WILLIAM MURDOCH AND SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle’s world famous consulting detective was a source of inspiration for many fictional characters. There were authors who penned their own Holmes adventures, and some heroes migh even be the contemporaries of the Baker Street sleuth. Such a character is Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson).
Murdoch is the creature of Canadian novelist Maureen Jennings. The Canadian television series Murdoch Mysteries, which started in 2008, is based upon her stories. The first season is set in 1895. Prior to being picked up as a regular weekly series, three television movies, Except the Dying, Poor Tom Is Cold and Under the Dragon's Tail, aired on Bravo Canada in 2004. These films starred Peter Outerbridge as William Murdoch. According to the author the detective was modelled after John Wilson Murray (1840-1906), who was the first salaried Provincial Constable appointed to act as Detective for the Government of Ontario in 1875. Conan Doyle had several sources for creating Sherlock Holmes, maybe the most famous of them is Professor Joseph Bell, who helped the police solving some cases (More information: Professor Joseph Bell).
Detective William Murdoch works at the Toronto Constabulary and uses unusual methods of detection. With these he successfully ends his investigations. He is a professional sleuth, not a consulting detective. Sherlock Holmes also uses innovations, but he has no superiors, he created his own profession for himself. Murdoch applies fingerprinting, blood testing, surveillance and trace evidence among many other things, and he has a keen interest in everything he thinks may be useful in solving crimes. His colleagues regard him as eccentric, but they have to admit his efficiency. He has a broad spectrum of knowledge and he feels at home in many branches of science. He is a well-educated and widely read man (Link: The importance of reading). Just like the Baker Street sleuth, he is a perfect Victorian gentleman who is always dressed very neatly. He makes good use of his extraordinary observation skills.
The fans of Sherlock Holmes know very well that his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle did not intend him to be a handsome man. It was Sidney Paget who pictured him good-looking (Recommended article: Sidney Paget). Most television and film adaptations respected this feature of the sleuth. I must confess that I have not read the novels of Maureen Jennings, so I don’t know whether Murdoch is handsome in the novels or not. But in the series the Canadian detective is an attractive man, who impresses the ladies.
Holmes enthralls Watson, Lestrade, other policemen and his clients. Murdoch has an inferior, Constable George Crabtree, who truly adores his talents. Though he often needs the explanations, he is a very eager pupil and he is always loyal to Murdoch. He can also be compared to Watson due to the fact that he aspires to write mystery novels. There is a real doctor who helps William during his investigations, she is dr. Julia Ogden, the coroner of the police. Her pathology skills contribute a great deal to the detective’s success. Apropos of her we can reveal a difference between the British and the Canadian sleuth. Sherlock is indifferent to women, because he devotes all his time and energy to his profession – but in contrast with a widespread misbelief he doesn’t hate ladies (Recommended site: Sherlock Holmes and women). At the start of the series Murdoch mourns his fiancé who died of consumption a year ago. As time passes, he slowly begins to have an affection for the lovely dr. Ogden, the only problem is that he finds it difficult to show his feelings.
In Conan Doyle’s stories religion does not play an important role, though many people think Holmes did not believe in God (Misconception: Sherlock Holmes didn't believe in God). Murdoch is Roman Catholic, and he always makes the sign of the cross when he discovers a dead body. In the 1900’s most residents of Toronto were Protestants, so the detective sometimes has to deal with certain prejudices.
It is important to mention that the creators of the series were keen on being faithful and historically correct. Sets and costumes excellently evoke the spirit of the late 1890’s. To make the show even more authentic, several famous people of that era appear in the episodes, Conan Doyle shows up three times through the seasons. Other prominent persons include Nikola Tesla, H. G. Wells, Jack London, Henry Ford and Winston Churchill among many more. And in the fourth episode of Season 6, entitled A Study in Sherlock, Murdoch teams up with Sherlock Holmes himself – or at least with a man who believes that he is the great detective. It is a huge fun to watch as the duo investigates.
My opinion is that William Murdoch is an outstanding character and Sherlock Holmes would enjoy a joint investigation with the Canadian sleuth.
Detectives inspired by Sherlock Holmes
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