by Kathleen Costa
Anglophiles in the United States have always been at a disadvantage when trying to access U.K. television programs and movies. Some are picked up and presented on local public television stations, but consistency and variety are problematic. And BBC America has not been the best vehicle with their binging Planet Earth, Top Gear, and the Star Trek franchises that Americans have seen over and over again. So you can only imagine how thrilled this Anglophile was discovering some very reasonably priced streaming options that put at my finger tips on hours and hours of entertainment. Programs from current to decades past, new-to-me to favorites I’m thrilled to revisit are available with excellent video and audio quality. You don’t have to be a fanatic of U.K. entertainment…just a fan of entertainment!
The Doctor is In…5+/5 Aussie Pints of Clever!
It is 1959, and after a thirty-three year absence, Dr. Lucien Blake (Craig McLachlan) has returned home to Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, and taken over his father’s medical practice as the town’s GP. He had left home in his twenties to study medicine in Scotland, and after working at a London hospital, he enlisted in the British Army as a medical officer. Posted in the Far East, he meets and marries a Chinese woman with whom he has a daughter. But, after the fall of Singapore and suffering incarceration in Thailand’s Ban Pong POW camp, he loses track of his family presuming they both did not survive. The loss of his wife and child and the indignities suffered as a POW add to the demons he keeps at bey with alcohol.
Along with his general practice duties, he is the Ballarat area police surgeon. When a body is discovered under suspicious circumstances, or not, he is called out with the police much like a medical examiner. However, sometimes without official police sanction, he goes beyond investigating the crime scene and performing post mortem by engaging in his own informal interrogations, scientific tests, and reenactments. However, Chief Superintendent Lawson (Joel Tobeck) recognizes Lucien’s excellent critical thinking skills and intuition, so he doesn’t always discourage his assistance often collaborating with Blake which puts him at odds with his superiors. Constable Parks (Rick Donald; season 1) and Senior Constable Davis (Charlie Cousins; season 2-5) are caught in the middle, but often are the official sidekick when Lucien gets his ideas. As a sounding board, the doctor relies on Mrs. Jane Beazley (Nadine Garner), a widow, devout Catholic, receptionist, and housekeeper who challenges Lucien’s eccentric behavior and ill-advised tirades. There is also friend/student nurse Mattie O’Brien (Cate Wolfe) and Pathology Registrar Dr. Alice Harvey (Belinda McClory) who both provide assistance and perspective to Blake’s investigations.
Aussies? Murder? 1950s? I’m in!
My journey “Down Under” started on my local PBS station. I was previously unaware of the series, and immediately was hooked after the first episode, Silent Waters. KVIE is currently airing season two on Saturdays at 8 p.m., but a great number of these episodes can be found on a YouTube playlist with varying audio and video quality.
The Doctor Blake Mysteries are very clever and entertaining with the solution revealed, like Agatha Christie, near the end often with Lucien or one of the officers in some peril. Like with Poirot and Miss Marple, it is engaging to watch Blake’s methods to uncover the truth. With his background as a doctor and time in the military, he is organized and introspective, yet there is a level of intuition on which he also relies. Sometimes it’s like a light goes on when much of the clues have stumped law enforcement. The personal relationships grow and strengthen, and although they have their rough spots, true friendships develop along with a hint of something more between Lucien and Jane.
Seasons four and five of the Doctor Blake Mysteries have been added to the wonderful line up on BritBox. Drama is the key word with one main character departing, another one off on hiatus, and another arriving to spoil the party. Mattie O’Brien (Cate Wolfe) has been a valuable member of the investigations, but has decided to continue her career in Melbourne. Chief Superintendent Lawson is injured, and his replacement Chief Superintendent Carlyle (Rodger Corser; favorite from The Heart Guy on Acorn-TV) is serving his banishment of such to Ballarat, and he’s not all that keen to put up with Blake’s free ‘reign.’ Lucien’s and Jane’s relationship has blossomed delightfully into a deep love, and he has decided to ask her to marry him. However, mid “Will you…?” sentence, a knock at the door heralds the appearance of Lucien’s long-thought dead wife. Issues are resolved and season five provided fans a happy ending.
Sadly, season five concluded this wonderful show in which I have been engrossed through PBS and BritBox. Australian news reports indicate production costs precipitated the cancellation of this very popular show, but rumors of on-set difficulties and legal woes for the lead actor have been quietly mentioned as well. However, producers did manage to add a full-length telemovie, Family Portrait, to tie up some relationships, allow for some goodbyes, and give fans well-deserved closure. It is reported future telemovies may be the best medium for this still popular show. It is also rumored the show may be reinvented as The Blake Mysteries, without the titular character played by Craig McLachlan and focusing more on Mrs. Beazley instead. Time, money, and interest will tell.
Great Way to Join the Discussion!
Join The Doctor Blake Mysteries Facebook Fan Club
Free Trial Offer on BritBox?
Check out the website for any free trial offers…just imagine what you can watch in a week. You’ll be hooked! The monthly fee is very reasonable to continue as a member.
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