Dr Blake mysteries find right prescription

By Guy Davis

Australian actor Craig McLachlan became a familiar face in Neighbours.
Australian actor Craig McLachlan became a familiar face in Neighbours.

For an actor, being in the public eye can be a blessing and a curse.

It's gratifying to have your work acknowledged and appreciated - but it'd be nice to be able to buy your groceries without too many interruptions.

Craig McLachlan isn't complaining, mind you. He's thrilled people are enjoying The Doctor Blake Mysteries and are invested in the welfare and wellbeing of its characters.

Still, it seems being approached in the supermarket is becoming a regular occurrence for the Australian actor who first came to international attention in Neighbours in the late 80s.

When he was buying yoghurt one night, a gentleman asked if Dr Blake's landlady and housekeeper Jean, played by Nadine Garner, shouldn't be the one picking up supplies.

Then there was the time he was grabbing some frozen peas and heard an exasperated voice exclaim: "When are you going to just kiss her?" People clearly think Dr Blake and Jean are made for each other. For his part, McLachlan coyly points out "their relationship develops beautifully" in the next season, which has just started airing in Australia.

McLachlan believes the relationship, both professional and personal, is one of the three major aspects that have attracted viewers to the show.

Of course, there are the murder mysteries plaguing the Victorian town of Ballarat in the 1950s - who doesn't enjoy a good whodunit, after all? That said, the actor says with a laugh, he had to reassure a couple of backpackers keen to visit the town after seeing the show that it wasn't nearly as dangerous as on TV.

But there's also the mystery of Dr Lucien Blake himself.

Tormented by his World War II experiences, including a stint in a prisoner-of-war camp, and the absence of his missing wife and child, he initially found it difficult fitting into his new world.

Striking the balance between the show's mysteries and the human element has always been a key concern for series creator George Adams.

"George has always stuck to his guns, stuck to his truth of how he envisioned this show," the actor said.

"He told me this story about pitching it early on to someone who claimed to love it. Then they said, 'Why don't we make him a policeman or a private detective instead of a doctor? Why don't we set it in the present day rather than the 1950s? And maybe he should have a steamy affair with a married woman."'

Luckily, none of that came to pass, and the show has found an appreciative audience in Australia and Britain, where it attracted more than a million viewers.

McLachlan initially wasn't considered a serious contender for the role because he seemed too young for the character as originally conceived.

"I am knocking on the door of 50, after all, and I know a bit about the peaks and valleys of life, and George saw there were some layers there.

"And playing this character has allowed me to share some of my satisfying moments as an actor - moments where I'm required to go the extra mile and I've even surprised myself with what's happened.

"When those breakthrough moments come, they're just divine."

Who: Craig McLachlan

What: The Doctor Blake Mysteries

When: TV One, Saturdays 8.30pm

- AAP

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