Murdoch Mysteries showrunner Peter Mitchell promised several Season 12 episodes would focus on other members of the series. He wasn’t kidding. Monday’s latest, “Operation: Murder,” saw Julia step into the spotlight as she investigated a series of deaths at the University of Toronto’s School of Medicine.
Meanwhile, George was smitten by a young Florence Nightingale Graham (Kathryn Alexandre) before she left town in favour of a career in New York City. As for William? Well, his latest creation seemed intent on gobbling him up. We spoke to the writer of “Operation: Murder,” Mary Pedersen, all about what went on inside and outside Station No. 4.
I had no idea Florence Nightingale Graham was Canadian. How did she come up in the Murdoch Mysteries research?
Mary Pedersen: Every season we like to feature real historical figures, so we’re always keeping an eye on what important Canadians were doing around our time, and what famous international people might have been in Toronto then. Elizabeth Arden was on that list, and since she had actually attended nursing school in Toronto, it happened to dovetail nicely with the idea of a mystery set at the hospital where Ogden is completing her training to be a surgeon.
Were there other facts about Florence/Elizabeth that didn’t make it into the episode?
MP: What I find really fascinating about her is that she was the daughter of immigrants in small-town Ontario, her mother died when she was in her teens, and she went to nursing school to help support her family. So for her to go to New York City and go on to build her own cosmetics empire—really one of the first such businesses, with her name on the products—strikes me as a story of such bravery and determination. I would love to have been able to get into more of that, but of course we’re dealing with just a small moment in her life, really before she knew what she would become. I hope we were able to depict a little bit of what was to come through George’s enthusiasm for her dreams. He has a special skill for giving talented women a nudge in the right direction and I love that about him.
Peter told me that other characters would get more screen time this season. That started tonight with Julia doing the investigating. How refreshing was it for you to write a mystery where William took more of a back seat?
MP: I’ll tell you, I loved it. I got a little cocky writing the first draft; I was telling everyone I could totally write a medical drama if I had to! That’s from years of being a devoted fan of ER and Grey’s Anatomy. Of course, you wouldn’t actually want me doing a tracheotomy! Luckily, I have friends and family in health care who coached me through the medical stuff, and we have a terrific consultant to make the medical stuff look and sound good. So that was fun, to bring us into a different world, get to know Julia’s new workplace and the people there, and make her the primary detective on the case. I’ve always appreciated that Murdoch Mysteries has that latitude to make room for the actors to do what they do best, to explore different worlds and tones, and we hope that quality will help keep things fresh in Season 12 and beyond!
Yet another woman enters George’s life ever so briefly. Will he ever find love?
MP: He really comes up against his essential problem in this episode, doesn’t he? He loves ambitious, complicated women. He’s such a special character and I think he deserves someone who’s one in a million like him. But if he finds his true match, will she accept that he’s ‘just’ a constable, and will she want the same life that he does?
I was so glad to see the incredible set for William and Julia’s house has stuck around for another episode. Is it as impressive in person as it is on-screen?
MP: It is. Bob Sher and the art department did such an amazing job on it, really making it feel like a home that expresses who Murdoch and Ogden are. It’s become my favourite set to visit, and it’s much cozier than the morgue, so there have been a few times this season when I’ve snuck down and put my feet up on one of those built-in sofas to read a script. And there have been a few more great scenes shot in the house already this year.
Next week Higgins and Ruth are scheduled to marry. [Preview picture above.] What can fans expect from the episode?
MP: The Newsome family episode has become really one of the highlights of every season for the writers, and you can imagine that with a wedding, the extended Newsome family coming to stay, Ruth determined to find George a girlfriend, and of course a murderer on the loose, that Murdoch, Brackenreid, Crabtree and Higgins will really have their hands full next week.
Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.
Images courtesy of CBC.