As this episode of Murdoch Mysteries opens, an elderly farmer stands in a field, his eyes fixed upward. His wife hovers near-by, terrified. As they inch closer, it turns out the object of their attention is a body. A man, who the elderly gentleman recognizes as “Henri” (Robert Racki) hangs from a tree, dead.
Meanwhile, the action shifts back to Station House 4. Constable Higgins (Lachlan Murdoch) has the men gathered around him as he runs a briefing about Claude Benoit, a confidence artist they need to keep an eye out for. As the briefing concludes, Detective Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) and Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig) huddle near the back of the room. The Chief Constable (Allan Royal) has just left, and there are murmurs of the Inspector being in the running for an important political appointment. Their conversation is quickly interrupted; however, as Constable Higgins brings word of a telegram from Constable Crabtree (Jonny Harris). There’s been a suspicious death, and Detective Murdoch needs to bring his boots.
Later, Detective Murdoch arrives at the scene. While it looks like a simple suicide; in fact, it is much more complicated than that. It turns out, the victim didn’t leave any footprints around the tree in which he was found hanging. How, then did he get up there?
Detective Murdoch accompanies the body back to Toronto where he meets with Dr. Ogden (Helene Joy). While they talk, she reveals that this most definitely not a suicide. Upon her examination of the body, she discovered that the man’s neck was broken in the wrong place. In fact, his neck had broken prior to his hanging. This is a murder.
According to Constable Crabtree, the victim was a bit of an “odd duck”. This fact is quickly verified as they question locals around the village. Unfortnately, the village is a small one, and transportation is limited. There’s some stellar physical comedy by comedian Jonny Harris as it becomes clear that Crabtree can’t ride a horse. He tells Detective Murdoch that he “exaggerated” his equestrian skills when he applied for his job.
Meanwhile, they visit Gaston’s shop to hopefully learn more about the victim. Inside the boarded up shack, they find a telescope, astronomical charts and documented observations, all with a focus towards Mars. It turns out, Henri had been fascinated with the idea of life on the Red Planet.
Later, Murdoch goes to visit the Rogue Valley Land Company which had expressed interest in Gaston’s land. The “development” company was planning to build a dam, but unfortunately, Henri Gaston was the only hold out. Furthermore, the head of the company, Terrance Meyers (Peter Keleghan), informs them that the they even offered Gaston three times what the land was worth. It seems they’ve found another motive for murder.
That night, Crabtree sits in his bed, hunched over a pile of dime store novels. He reads about aliens with wide eyes, his imagination racing.
As Murdoch and Crabtree continue through their investigation, all the earthly evidence points towards a “terrestrial” explanation. However, they keep finding decidedly extraterrestrial evidence. While they walk through a field, Crabtree stumbles upon what looks like martian footprints. Later, they are stunned as find crop circles. There are five of them, all in the same field. Could martians have been involved in the murder? Constable Crabtree certainly thinks so.
Returning to the village, Murdoch bumps into Dr. Ogden on the train. It turns out, there has been yet another murder. She tells him that she received a telegram from Constable Crabtree. In Murdoch’s absence, he discovered a case of cattle mutilation, and wanted the Doctor to examine the body. While Detective Murdoch believes it’s a likely case of “bloat”, Dr. Ogden sides with Constable Crabtree. There’s more to the animal’s death. However, as George shows Julia the plaster cast of the mysterious martian footprint, Murdoch recognizes it and suddenly rushes off.
It turns out, two of Gaston’s neighbors, the MacIssac Brothers (Thomas Mitchell and Grahame Wood) were in possession of the very equipment necessary to fake the martian footprints. Murdoch quickly arrests the men.
However, everything comes to a halt as Constable Higgins enters. He tells them of another murder. Not only do they discover still more martian footprints at the scene, but they also find a body drained of blood, much like the cow. Furthermore, all of the man’s internal organs were removed. At this point, Constable Crabtree is certain of martians involvement in the murders.
While they dive further into the investigation, they discover that the most recent murder victim was Claude Benoit, the confidence trickster Constable Higgins mentioned at the beginning of the episode.
Later that night, Detective Murdoch goes out for a walk. The case is weighing on his mind, and the thought of intelligent life outside Earth rocks his world. As he wanders through the fields, he meets up with Dr. Ogden, who’s also out for a stroll. They walk and talk. Suddenly, a noise shatters the peace of the moment. They look towards the sky just in time to see an unidentified flying object hovering above their heads. Just as they’re about to follow it, the craft disappears as quickly as it appeared.
As they return to Gaston’s shack and plot his coordinates, Murdoch and Crabtree discover a secret base. Russian men hurriedly work on the mysterious airship, as Terrance Meyers emerges. “Our operation has been compromised,” he tells another man. However, Murdoch and Crabtree find themselves blindsided before they can react. As they look up, they discover their captors are the MacIssac Brothers, the men they were forced to free after the discovery of Benoit’s body
The base is a widespread government operation, and they were hot on the trail of a French Operative trying to steal their secrets. It turns out, the murder was a case of mistaken identity. Gaston not only spoke with a French accent, but he had found the ship. As such, Gaston died because they thought he the mysterious French Operative. Meyers continues, taking proud credit for the invention used to remove the organs from the cow. In fact, this is how the government is going to keep the pesky detectives quiet. As all seems lost for Murdoch and Crabtree, the screen cuts to black.
The next morning, the sun rises over the field. The same elderly couple poke at the bodies of Murdoch and Crabtree with a stick. Suddenly, Murdoch sits up quickly, startling them. It turns out, they are still alive.
Later, they return to the base with the rest of the team. Everything has mysteriously disappeared, and only an empty shack remains. Strangely, Inspector Brackenreid has also received a letter threatening the team with treason charges if the investigation continues.
As they move off, George reflects, “You know, if I was going to do this, I’d set up shop in the middle of the desert somewhere…”.
New episodes of Murdoch Mysteries debut January 9th on Ovation. Just look for “The Artful Detective”. Previous seasons of the series are available on Netflix and Hulu.
- This episode is the first appearance of Peter Keleghan as Terrance Meyers. The actor played a memorable foil for Detective Murdoch, appearing as recently as the 9th season.
- As the first season comes to a close, the show seems to be wrapping up some of their loose developmental ends. This episode is a stellar one from Jonny Harris. Crabtree has finally taken form, and the creators are zooming in on some of his more likable character traits which they’d expand on in later years.