Season 8, Episode 15 (Shipwreck)
Every so often, Murdoch Mysteries addresses a controversial topic in a pointed way. This week, the topic of choice was the Catholic priesthood. While Murdoch is quite a modern man, it was refreshing to see him espouse conservative and historically accurate viewpoints. He offered canonically correct answers and sounded very much like the 1902 visionary that he is. His religion is very important to him and is a sticking point in many of his cases. While I have decided to withhold spoilers, what I can say is that this episode addresses the issue of what exactly a priest does. A priest is not a job: it is not about the skills or the devotion to God or the ability to preach. The sacraments are not just rituals – the way they are administered matters because of legalities and spiritual salvation. Also, priests have to be able to be trusted by their parish. All of these things, Murdoch points out, are different than being a doctor or a police officer.
We are treated to insight into Murdoch’s childhood in this episode, which is adapted from a novella by the creator of the book series, Maureen Jennings. In this episode, we meet Fr. Keegan, a priest who once served as the priest at the country parish in coastal Nova Scotia where Murdoch grew up. Fr. Keegan returns in 1902 as a church administrator who consults on the investigation. Murdoch trusts him because of how he handled an investigation thirty years earlier when a ship was wrecked off the coast of the town. At that time, Fr. Keegan taught Murdoch how to investigate and put together clues.
The overall theme of the story is that crime, done for the right reasons, is still crime, and yet sometimes, doing the right thing is more important than doing the legally right thing.
It gives us pause: if a man is beating his wife and another man attacks him to save her, is the second man wrong, even if the first man ends up dead? If a mother kills to protect her child, is she right? Is someone who commits fraud in the name of following God’s will blameless?
This is what Murdoch has to determine…and sometimes, it is not so simple as it seems.
Season 7, Episode 16 (The Wrong Stuff)
In contrast, Castle is light-hearted and intriguing – a tribute to hard science fiction and existential space horror films, but fun and filled with comedy. It also centres on a case premise that at the beginning of the show’s run would have seemed very far-fetched, but what seems quite within the realm of possibility now. Namely, private companies are competing to be able to send a viable mission to Mars, and one company has proceeded to the phase of putting astronauts in a simulator. One of the astronauts is killed, and the only suspects initially seem to be the remaining four in the simulator…but are they really alone?
This type of case is right up Castle’s alley, and he is like a little boy in a toy store as he dons a spacesuit and roams the simulated Martian landscape. Castle is at his funniest and most adorable in these moments, so having an episode where he was excited and truly enjoying himself was refreshing after several weeks. After all, he and Beckett are back to solving crimes together (as evidenced by his awesome Star Trek parody quote) and that is the world as it should be. Add being on the cutting edge of technology and you have a happy Castle – and even a happy Beckett.
There were lots of twists and red herrings in this episode, which made for an even more enjoyable viewing experience for the viewers. Just when they thought they had the right suspect for sure, it would turn out that said person would have an alibi…and a couple of those alibis were that the suspects were committing illegal acts at the time. One tends to believe those people!
It is exciting to consider that expeditions to Mars are no longer in the realm of pure science fiction. Thanks to innovation and competition, there are multiple companies and governments who are considering viable Mars expeditions and who are designing and testing prototypes. This episode was entirely believable. Within twenty years, it is quite possible that a mission to Mars may be launched. Still, it would be a one-way ticket and not the most pleasurable way to spend the rest of one’s life. One does have to consider that before long, most of the astronauts would be elderly and require care. I would prefer not to think that a crew would jettison an elderly comrade rather than look after them. That is somewhat scary. While this episode did not directly address that, it did address the fact that small groups of people would be spending the remainder of their lives together. Group dynamics are the most difficult aspect of a mission to Mars. Several experiments in reality have derailed because test crews have been unable to function. Ethnicity, gender, and plain old personality have all caused these crews to fail. Humans were not made to live in tiny capsules.