Zwicky takes us to Ballarat 60 years ago

Now going through the Australian murder mystery series The Doctor Blake Mysteries; this morning the credits went by on S3 E6 “Women and Children” (first aired 3/20/15), and I was suddenly riveted by

Directed by Karl Zwicky

That would be the Zwicky of my 8/19/16 posting “A filmic Zwicky from Perth”.

Wikipedia on the tv series:


The Doctor Blake Mysteries is an Australian television series that premiered on ABC TV on 1 February 2013… The series stars Craig McLachlan in the lead role of Doctor Lucien Blake, who returns home to Ballarat, northwest of Melbourne, in the late 1950s to take over his late father’s general medical practice after an absence of 30 years. Four series aired as of 2016. A fifth series was in production in 2016, with a telemovie expected to close the programme.

Karl Zwicky has directed two episodes so far: the one above — “A murder in the hospital leads Blake into a maze of sexual politics and revenge” — and the immediately preceding S3 E5 “A Night to Remember”  (first aired 3/13/15) — “When a famous actress is murdered at a charity event at the Colonist’s Club, it really does become a Night to Remember”.

The setting of the series is a notable one in Australian history. Wikipedia on Ballarat:

Ballarat is a city located on the Yarrowee River in the Grampians region of Victoria, Australia. The city is approximately 105 kilometres (65 mi) west-north-west of the state capital, Melbourne, with a population of some 102,230. It is the third largest population for an inland city in Australia. Locals are known as ‘Ballaratians’.

Ballarat is arguably the most significant Victorian era gold rush boomtown in Australia. Just months after Victoria was granted separation from the state of New South Wales, the Victorian gold rush transformed Ballarat from a small sheep station to a major settlement. [Note rough parallels to San Francisco in the 1850s.] Gold was discovered at Poverty Point on 18 August 1851, and news quickly spread of rich alluvial fields where gold could easily be extracted. Within months, migrants from across the world had rushed to the district in search of gold. Unlike many other gold boom towns, the Ballarat fields experienced sustained high gold yields for many decades, which can be evidenced to this day in the city’s rich architecture.

The series makes much of the city’s rough-hewn interior remoteness (in contrast to Melbourne) in combination with cultural institutions of the sort you might find in a provincial capital. A map of southern Australia, on which you can place Ballarat in relation to the major southern coastal cities Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney, as well as to the capital city, Canberra:


The series also makes much of the social and cultural differences between Australia of the late 1950s (in which, among other things, the two World Wars, the Chinese Communist Revolution, and the Korean War were still fresh and relevant) and the Australia of today, 60 years later. Pretty much all the expected sociocultural topics are touched on: the position of women, gay people, and ethnic minorities (including the indigenous peoples); the complex relationships beween Britain and Australia; the popular music explosion of the 1950s and the growth of youth culture; and so on. And then there are of course family dramas, love stories, and class conflicts.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: