders – and that one of the victims will be Murdoch.

Episode 12, “The Prince and the Rebel” – Murdoch and Crabtree are tasked with being security for visiting Prince Alfred (Chad Connell). Murdoch must determine whether the murder of a woman has any connection to the Prince or a plot on his life.

Episode 13, “The Annoying Red Planet” – Murdoch is faced with a real puzzler. A man is found dead, up in a tree – with no footprints in the vicinity. Crabtree has a revolutionary theory – Martians!

First time on Blu-ray, Murdoch Mysteries, Season 1 looks terrific, especially on a large-scale HD screen. The set includes 13 episodes on three discs, with a total running time of approximately 624 minutes. The episodes are in widescreen format, with 1080p video resolution and an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The sound is Dolby Digital 2.0, and dialogue and sound effects are crisp and clear, as is Robert Carli’s atmospheric theme music. English SDH subtitles are available.

Extras include episode commentary and interviews with the cast and crew, including Yannick Bisson, Jonny Harris, and author Maureen Jennings, as well as a photo gallery and cast biographies and filmographies.

Murdoch Mysteries, Season 1 is a wonderfully entertaining introduction to a series that mixes crime procedural with historical drama. The actors have a real rapport, and Murdoch’s growing relationship with Dr. Ogden promises future sparks. The show is now in its sixth season, and this Blu-ray is a great place to start to get to know Detective Murdoch and his Victorian world of crime.

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