Year Released: 2013 - present
Starring: Craig McLachlan, Nadine Garner, Cate Wolfe
(Not Rated, 57 min. per episode)
Genre: Mystery and Suspense, Drama
“Everything you have is your father’s. His practice, his house, his housekeeper.” Former patient of the older Dr. Blake
A classic British mystery – Down Under style. And like the best of them, the detective – or in this case, the police surgeon – is as intriguing and enigmatic as the cases he solves.
In the late 1950s Dr. Lucian Blake (Craig McLachian) returns to take over his late father’s medical practice in Ballarat, Australia, some 65 miles northwest of Melbourne. And like his father, he also works as the police surgeon. That’s how he gets his teeth into so many mysterious murders, even those that look routine to his complacent colleagues.
Dr. Blake has not been has not been home for 33 years, and since he is a very private person, details of his past leach out slowly. Long lost loved ones, time in a POW camp, and work as an intelligence officer are some of the details of Blake’s past that eventually emerge.
He gets regular correspondence from Singapore, letters his housekeeper and receptionist Jean Beazley notices he secrets away, sometimes even unopened. Having worked for his father before him, Jean stays on, even though such an arrangement for the war widow is sometimes a source of gossip. Two other lodgers, her nephew Police Constable Danny Parks (Rick Donald) and Mattie O’Brien (Cate Wolfe) a young nurse, round out the household.
Part of what makes the series is the setting. Interestingly, many of the excellent British style mysteries take place in the time frame of the 40s through the 60s. Foyle’s War gets us through the forties, Father Brown bucks the original stories’ early 20th century setting and puts our sleuthing priest in the 50s, where we also find Grantchester and its handsome vicar Sidney Chambers. Lessor known Jericho of Scotland Yard walks 1950s London, while a young Endeavor Morse prowls Oxford in the 60s.
Those were decades of upheaval, not just World War II itself, but the social changes that followed. While some of these other mysteries mar their historical accuracy by threading them with current cultural issues, The Dr. Blake Mysteries generally infuses its whodunits with less socially charged ideas. Rivalries at the Begonia Festival, among traveling vacuum cleaner salesmen or the rowing team trigger events. But beneath them all, it’s generally the classic motives – love or money.
Part of the fun is the authenticcars, slicked out and polished, when two tones and convertibles ruled, instead of the monotonous aerodynamically efficient gray/brown drones that litter our highways today. Poor Dr. Blake is stuck with his dad’s old car from the 30s, a snazzy red and white Coventry Standard, but for the younger Dr. Blake it is slow and predictable, just like his father.
However, the series is neither slow nor predictable, though it is much more subtle than most American crime series. Blake is complex and languishes in some inner turmoil, as evidenced by the empty liquor bottles Jean must tidy away on a regular basis. He is as stubborn as he is unconventional, and often brings the local establishment down upon him. He will work his way through a case by sifting the evidence thoroughly, wherever it leads him. He works for truth not a timetable.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the series is the relationship between Blake and Jean. He is at many times distant and abrupt to her, and Jean can be touchy at times. But she stands up for herself and earns Blake’s respect and eventually his admiration. And though not easily apparent, the sexual tension is there. It is like those objects that are invisible to the naked eye, but very apparent under a microscope. Or maybe the better analogy is that it is a coded message hidden is a larger text that the trained eye picks out. One good example is Jean’s anger when Blake accepts her gentleman caller so graciously.
Take a trip back to a simpler time, when so much was conveyed in a glance, a smile, or a brief touch. When one sifted through actual evidence instead of passing it off to a computer. When emotions lingered beneath instead of on the surface. It is a worthy adventure.
As part of his research on a case, Dr. Blake shoots a leg of lamb in the backyard. It’s to test the bullet hole size, the penetration, or something.
Jean is looking at it all through a curtained window above and she is not al all pleased.
“I’m conducting a little experiment.”
“That was dinner!”
Lucien acts innocent as usual. “Right. I thought it past its prime.”
“Well, it is now.” Jean follows with the most wonderful annoyed sigh and an eye roll before storming back to the house.
"Well Lucien, I hope you like veggies!"
Let’s get poor Jean another leg of lamb and let her cook up this delicious recipe that features Garlic and Rosemary to bring out the taste.
Australian Roast Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary
Fresh rosemary sprigs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 whole leg of lamb, about 4 to 6 pounds
Preparation:10min › Cook:1hour20min › Ready in:1hour30min
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cut slits in the top of the leg of lamb every 3cm apart deep enough to push slices of garlic down into the meat. Sprinkle salt and pepper generously all over the top of lamb. Place several sprigs of rosemary under and on top of the lamb.
Roast until the lamb is cooked to medium well. Do not overcook as the flavour is best if meat is still slightly pink.
As a rule, roast a leg of lamb for 15 minutes per pound, plus 10 minutes more. Allow it to rest for a good 15 minutes before serving to ensure the juices redistribute, making a perfect roast.