Spoiler warning: Do not continue reading unless you have watched Monday’s Season 11 episode, “Up from Ashes.”
If you’re still reading, it’s because you have either A) watched Monday’s premiere, or B) you love spoilers. After a Season 10 cliffhanger that saw Doctor Julia, Inspector Brackenreid and Constables Crabtree, Jackson and Higgins all in danger and Detective Murdoch in custody, “Up from Ashes” returned with an emotional thrill ride that not only exonerated Murdoch but collared Councilman Williams, Robert Graham and Chief Constable Davis. Unfortunately, Jackson passed away as a result of his gunshot wounds, leaving Station No. 4 in mourning. (But how great was it to see Hodge has landed back on his feet?)
In the first of our exclusive weekly discussions with the Murdoch Mysteries writing team, showrunner Peter Mitchell—we caught him scouting locations for an upcoming story about a white moose—explains the season premiere and what’s to come in Season 11, including the two-hour holiday special, which explains the Murdoch Takes Vancouver event!
Congratulations on a great season premiere. It was well-written and well-performed. You were able to bring all of the storylines together in an exciting way.
Peter Mitchell: I think we did a nice job. It was economical and worked.
It’s now official: Constable Jackson did not make it out of the church alive. Did Kristian Bruun want to leave Murdoch Mysteries?
When I decided to commit to doing a cliffhanger like that, someone couldn’t make it. It would have been dishonest if everybody was fine. I hadn’t even really decided who it was going to be when I wrote it.
How, then, did you decide who it was going to be?
Fan loyalty, number of years on the show, Kristian had some other opportunities … Daniel Maslany [Detective Watts] has a bigger presence on the show this year, our cast was starting to get large, large, large and I think we served Kristian well and he served us well. There were no hard feelings or anything like that, it’s just what happens.
Fans become so attached to characters and they don’t want to see anyone leave. But I think that becomes boring if you don’t shake things up.
I think so. And, at the heart of it, this is a drama. Without conflict, without change and without loss … every jeopardy can’t be on just secondary characters. You have to have it happen to your primary characters to have any kind of impact.
Can you go into more detail about Detective Watts’ involvement in Station No. 4 this season?
He’s in at least half of the episodes, he’s kind of a gadabout detective and he comes and he goes. He is semi-permanently stationed in No. 4.
Is that a case of Daniel comes in and your plan was just to have him for a few episodes and then you change your mind because of what life he breathes in Watts?
I think so, yeah. Kristian was like that too. Kristian came in as Slugger Jackson a few years ago and I couldn’t help keeping him in my mind, and we decided to bring him along, much like we did with Lachlan Murdoch; his participation has increased with every season of the show and continues apace this year.
The scene where Murdoch realized Crabtree was really alive and working behind-the-scenes was pretty emotional.
The bromance between those two has been and will continue to be, a key element of our show. It just felt that natural way to play it. William had kind of given up hope on him; he had never really given up hope on Julia, and he kind of expected Brackenreid would be OK. And he saw Crabtree lying there, dead, in the season finale.
Are we going to revisit Murdoch’s house building this season?
We’re constantly riding that line between murder mystery and domestic drama and we have a whole new domestic drama for Murdoch and Ogden this year that is more important than houses.
When I spoke to you last season, you thought Teddy Roosevelt might be back this season. Can you confirm he does?
Well, somebody hunting the moose! [Laughs.]
What about Dr. William Osler?
Yes, he is in the early part of the season.
Yes, early part of the season.
Alexander Graham Bell?
Early part of the season.
Our friend Terrence Meyers will be back?
Yes, along with Pendrick. The nosy newspaper reporter we were all beginning to hate is back, and so is the burlesque dancer.
And Colin Mochrie is guest-starring this season as well.
With the number of incidents that have surrounded the Murdochs at their hotel, someone thought it was wise that we get a hotel detective. [Laughs.] He appears in the Helen Keller episode which is, I think, the third episode of the season.
The holiday movie this year is two hours, correct?
Yes, it’s two hours and it’s a slightly different spin on the holiday movie this year. It’s not so much a retelling of a straight-up Christmas story. There is a little extra in it. We’re going to shoot a little bit of it out in Victoria, B.C. We’re actually prepping it as we speak and are just doing the final casting decisions.
So, the west coast of the county is playing into the storyline?
Yeah, there are sort of two independent storylines. ‘Meanwhile, out on the west coast…’ and then, ‘Meanwhile, back in Toronto.’ It will have some elements of Indigenous culture, specifically the Haida. We’re going out to Victoria in nine days to shoot.
At what point did you decide that going west to film was a good idea?
It’s always been a part of this show, and particularly with Christina Jennings, that when we have the opportunity we try to travel the show. We do have fans across the country and it’s an opportunity for the fans to say Hi. In formulating the Christmas movie this year, and in an attempt to not start spinning our wheels, it was a natural part of our growth to say, ‘Let’s get out a map … where do we want to go? Is there a story we can tell here? Yup.’ We were able to come up with a story that has a bit of resonance with Canada being 150.
What did you think of the season premiere? Do you have a message for Kristian Bruun? Are you excited for the holiday movie? Let me know in the comments section below!
Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.