Monday’s newest episode of Murdoch Mysteries is notable for a couple of reasons. First, it brings another real-life historical character into Det. Murdoch’s world as horror writer H.P. Lovecraft (played by Tyler East)—author of favourites like “The Lurking Fear,” “At the Mountains of Madness” and “The Call of Cthulhu”—visits Toronto.
Sadly, “Master Lovecraft” also marks the final complete script written by Jordan Christianson, who passed away earlier this year. (Personally, we’ll miss talking to Jordan about his writing process and his sense of humour.) We spoke to Murdoch showrunner Peter Mitchell about Jordan, what he meant to the series and its writers’ room and got a spoiler-free preview into what fans can expect on Monday night.
- Here’s CBC’s official episode description: “The discovery of a young girl’s body and some grotesque sketches leads Murdoch to suspect a gang of death-obsessed teenagers, which includes a young H.P. Lovecraft.”
- Do you want to say anything about Jordan and what he meant to you and the show?
Peter Mitchell: Jordan was one of my students at the Canadian Film Centre. I gave him a couple of little jobs but didn’t hire him during my first year at Murdoch Mysteries. I brought he and Simon McNabb on shortly after. I got to watch both of them grow and develop over the four or five years since. He was turning into a mighty fine writer. He was kind of the calm centre of the writers’ room and had a delightful naivete to him that was often just a ruse so that he could basically punk us all the time. He would ask naive questions and take us down a road until we realized we’d been completely had. He learned to be a better writer and was also involved in every sports pool known to man. [Laughs.]
- How did he do in the pools?
I think he was always a very close second. I think McNabb always had a close edge on him, but they were pretty much neck-in-neck. If I didn’t watch it, 40 per cent of the writers’ room was he and McNabb trading players.
- I read the synopsis for this episode. If Jordan wrote perhaps the funniest episode in ‘Weekend at Murdoch’s,’ this sounds like it could be the darkest.
This is probably the most serious episode that Jordan wrote other than the one where we said goodbye to Dr. Grace. It was telling that both of Jordan’s episodes this year were indeed about death.
- It was an interesting genesis. It was a story that we came up with very, very quickly. We came up with it probably in the first two weeks of the writing room getting together. I kind of broke the major elements of it very early and it was sitting there as something that just needed to be complete. We knew we were going to do it and just needed to find a Lovecraft. It was a self-contained episode so we knew it could go anywhere in the schedule. Jordan and I were supposed to co-write it, but I got busier and handed the whole thing off to him and he completed the story with the writers’ room and wrote the script. It was probably one of the scripts that I touched the least. He really nailed it.
- How long has Lovecraft been a character you wanted to bring into the show?
We’re sort of drawn to writers of the period and they were often larger than life. Whether it’s Mark Twain or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle … Lovecraft was a little bit young. Obviously, he hadn’t become a full-fledged writer, but he lived in the proximity to Toronto and we were able to create a believable enough fiction to have him up in Toronto. And, as we like to do, one of our characters has influence on a major historical character much like Crabtree did with Lucy Maud Montgomery. Crabtree and Lovecraft’s relationship sort of shapes the emotional centre of it.
- It’s illuminating that the dialogues between Crabtree and Lovecraft are probably the most Jordan ever talked about death, both the light and dark side. Lovecraft sees death everywhere and George sees life everywhere.
- An image from the episode shows Margaret screaming and Arwen Humphreys tweeted she got her inner scream queen on. Were you on-set when she filmed those scenes?
Yeah, with my earplugs. [Laughs.] She’s a top-notch scream queen.
- Anything else you can say about Lovecraft or the death-obsessed teens?
We had to create own sort of goth style that would be appropriate to the period. Working with Alex [Reda], our costume designer we tweaked on the idea to reach back in time for their fashion sense. We took a look at clothing like what Edgar Allan Poe was wearing. It’s kind of a combination of Edgar Allan Poe and Adam Ant. [Laughs.] Our composer listened to a little bit of Depeche Mode and we were off to the races.
- I think it’s a really interesting episode. It gives Margaret a lot to play with, which is always nice, and there is a strange love affair between Lovecraft and Margaret. The emotional core is George and Lovecraft. I think Jordan was happy with it.
- Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.
Images courtesy of CBC.
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