Dr. Julia Ogden is one of the original main characters in Murdoch Mysteries TV series (2008) and female lead, portrayed by award winning actress Hélène Joy.
Julia Ogden is Detective William Murdoch's equal, “a match in every way”, and he is the love of her life. The Doctor and Detective maintained a steadfast and successful working partnership throughout the long arc of their star-crossed journey to becoming a mystery-solving modern married couple at the turn-of-20th century in Toronto, Canada – which is their current storyline in Season 10 and in the second stand alone holiday special Once Upon a Murdoch Christmas (2016), in which a family of children mistakes her for the Snow Queen.
Doctor Julia Ogden is a well-respected Canadian pathologist and psychiatrist who studied with Sigmund Freud. She is known to be an active member of the women's general suffrage. Before her work at the Provincial Lunatic Asylum (formerly Toronto Hospital for the Incurables), she was a physician in private practice and garnered headlines as an active proponent of birth control and related women’s health issues. Dr. Ogden spent a short time on staff at the Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, New York, where she met her first husband Dr. Darcy Garland now deceased. It is her earlier work as a skilled, if not gifted, pathologist and medical examiner at the City Morgue working alongside Detective William Murdoch and the Toronto Constabulary at Station House No. 4 for which she is most admired and has inspired young women entering the professional field, including her former protégé Dr. Emily Grace and her current morgue assistant Rebecca James. Recently, she married her long-time love the celebrated Detective William Murdoch and they reside at the Windsor House Hotel.
Born into the wealth and privilege of one of Toronto’s upper class professional families, Julia lost her mother when she was young, and had a distant, if not strained, relationship with her deceased father, Dr. Lionel Ogden who was known to value clear thinking over emotions. While Julia believed he favored her beautiful younger sister Ruby, it has been noted more than once amongst Toronto’s upper class society that he was very proud of Julia’s many accomplishments by the end of his life.
In her youth, Julia was a tomboy with the nickname "Jules" which Ruby still calls her with affection. Her athleticism continues throughout her life in cycling, tennis, basketball (ep.303), archery (ep.608), swimming (ep.701) and roller-skating (ep.1017).
As the only woman at Bishop’s University, she was determined and single-minded about becoming a doctor herself and having a successful career on her own, going against her father's wishes.
“She is a brilliant pathologist. She is well educated, quite witty at times. She is kind, bold, stubborn and quite beautiful.” – William Murdoch (ep1.11 Bad Medicine)
Character Arc Season 1-5
In Season 1 when we first meet Dr. Julia Ogden, she is the coroner at the City Morgue working with the Toronto Constabulary at Station House No.4 and Detective William Murdoch. While raised with the genteel social manners of La Belle Époque (1890-1914), Dr. Ogden is a forward-thinking professional woman who can be straightforward and rather blunt at times. She is thorough, resourceful, and enjoys a dark morgue humor, all the while possessing a grace and no frills, nor make-up, beauty. She walks with a purposeful stride and sway, so distinctive that William Murdoch can spot her in a crowded train station (ep.113), and it has not gone unnoticed by Arthur Conan Doyle himself (ep.109). More important to the main storyline, she shares Murdoch’s fascination with forensic science and passion for puzzle solving with its intellectual rigor, establishing her as one of his fiercest allies in crime fighting along with Constable Crabtree and Inspector Brackenreid. Towards the end of the first season, their meeting of the minds has ignited an undeclared mutual physical attraction (ep.108). In an unguarded moment on a moonlit evening in the countryside (ep.113), William sees Julia with her hair down for the first time, revealing curls and gold strands, and to her surprise the reserved Detective expresses “ it’s quite lovely that way ” – perhaps influencing her style change in Season 2 (2009).
It is in Season 2 that the long arc of Julia Ogden’s romantic relationship with William Murdoch takes flight (underscored by composer Robert Carli’s themes) as Julia’s faith in Science, realism, and commitment to her career challenges William Murdoch’s Roman Catholic faith, idealism, and his commitment to uphold the letter of the Law. Three episodes present character defining moments for Julia Ogden: In Snakes and Ladder (ep.202), Julia rescues herself from life-threatening danger while on her own in the morgue and is shaken to her core for having to take another life to save her own. Julia isn’t always comfortable with her own vulnerabilities, yet she knows what she needs, “ . . . I just thought tonight, more than any other night, I would very much like to be held,” slowly surrendering to William’s control and lead on the dance floor. Control and trust are repeating motifs, if not lessons, for Julia. Next, we meet her sister Ruby for the first time in Houdini Whodunit (ep.204), who reveals Julia’s tomboy nickname ‘Jules’ and that Julia was once arrested for skinny-dipping. After a delicious sibling sparing over dinner with William, Julia takes a stand, “ Ruby, I love you but you always push me just hard enough to give you what you want. You should know when it comes to William, I will not be pushed around.” Ruby got Julia to reveal her true feelings for the Detective. Shades of Grey (ep.206) is not only character defining, it is a pivotal episode for both Julia and William which has reverberating consequences, even into their present lives. It starts with an elated, open and unabashedly loving Julia– a lighter side we will not see again for some seasons. In solving the current murder case, William’s tenacity to uncover ‘the Truth at any Cost’ unravels a tightly held secret from Julia’s past: “...You were born with a silver spoon stuck up your arse. Look, just because you’ve seen a few dead bodies doesn’t mean you have any idea what those butchers put women through and I’d bet my last dollar on that, Doctor.”
“Well, in that case, you’d be all out of money, Countess.” Julia’s illegal procurement of an abortion while at university not only presents a moral and legal dilemma for the Catholic Detective, it reveals differences in how they navigate their emotions and expectations: where William needs time to process his emotions (often over-thinking them), by comparison, Julia can be impulsive though logical. When he asks her “Do you regret it?” She does not lie to him then asks, “Now tell me nothing has changed between us.” Two other reoccurring leitmotifs are setup in this episode as well: Julia asking a question to which William has no immediate answer or answers with no perceived opening, and, second, they are interrupted mid-scene as duty calls. While they may be "perfectly suited for one another", “ . . . in the real world, nothing is perfect.” Big Murderer On Campus (ep.207). Luckily by the last episode, Anything You Can Do (ep.213) with brotherly advise and some nudging from Crabtree and Brackenreid, William asks Julia if they could start over again (to Robert Carli’s Balloon Ride). Season 2 has a satisfying breadth (with loads of story seeds) and story arc within itself that sets up reoccurring leitmotifs, themes, characters, and a strong through line to Julia’s character for Seasons to come.
Season 3 opens with the Detective “lost” in Bristol, England, missing in action, while Dr. Ogden and Station Four cope the best way they can until the hero finally returns home at the end of The Murdoch Identity (ep.301). Reunited and happily working together again until at the end of Victor, Victorian (ep.303) when Julia gets angry with William, “I just wanted your support.” “And you have it. Completely, but I will not rescue you, Julia, because from everything I know about you, you don’t need it.” Murdoch’s logic, though “infuriating”, wins him a kiss. By the end of Rich Boy, Poor Boy (ep.304), a quiet but persistent restless unease grows in Julia even through Ruby’s return on the arms of H.G. Wells along with the Pendricks in Future Imperfect (ep.308) to the end of Love and Human Remains (ep.309) when clearly she is withholding something important from William.
“Do you ever question your calling, William?” Hangman (ep.311). Though she shares with William her realization that “the Hippocratic oath was wasted on” her and attempts to explain, “this is not just about my work . . .” at the top of In the Altogether (ep.312). She can’t find the time to really talk with William. Does she want him to ask for her hand in marriage? Or does she fear it along with “the heavy responsibility” of being a parent? (ep.304) The good Doctor is struggling with a mid-career crisis and a profound heartbreaking dilemma. Fiercely independent and self-reliant, the unease within her self and her impatience drives her to take control of her life, making choices and decisions without William– out of both fear and love (a reoccurring theme), for she wants him to have the "close-knit family" (ep.309) he desires and she stands in the way of that ever happening. Finally, revealing that it is the one thing Julia cannot give him because “my abortion – it left me sterile” (ep.313).
Once again, rather than allowing William time or waiting for him to come to terms with the new reality in his own fashion while crime fighting and possibly saving their world, Julia interprets his reaction, his rejecting her (like with her father?). Julia Ogden can over-think herself into a self-imposed corner as well as William Murdoch can, just quicker. She follows through on her move to Buffalo, convinced William will find a woman who can give him the happiness he deserves– and that she can be content with that resolve and a new career elsewhere. For better or worse, Julia Ogden is a woman of action and in control of her own destiny– and unaware that she’s left William behind at the train station holding a ring and his proposal in the final episode The Tesla Effect (ep.313). It is James Pendrick who says it, “ . . . I always hoped to find somebody that shared my passion, someone that loved me in spite of my foibles, how tragic.” One of the many marvels of the Murdoch Mysteries writers/story editors team is their infinite variety of parallel themes between the Detective’s latest case(s) and the personal storyline(s), often servicing as lessons learned from solving the mystery.
In hindsight, perhaps, Dr. Ogden might acknowledge had she followed up on her earlier fascination with psychiatry in Me, Myself and Murdoch (ep.304) her choices and timing might have been different, but now it will take a more traumatic life-threatening event . . . or two.
Time, timing, and the times in which Julia lives will prove more challenging for her in the seasons to come. As Julia stubbornly sticks to the scenario that her choices have helped to create, not anticipating (well, how could she really?) her freedom to communicate her feelings, to be her self, and to do her duty as a doctor will diminish, jeopardizing all she has worked so hard to achieve, desired to accomplish and love.
In Season 4 when finally she receives a letter from William it’s about assisting on a case and in Buffalo Shuffle (ep.403) Julia reaches out to him to solve a suspicious death of a child at the hospital. Neither can deny the pleasure they have solving mysteries together, but Julia tells William, “I can’t possibility renew our relationship…” because she is engaged to Dr. Darcy Garland. “ There wasn’t a good time and there still isn’t . . .” to tell him, not knowing he conceals a ring in his hand.
In Downstairs, Upstairs (ep.404) Julia arrives at the crime scene, home to friends of her family, with her fiancé Dr. Garland. Murdoch asks for her help on the case, with some professional trepidation, she returns to the City Morgue only to be discovered by Dr. Francis. The clarity with which the irate pathologist assesses the conspiring pair would have any other couple re-examine their motives and talk, but not William and Julia insists she doesn’t want to return to the morgue. “ I’ve no doubt you believe that, but we belong where we belong,” and Dr. Francis resigns. Darcy unwittingly encourages Julia to return to her old job, since he has not seen her as happy back in Buffalo. Being the happiest when working together neither Julia or William can resist the opportunity to resume that part of their relationship, but their honor and social decorum keeps in check what deeper passion still embers, “…it is obvious the way you sneak glances at her when she isn’t looking and the way she sneaks glances at you …” points out Inspector Marcel Guillaume in Monsieur Murdoch (ep.405). Have they reached their own Dead End Street (ep.406) “ the mysterious combination of emotional unawareness and acute intellect…” while an apt description of the Detective for Julia, it is only Julia herself who can alter the circumstance. Yet, it is the sensible decision to marry Darcy, they share the same background, profession, goals, he loves her and proposed.
Even when Anna from Bristol (ep.301) tells Julia “but his heart belonged to another” in The Black Hand (ep.409) to Julia’s own bodice-ripper fantasy at the end of Bloodlust (ep.411), which might be more her secret desire to be caught with William by Darcy which would end the engagement than her own longing for “uninhibited romance”, their professionalism prevails. Not even Ruby’s return in The Kissing Bandit (ep.412) to help with the wedding and questioning Julia, trying to explain to William, “ …when the heart is captive a second choice, no matter how useful, can’t bring true happiness…” or in Murdoch in Wonderland (ep.413), showing Julia the newly discovered ring and proposal, can not deter Julia from the altar “…it’s too late, I’ve made my choice!”
The themes and seeds started in Season 2 begin to come full circle including an even older case when a young Murdoch stuck to the “letter of the Law” and to “the Truth at any cost” that endangered an innocent woman whose life was brutally altered forever. So, when George hands the Detective the letter from Julia left on his typewriter, it is indeed too late (again) for Murdoch chooses to take the only opportunity he has to right that wrong, even breaking the law to correct his mistake. Not hearing from William, Julia marries Darcy Garland returning her to the upper class milieu and its constraints.
At the end of the first episode of Season 5, after returning from his suspension and Klondike (ep.501) adventure, reflection upon reflection in the City Morgue, Julia sees him watching her but when Julia looks again, he is gone. A tight close-up lingers on Julia’s poignant face (as only Hélène Joy can evoke). There is something decidedly different about Julia, a deep sorrow has softens her eyes and face.
It was one thing to keep working in partnership with the love of your life when engaged to another man – a possibility lingers – but it is altogether different when one is married. “ We both know why, William, . . . I just can’t. ” she says good-bye to William, he takes her hand in his and thanks her for her honesty, "...above all, I've always respected that, always." Julia leaves to open her private practice in Back and to the Left (ep.502). This time making sure the City Morgue is left in good hands with Dr. Grace who is ready to work with the Detective and the Constabulary in a seamless transition.
Mid Season 5, Stroll on the Wild Side part 1(ep.507), Julia is arrested for teaching women how to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies. Crabtree leaves the cell door unlocked. She is visited by Murdoch, Dr. Grace and Darcy “…trust me, let’s join the fight together…” Julia concedes “I’ll come home but I haven’t given up.” Fulfill her duties as a responsible doctor or meet the social mores to ensure her husband’s promotion to head of hospital, “Is it so much to sacrifice?” Darcy asks. Again Julia concedes, disappointing Dr. Grace in her cause for the women’s health clinic. When he does get the position, Darcy can not give his support to the Women’s Clinic and Julia realizes she’s married a conventional man who wants a dutiful wife who upholds her husband's social status– no joining together “ to accomplish so much, Julia,” as Darcy had promised. At the end of Stroll on the Wild Side part 2 (ep.508), Julia helps Murdoch to ensure Anna’s safety and new life– possibly together? Julia could not fathom the cost of her choices until now, but if William has found happiness– it is still what she wants the most for him.
Constable Crabtree asks it, “ As in a metaphor?” Informed by a patient about the “insidious plot” implicating Murdoch in Murdoch in Toyland (ep.511) Julia drops by Station House Four “ I wanted to see how you are faring?” (How the simple act of breathing changes when together.) Happy to be asked for her input, Julia suggests a possible revenge motive. Ironically, Julia’s feeling boxed in by her marriage to Darcy goes from metaphor to literal in James Gillies’ (ep.207) plot against Murdoch. After enlisting the help of Alexander Graham Bell, Murdoch, Crabtree and Brackenreid locate Julia’s grave just in time. “Julia! God, please! It’s alright you’re with me now…” in each other’s arms again, Julia asks, “What took you so long?” Their final scene in the episode, letting each other know of their love without actually saying the words– “…even if you had to move heaven and earth to do it I knew you’d find me.” William can’t take it any further.
Physician heal thy self. Experiencing nightmares and unable to sleep, Julia goes to Dr. Roberts at the asylum for treatment and explores psychiatry as she considers a career move to Darcy’s disdain. Unlike Psychology, Psychiatry requires a medical degree which she has and Julia knows that one can dissect a brain but it will not tell one how the mind works. Julia’s character arc returns her to Murdoch’s side to solve the time-travel mystery, using her new knowledge, “ William, I have to say, this is exhilarating.” When Julia informs Darcy of helping Murdoch on a case along with Dr. Roberts “…I may be late for dinner.” It is clear Darcy has lost her love and, perhaps, her commitment to their marriage working.
It has to be said that the finale of Season 5 Twentieth Century Murdoch (ep.513) is a fully-realized episode by the writers/story editors team, director Gail Harvey and designers. Even Julia’s fashion style from the utilitarian tailored day wear to her fashion-leading evening dresses (much like her sister Ruby’s taste, rather risqué for some) are used well, if not subliminally, providing a continuity from previous scenes/episodes in which they were worn, helping to convey an unmistakeable desire to come back to where she belongs. After solving the case together, Julia can not ignore the disappointment on William’s face that the future he visited was all “smoke and mirrors” and asks him, “But what did you imagine?” He tells her “ The world as I would want it to be.” To which Julia confesses “ It’s a pity it wasn’t true, I would love to live in a future imagined by William Murdoch” again with her unblinking gaze but William can’t respond. Perhaps there only remains the possibility of working together after all.
“ You don’t want to do this, do you?” asks Darcy, “ It’s the eve of the new century… I think, you should be with whom you wish when it begins,” asking Julia to choose. Respectability or Scandal? Julia Ogden enters the Policemen’s Ball in a red velvet gown (a striking contrast to the black one worn with Darcy). William asks, “ You and Darcy have parted?” “Yes,” waiting for a Catholic admonishment? Instead, “Julia, I have seen the future.” “William?” “It was you.” Finally, they are back where they both belong with as many kisses as fireworks, surrounded by friends welcoming in the new Century, nearing the dawn of the Edwardian era (1901-10).
This episode is the last one with CityTV and a most satisfying series finale it would have been too, but instead Canadian Broadcasting Corporation picked up Murdoch Mysteries, now going into Season 11.
Summary Season 6 - 8
Julia returns from studying with Freud in Austria possessing a new European style and confidence, more importantly still very much in love with William and he with her. Dr. Ogden secures a position as psychiatrist at the asylum and tells William she hopes to be unmarried, he gives her his heartfelt support (ep.601). Darcy is agreeable to an annulment but under oath, Julia can not lie. William and Julia argue over being married in eyes of God and the Law, eventually declaring their love again (ep.602). Divorce at the turn of the century is difficult at best and nearly impossible for a woman as Julia discovers, having to fabricate evidence and endure the scandal of adultery. To Julia’s surprise, William reserves a room at Queen’s Hotel for them and brings dominos in his bag (ep.605), giving Darcy the "evidence" needed.
Julia agrees to go out with Darcy one last time, upholding their image as husband and wife a bit longer for his status (ep.607) Without the burden of their marriage, they enjoy the evening as they once had as friends. So much so, the next day Darcy asks for another chance. When Julia rejects him he rips up the divorce papers, if he can’t have her neither can Murdoch (ep.608). When Darcy is seen with another woman, Murdoch accuses him of disloyalty to his wife to which Darcy calls her a whore– William belts him one reducing him to a heap in a public street. “ You hit him!” Julia and William have a fight saying things (we all have felt) that hurt them both. After solving Lovers in a Murderous Time (ep.611) together, Julia apologies and tells William that Darcy is her burden and she will take care of it.
Crime and Punishment (ep.612), Darcy is found dead in his house from a gunshot wound to the head. One of the neighbours say that they saw Julia enter the house a short time before the murder, and a gun is found close to the scene with Julia's fingerprints on it. Julia is arrested and goes to trial. The evidence is presented, along with the fact that Darcy refused to grant Julia a divorce, and the jury unanimously gives a guilty verdict. Julia is sentence to death by hanging. At the end of the trial, James Gillies is seen clapping at the verdict. He disappears before he can be apprehended.
In The Murdoch Trap (ep.613), in prison, Julia provides information to help William discover how Gillies managed to obtain a mask in her exact likeness to fool the neighbour and her fingerprints to put on the gun. He discovers that Gillies set a trap for Darcy in his home, but Gillies captures him before he can present this evidence. Murdoch manages to contact the police, and escape Gillies' trap. He brings a tape of Gillies making a confession and Gillies himself to the police, stopping Julia from being hanged with seconds to spare. While grateful for being saved, Julia is shaken by the guilt for being the cause of Darcy’s death preventing her from celebrating. She returns to her home alone.
In Season 7, William and Julia meet aboard a ship on its inaugural Victoria Day voyage. Their mutual desire to start afresh nearly ends when William is knocked unconscious in a flooded hull but Julia rescues him with Inspector Brackenreid’s help and saves his life.
Julia confronts Gillies on the train to his execution (ep.709), but he escapes police custody by jumping off a bridge in handcuffs– to his death. Free of the past and back to solving cases together again, Julia and William are happily and openly in love until Julia receives death threat letters signed by Gillies. When William proposes, Julia walks away crying, out of fear that Gillies will kill William if they marry. Julia tells Emily Grace about the letters (ep.714), and Emily urges her to tell Murdoch whose heart is breaking. " Don't you think I know that? Mine is too!", but she is terrified of what Gillies is capable of. Finally, Julia and William meet clandestinely (ep.715), and they need Inspector Brackenreid help to find Gillies (ep.716). After Gillies' body in discovered and confirmed, it is revealed someone has been pretending to be him. Using his memory recall, Murdoch concludes the photos accompanying the letters were sent by Julia's brother-in-law, Leslie Garland. Upon confronting Garland, Dr. Grace ends their relationship with a resounding slap. Murdoch and Brackenreid are ready to arrest Leslie, but instead Julia sends Leslie packing out of Darcy’s house and hopefully back to Buffalo.
Starting again on a lighter note, anticipating, then trying to give William every opportunity to propose again, Julia receives an unexpected call from her father who she does not realize is dying (ep.717). His death stuns her, but how he died and why he wanted to see her are revelations that inspires both William and Julia in episode The Death of Dr. Ogden, (ep.718) to propose to one another.
Season 9 - Wife and MotherhoodWilliam and Julia! They lost their hearts and plan to adopt a baby boy in Raised On Robbery. While overjoyed at being baby Roland's mother, Julia questions how suited she is to the tasks of motherhood in The Big Chill. Supportive Miss James reassures her, "...Motherhood suits you just fine, Dr. Ogden."
In the Wild Child, Julia gives Miss James an opportunity to perform her first autopsy solo. During the autopsy of Roland’s mother, Rebecca discovers that the young woman could not have born a child and informs Dr. Ogden. Upon hiring Freddie Pink to find Roland’s natural parents, Julia’s great joy turns to great sorrow knowing what it will mean to them when she tells William that Roland has a living biological father, keeping a secret this profound from him would be a betrayal of trust between them. A brokenhearted William and Julia return Roland to his nature father because it is the right thing to do, no matter the enormous loss it is for them to bear.
Both grieving and missing baby Roland, they dive into their work: while Julia goes to a psychiatry conference, William goes undercover in House of Industry. Eventually, Roland's empty crib at the foot of their bed is replaced by the model of their dream house. They spend a cozy Sunday in bed planning for their home and family – but their future is stopped dead in its tracks when Julia is shot three times and faces a life or death challenge in Cometh the Archer, which continues into Season 10.
Character Arc Season 10 - 11
Showrunner Peter Mitchell stated about Julia in Great Balls of Fire, Part 1 and Part 2, "There’s always the danger when you have strong female characters of turning them into a damaged character. I want to stay away from that. Brackenreid got better after being screwed up two years ago; there’s no reason Julia can’t."
In the Season 10 premiere, not able to take another life lightly, Julia questions whether she had to do so in order to save her own life. When Lady Atherly asks Julia if her husband "doesn't think any of these young women capable of murder", Julia's reply that “anyone is capable of murder" triggers her own overwhelming guilt, allowing Eva Pearce to invade her subconscious and psyche until it threatens Julia's life again. Rescued by William from the fire and attended to by Miss James, she recovers from the smoke inhalation and minor burns. When William takes her to the property where he plans to build their dream house, she knows that she did what she had to do. She tells him that Eva Pearce is gone for good at the end of Great Balls of Fire Part 2. Resolving her personal issue, Julia's professional judgement is in question when a convicted murderer has found proof that her original test results could be wrong in Concocting A Killer. After running a series of tests with Miss James, Julia questions whether she saw thallium in the cocoa because she was looking for thallium, not copper– thus sending an innocent man to prison. With an ironic twist, that same new proof vindicates her reputation as the city coroner. In Jagged Little Pill, when Miss James does her own investigation, Dr. Ogden does not disapprove, telling her "An inquisitive mind must be encouraged." At the Ontario Medical College for Women, fellow suffragette Dr. Augusta Stowe-Gullen asks Julia to teach a new program in forensic medicine. Julia warns her that the research methods might be unorthodox. Medical research is still uncharted territory, admits Dr. Stowe-Gullen and "there is no progress without ruffling a few feathers." Then, Julia is delighted to stir up some controversy.
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