It took eight seasons, but Murdoch Mysteries fans got the storyline they wanted. After what felt like an endless string of will-they-or-won’t-they moments Dr. Julia Ogden and Det. William Murdoch finally tied the knot in front of friends and family in a ceremony that wasn’t without hiccups. Script writer Paul Aitken threw one more wrinkle at the pair by having them realize who the real culprit in a murder case was while kneeling at the altar. Cracking the case caused the pair to stand up and make ready to depart the proceedings … until Inspector Brackenreid ordered them to say their vows and make the wedding official.
In what I hope will become a weekly column with Murdoch‘s writers for the rest of the season, I spoke to co-executive producer and writer Aitken about Monday’s landmark 100th episode and the wedding we’d all be waiting for.
After teasing fans for so long, it was fun to have that final twist where it looked like William and Julia would forgo their vows one final time to solve a crime.
Paul Aitken: We came up with the wedding idea before we even came up with the central plot. And we wanted them to do exactly that; run away from the altar and then have Brackenreid stop them. We built the rest of the episode kind of around that moment. What we didn’t want to do was what they did on Bones, which was essentially to devote the last act entirely to their kind of gushy wedding. We wanted to basically play a bit with our fans who have been expecting, I think, something to go wrong and immediately set that right.
Was there a point when everyone decided the wedding would happen this season and during the 100th episode, or did it happen that way as a happy coincidence?
PA: It was entirely a happy coincidence. Because the wedding was going to be a special episode and the 100th was going to be a special episode, we had actually planned for two special episodes out of this. The original plan was to have the Murdoch origin episode, which was written by Maureen Jennings, be the 100th episode. But we found it was difficult to work the present mystery into the origin mystery so we couldn’t solve that in time. So we defaulted to the wedding being the 100th episode, and in the end I think it was the right decision.
Did anyone on the team want to wait and perhaps have the wedding at the end of this season or even push it to future seasons. Or have them never get together?
PA: No. Never having them get together was never an option. We’ve been promising the audience pretty much from the get-go that these two belong together and you simply can’t end the series without them ultimately being together. We would have absolutely kept them apart if we could think of a single reason how. Without stretching plausibility to the breaking point. Everyone is a little nervous that they’re married now and there won’t be the same dramatic kind of thrust to the show and we’ll see what the audience thinks. We may lose some audience, but we simply could not maintain it dramatically and have it be at all believable.
Do you have those same fears?
PA: Not too much. Ultimately we’re a murder mystery. We always tell good mysteries and our return audience will always be there. I think those that were in the show only because they were waiting for Murdoch and Ogden to get together, we may lose some of those people. I don’t think they were our main audience base and I don’t think people tune into our show to see a soap opera. They tune in to see a mystery that has elements of soaps and of characters and of continuing storylines.
How did the writing of this script go? Did Peter weigh in with some notes or did you have carte blanche because you’ve been with the show for so long as a writer and producer?
PA: This is true on almost every episode; it’s a room-based story. The writer goes away and does a draft and the writers’ room weighs in with notes and it’s very much a product of several different hands and several different voices. It’s very collaborative and this was no different. We broke the story in the room and then I went away and wrote the script and then I got notes. This is the result of all that.
The audience wanted more Margaret Brackenreid [Arwen Humphreys] and you gave it to them. She was great as the frenetic wedding planner.
PA: Arwen is great and I love the character of Margaret Brackenreid. I’ve written her several times and I take particular pleasure in writing her because she is the only person who tops Brackenreid. Brackenreid is the boss of everybody, but she is definitely the boss of Brackenreid!
Is there anything that you’re particularly proud of, looking back over these past 100 episodes?
PA: I’m very proud of the show. I think we hit the sweet spot right out of the gate. We had great characters and great actors playing those characters. As actors do, they bring something to the role that ignites our interest as writers, so we tend to write to that. That happened very quickly. It’s largely luck as much as anything. I feel an enormous amount of pride about the whole enterprise and am very happy that we’ve kept it going as long as we have. When we first started I said, ‘We can only go two seasons because that’s as many ideas that I can come up with!’ I come into every season with zero ideas and somehow it works. Somehow we come up with the ideas as we go through. As long as the audience sticks with us we’ll come up with ideas.
Murdoch Mysteries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on CBC.