Murdoch plays by the rules, both societal and religious, and conducts himself accordingly, a gentleman detective though born working class and raised a devout Roman Catholic. The Detective has one catchphrase: "What have you..."
At completing Season 13, Yannick Bisson describes Murdoch, " I like to say that Murdoch is a great guy. He’s kind of our best self on our best day. He’ll make the right decision. He will see the other person inside. He’ll become empathetic in spite of the circumstance. He’ll champion the little guy. But then at the end of the day, he’ll be rigid. A crime is a crime. And we often see that the bad guy, in the end, was doing the bad thing, possibly for the right reason, and Murdoch has to stand by and watch them be taken away.
At the end of the day, he’s going to do his duty. Though as the years have gone on, I think that’s been chipped away a little bit, like the layers of an onion, just a little bit at a time. Things are not all black and white. And sometimes there are judgment calls that have to be made. And that’s been the biggest evolution for him." (March 5, 2020)
Detective William Murdoch is a celebrated Canadian police detective who works for the Toronto Constabulary at Station House No. 4. He is well-known for his use of forensic evidence by creating innovative inventions to collect them which have resulted in the arrest and prosecution of numerous criminals, including thwarting assassination attempts and national security threats– even saving the life of the Queen and a President.
Murdoch lived at 22 Ontario Street (Still Waters) until his recent marriage (ep8.04) to Dr. Julia Ogden of Toronto with whom he has had a long and successful working partnership, while their private lives have had some notoriety. The couple first resided at the Windsor House Hotel. By 1906 (S12), William and Julia move into their first house, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
William Murdoch is known for his calm logically controlled bearing, often emotionally unaware. The only expection is when it comes to defending and protecting his wife Julia – he has punched a revival (ep.611), manhandled a suspect (ep.1004) and punched a copper (ep.1117) for mistreating her or speaking ill of her.
William Murdoch comes from a poor, Roman Catholic family who once lived in Nova Scotia.
Young Will was an avid reader, daydreamer, and an altar boy who once burnt down the shed of his mentor Father Keegan while conducting an experiment, but he rebuilt it all by himself (ep.815). He was a Governor General Young Scholar who help solved a crime at summer camp (ep.907). He attended the Nova Scotia Jesuit School for Boys and participated in boxing (ep.112). He was called to Father O'Brien's office more times than he'd like to remember. While getting a solid education, he did not escape its strict corporal punishment (ep.1212). It was expected that he would become a scholar or scientist.
At seventeen, he left his Aunt’s home to work at a logging camp. He also had a sister, Susannah who became a nun, (ep.410) now deceased, and a half-brother, Jasper, who is a sergeant in the North-West Mounted Police (ep.213) whose interests and investigative techniques are similar to Murdoch's.
William was an incredibly logical and scientific as a young man, and it is revealed that he may have a photographic memory (specifically hyperthymesia and working memory). He is a great admirer of physicist Nikola Tesla and developed an early interest in science and theology and was schooled by the Jesuits who thought him too analytical for Literature, though he maintains his appreciation of poetry and reads any thing from science periodicals to Shakespeare (ep.1016). He is well-educated and fluent in French. Detective Murdoch is not the peripatetic type; he finds comfort being in one place (ep.507).
Murdoch is a fan of modern (1890 -1910s) science and frequently applies newly discovered scientific knowledge in solving crimes throughout his illustrious career.
William Murdoch is button-down and private about his feelings, rarely loosening his tie, and usually wears his jacket and hat, no matter the circumstance or temperature. He keeps his own counsel. He is patient and resourceful. He is steadfast and a man of his word, often arriving at the crime scene on his bicycle.
Through the adventures of each Season (1- 8), working with the irrepressible George Crabtree and sarcastic Inspector Thomas Brackenreid, his rigidity and reserve have loosened up a bit. He is respected and admired by his colleagues at Station House No. 4 in the noted Protestant town of Toronto.
Being logical, skeptical, observant, scientific and clear-headed with an excellent memory and a polymath are obstacles when he needs to connect with people emotionally. It is Dr. Julia Ogden, his "equal in every way", who both inspires and challenges him intellectually and emotionally to see the shades of grey to his black and white "letter of the law" world from early on in their crime solving careers. Their long star-crossed journey has taught them both that in genuine love, sacrifice and compromise are not experienced as such.
They became engaged by the end the Season 7 finale, The Death of Dr. Ogden. In the 100th episode, Holy Matrimony, Murdoch!, they finally tied the knot and became husband and wife in Season 8, becoming a mystery-solving modern married couple at the turn-of-20th century in Toronto, Canada – which is their current storyline in progress.
With the lessons learned from the many Murder Mysteries investigated and solved, along with the new inventions and innovations (such as finger markers, the daylight box, and the lie detector to name a few), Murdoch has become the Artful Detective, servicing the Toronto Constabulary, making a difference in people lives and . . . ready for the new adventures and challenges.
In Season 9, which includes the first stand alone holiday special A Merry Murdoch Christmas (2015), William and Julia lose their hearts and plan to adopt a baby boy in Raised On Robbery. Possibly the most impulsive decision William Murdoch has ever made. William and Julia are determined to live their lives as they otherwise would, "modern parents in a modern age." But discover it challenging to keep Roland near them and do their work. Showing Murdoch how to bounce his son on his knee, Brackenreid says, "Welcome to fatherhood, Murdoch!" So to help with that in The Big Chill, William invents the "Gleeful Bouncer" (a.k.a. Jolly Jumper) – one for the morgue, one for his office, and one for home—so they "will never miss a moment." Unfortunately, a heartbroken William and Julia have to give up Roland, after discovering he has a biological father who is still alive and is unaware of Roland's existence (ep.915). They mourn the loss of their son by diving into their work. William goes undercover and nearly has his head sawed off in House of Industry. In Cometh the Archer, William tells Julia it is time to build their dream house and adopt a child to share their home and lives with ... but that future is threatened by the return of a past nemesis who wants Julia out of the way: Eva Pearce kidnaps Murdoch for herself, after shooting Julia at the door of her own home at the Windsor House Hotel.
In Season 10's finale, William Murdoch is wanted for the murder of Lydia Hall. Clandestine meetings at the church is his only contact with George: at the first meeting, Murdoch asks George to speak with his reporter friend to do investigative research on Williams and Graham, because he doesn't think anyone in the Constabulary or at City Hall can help him now – there are no normal channels anymore – and he needs to know where the skeletons are buried. At their second meeting, William asks if there is more information about Julia who has been kidnapped to smoke Murdoch out and it does. Murdoch is arrested in his own home when he returns to gather forensic clues to find Julia, but not without first experiencing flashes of guilt for not protecting both Lydia and Julia. Sacrificing his own career, Inspector Brackenreid releases Murdoch, telling him to go find the evidence needed and he'll find his wife. When Brackenreid spies where Dr. Ogden is being held, Chief Constable Davis is waiting for him. Crabtree brings Higgins and Jackson to the third and fatal last rendezvous at the church. Upon reporting three constables down, Murdoch is arrested, left powerless in jail while his most trusted allies' fates are uncertain.
In the Season 11 premiere Up From Ashes, Detective Murdoch and Detective Watts attend Constable Jackson's burial. Murdoch is told that George's funeral will happen next week, but it is soon revealed that George survived his wounds thanks to Miss James. Murdoch is uncharacteristically emotional when he discovers the truth. At the top of Merlot Mysteries when the Station House gets back to normal without Jackson, George shares with Murdoch, "sir,...I think he died doing something that he loved, serving a cause that he believed in, a cause that you and I continue to serve. I think he would have wanted that". Ironically and with a reverse twist on ‘In the midst of life we are in death,’ William and Julia become expectant parents in Biffers and Blockers. William suggests their interview au apairs, look for a house with a yard and start a list of potential schools but Julia insists its a bit premature. In Mary Wept, he mentions asking the Bishop for a baptism. While elated that their dream is about to come true, Julia’s unpredictable moods has William feeling useless by the end of Crabtree à la Carte. Culminating in a near contentious conversation while dining out, if a girl, William wants to name her ‘Mary’ in honor of his mother and Julia agrees for she loves the name, but Julia’s reaction to following the convention of naming the eldest son after his father takes William aback in The Great White Moose. When protecting the American President on an island in Crane Lake, Murdoch tells Meyers it could be a trap “You've been saying that since dawn broke, Murdoch.” William has his own reasons for being careful and asks if Meyers can keep a secret. “Murdoch, I'm a spy,” he reminds the Detective. Murdoch tells him that Julia is with child. Much later, Meyers reassures them both that their secret is safe at the end of the episode. Then, William suggests ‘Julian’ if a boy after Julia. “William I don't want him to be named after me, or you! I want him to have his own name. Daniel. I’ve always loved the name…” Murdoch happily concedes, “Well, then, Daniel it shall be.” Then four stitches laster in Game of Kings, while testing his radio transistor device and microphone in his office, Julia arrives with her stethoscope to remind him that he must be more careful, placing it her stomach so that he can hear their child's heartbeat, "Its little heart beating inside the womb of the woman I love. I couldn't be happier!" Nor can the Inspector and Crabtree who has been listening to them just outside the Station House. Soon the cat-is-out-of-the-bag with Watts asks "When's the baby coming?" Then in Shadows Are Falling, after collapsing in pain, Julia tells George to get William as the Inspector takes her to hospital, where William is told his wife is fine but the baby did not survive. For the second time, they suffer the loss of a child, but this time the circumstances takeover their ability to mourn together, they spiral into guilt and anger - William ends up, not praying in his church, but alone at the bar in Hodge's dockside pub, nursing his anger.
After being tricked by a stranger (an abusive husband hunting for his wife) in Free Falling, the Detective returns to Hodges’ where George finds him. He tells the Detective that he had proposed to Nina Bloom but she declined him and confesses, “...as I walked away, I felt light. I felt as if a load had been lifted”, because for the things George truly wants – she’s not the one. Then asks Murdoch if he knows what he means; William believes he does (ep.507). George presses on to ask if somebody was “so fortunate as to find that person, why would you ever throw that away?” William confesses to George that Julia won’t take him back; he lost his temper and said some things – things he may even believe. George digs deeper, “Well, sir, what's more important to you: those things or her?” William replies that both are. Countering with “Well, if you'll beg my pardon, sir, perhaps you should find out if those two things could exist together,” George adds one doesn't need to be William Murdoch to solve this because “She's the one for you. You know it. I know it.”
In Season 12, Detective William Murdoch goes undercover (ep.1205) as a French diplomat, then heads the Station House No. 4 team during the Inspector’s absences (ep.1209, 1210, 1211), but the two most personally challenging investigations are in Six of the Best and Sins of the Father. The button-down stoic William revisits his childhood corporal punishment at the hands of a Jesuit teacher (in the former) and grapples with the murder of his own father Harry Murdoch (in the latter).
- Yannick Bisson on Detective Murdoch: "When I was building my character I definitely took Columbo into account. And Poirot and a bit of James Bond and a bit of Barney Miller, too. And I've said this a million times… I built the character with exactly those in mind".
- Like Indiana Jones, Murdoch rarely loses his hat: Four Murdoch hats are on-hand during shootings.
- Murdoch has a grandson Bill Murdoch in Republic of Doyle. The long awaited answer to the question 'how does he have a grandchild if Julia Ogden is unable to have children?' (ep.313) – was hoped to be revealed in Season 11, two seasons after their short lived adoption of baby Roland (ep.914), but William and Julia lost their child (ep.1117). It is not until another four seasons later in Season 15, when it is revealed that Ann Fulford is the mother of William's son Harry, who is more than likely the father of Bill Murdoch at this point.
- The Artful Detective is the title of the Murdoch Mysteries series in the U.S.
|Murdoch Mysteries Stars and Characters|
|Yannick Bisson as William Murdoch • Hélène Joy as Julia Ogden • Thomas Craig as Thomas Brackenreid • Jonny Harris as George Crabtree|