Murdoch Mysteries’ Paul Aitken breaks down “A Study in Pink”

One of my favourite recurring Murdoch Mysteries characters is Winnifred “Freddie” Pink. Not only is she a childhood friend of William Murdoch’s, but she’s his equal when it comes to solving crimes.

But, as viewers saw on Monday night, Freddie found herself on the other side of the investigation during “A Study in Pink” when she was accused of murder. Interestingly, Freddie wasn’t part of the storyline when the episode idea was first broken, something co-executive producer Paul Aitken told me during our chat. Read on for more details, and a sneak peek into Episode 4.

Is the episode title, ‘A Study in Pink,’ an homage to Sherlock’s first episode or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first story to feature Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson?
Paul Aitken: It’s an homage to Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet. Her name is Pink and we went through a number of bad suggestions using the word pink in them. We wanted to get pink into the title because it was about her. You can’t reference the plot because there is a very specific twist and you don’t want to give that away.

This was a technology-heavy episode. There was the return of the Truthizer and the unveiling of a rudimentary GPS system. What Craig Grant created was amazing. Was that description in the script, or does Craig just create on his own?
It’s a bit of both. Obviously, I had to come up with the concept of the tracking device and how it worked and I consulted with Craig, of course. But beyond that, when it comes to the look of it, Craig has a field day. We knew that the device had to look like it could do the job and as stupid as possible. That’s part of the fun of these things. It’s always a collaboration with Craig, but the look of the pieces that he puts forth is what he brings to the table. The headphones were from an earlier episode ‘The Filmed Adventures of Detective William Murdoch.’ No reason not to use them.

It must be fun with work someone with Craig, who creates these articulate objects that look like they’d really work.
What’s great about Craig is that he has a very deep understanding of the science of the thing. I suspect it’s an interest of his, as it is mine, and it’s important for both of us, and for everyone on this whole team, that it should look like it would work.

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Who was the voice of Constable McNabb? We heard him but didn’t see him. Was it writer Simon McNabb in an uncredited role?
[Laughs.] I have no idea who it was. No idea.

Let’s talk about the return of Freddie Pink. I really like the chemistry and history she has with Murdoch. Talk a little bit about the crime and her being the focus of the investigation and her being framed by the Murphys.
Using Pink was, I think, Pete’s idea. We have used her before and we know her. When we were first breaking this episode, we realized it felt a little empty. We had the basic plotline and the idea of what it was before we threw Pink into the mix. We realized it felt empty if you didn’t really, really care about whether this person was guilty or not. We thought, ‘OK, who would that be?’ Pink was an obvious choice because we do know her and the audience will recognize her because she’s been on the show a couple of times. We also don’t know her that well that it would be a given that she didn’t kill this person. The only way that story works is if you don’t know which way it’s going to go in the end. Most people will come at this thinking she’s innocent, but wondering how we prove that she’s not innocent.

This also gave you the opportunity to give some of Freddie’s back story. Up until this point we really only knew she was from Montreal and there was trouble.
What was fun was that we got to plan that. We only knew that something had happened in Montreal, so we worked from that.

Did you leave Freddie’s back story open back when she first appeared on Murdoch Mysteries so you could fill in the gaps in an episode like this or was it just a coincidence?
I suspect, at the time, it just wasn’t something we needed to worry about. I had no thought we’d be going back and revisiting Montreal. It’s kind of like the situation with Crabtree and his aunts. We created this world where Crabtree had multiple aunts, an impossible number, all with flower names. We had no idea why and never bothered to find out why until Crabtree returned to Newfoundland. Then we came up with the idea that they were all hookers and it worked out well.

Is it pretty common for things to just fall into place like that?
Every single episode. Seriously. Every episode there is something … ‘OK, how are going to get out of this plot?’ and someone will come up with something clever and actually fits and makes sense. Plot construction is a complicated process and one of the things we do is hope and pray that we think of something.

Is that the last we’ll see of the Murphys this season?
I’m pretty sure, yes.

What about Freddie? Will she return?
I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say, but yes, she’ll return later in the season in a great little episode.

What can you tell me about Episode 4?
There is a new detective from another police station and we meet him for the first time.

Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

Greg David
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Greg David

Prior to becoming a television critic and owner of TV, Eh?, Greg David was a critic for TV Guide Canada, the country's most trusted source for TV news. He has interviewed television actors, actresses and behind-the-scenes folks from hundreds of television series from Canada, the U.S. and internationally. He is a podcaster, public speaker, weekly radio guest and educator, and past member of the Television Critics Association.
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One thought on “Murdoch Mysteries’ Paul Aitken breaks down “A Study in Pink””

  1. If possible could one of the writing staff of Murdoch Mysteries contact me about an idea for an episode that I have?

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