In June I attended the ATX Television Festival and met Melanie, who kept talking about a little show she was currently obsessed with. Curiosity getting the better of me, and her talking the show up, I finally started watching the show on Netflix. I had a baby that was up all night and I needed something to keep me awake. Almost instantly I was hooked. That show is a little Australian drama called The Doctor Blake Mysteries. Reader, let me tell you that I’ve watched the whole series twice in the span of three weeks. I know!
Lucien Blake (Craig McLachlan) studied medicine in Scotland, fought in World War II as a British medical officer, married a Chinese woman, had a daughter, and loses them both after the fall of Singapore. He also spends time as a POW before returning to Australia to take over his father’s practice and simultaneously serves as Ballarat’s police surgeon.
[Side note: I had no idea what a police surgeon was but they are essentially sort of loosely like Bones from, uh, Bones. They work closely with the police to find murderers and determine causes of death.]
Joining Lucien is Jean Beazley, (Nadine Garner, who might be my new crush and future wife), a widow and Dr. Blake’s receptionist and housekeeper. Jean is the best character and the moral compass of the show; Lucien LITERALLY could not do his job without her. Jean’s husband died in the war and she has two adult sons, both of whom make appearances. Jean serves as a source of comfort for Lucien as he confers with her on each case, getting her opinion and valuing her insight. She keeps him straight and often just lends a listening ear while he’s having her lay on the ground or jump off a ladder or putting a pig’s head in the fridge. While his antics first frustrate her, she soon is up to the task of challenging him during his boughts of insanity. She knows she’s the source of much gossip because she’s living with an unattached man, and she tries to play it off as if it doesn’t bother her. She and Lucien get ~closer~ as the series goes on and they will easily become your new favorite ship. Garner does this thing with her face that is just so fantastic. I will refrain from just posting a bunch of .GIFs. I could talk about Jean all day, you guys.
Another central character is Mattie O’Brien, a young nursing student who is Blake’s lodger and looks to Jean and Lucien as parental figures of sorts. She also often helps Lucien with his work.
Jean’s nephew Danny lives with them for a period. Police sergeant Charlie also moves in at one point. There’s a bunch of other quirky, awesome characters (Alice Harvey! Matthew Lawson! Rose Anderson!) and an ever evolving door of police superintendents. Munro is the woooooorst.
I find most cop shows in America to be rote and too heavy on the violence and shock factors, so I tend to avoid them. Unless it’s Brooklyn 99, because that show is the best cop show on TV. Doctor Blake is neither of those things, but instead relies on the mysterious case of the week to tell their story. My favorite part of each episode is just Jean and Lucien (and Mattie and Charlie and…) sitting around the dinner table just ruminating on the case and trying to solve it together.
The show is also easy, plot wise. There’s none of this a, b, c storylines each episode, but rather just the story revolving around this week’s murder. One time there was a story about Jean in a play that was separate from the case of the week, but I believe that’s kind of the only instance where that’s the case. (Except for a certain plot point in season 4 that I will not spoil for you.)
At the heart of the show, though, is the relationship of Jean and Lucien. You can see their dynamic slowly start to shift to something akin to courting and, maybe there’s even a proposal? McLachlan and Garner have intense chemistry and are so at ease with each other; it really is something to see. The two are grandparents but the show allows them to explore this new relationship with each other without commenting on their age. There’s a great scene where Jean tells Lucien she’s going to be a grandmother and even though she’s excited, she’s also worried it would make Lucien see in her in a different, less romantic light. Honestly, Lucien kind of forgets she’s a grandmother and it’s just the best.
In America, we’re so used to seeing the younger couple get more screen time while ignoring the “older” characters. It really sucks, and as an old married mother of two (I’m 31) the older middle-age ships are the ones I automatically gravitate towards. It’s incredibly refreshing to see these two on screen and you’re all going to fall in love with them. Y’all this series takes place in the late 50s and early 60s, so don’t expect the two to be too forward in their declarations of love.
By season two the show really starts to gel and the murder mysteries are really quite impressive. Seasons three and four sort of have season long arcs that I really found myself enjoying. They don’t take up much of the actual plot, but are slowly interwoven within the season’s narrative.
After I finished watching it, my son kept asking me about Doctor Blake and he seemed to be into it, even though he can’t sit still during it and doesn’t think it’s a real show since it’s not on YouTube.
In total there are four seasons, 36 episodes. Netflix has the first three seasons but I was able to secure a copy of the fourth season. A fifth season is set to premiere later this year with a follow-up movie slated to wrap up the series. Apparently it’s wildly popular in Australia and was surprisingly cancelled. It’s kind of a trend in America to cancel a show only for it to retroactively be renewed by another network. Hopefully that’s the case here, because I never want to stop watching this lovely little show.
[Image credit December Media]