on April 12, 2017 News

Why Doctor Blake and Ballarat go hand-in-hand

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OVER THE last few years, we've fallen in love (and in hate) with several of the characters in The Doctor Blake Mysteries. Lucien, Jean, and Charlie have all stolen a piece (or more) of our hearts.

But then there's the show's unassuming protagonist, the one whose purpose is to provide the very means where our favourite Australian period drama is set - Ballarat.

"There were (initially) questions about whether the show had to be set in Ballarat - whether it could be a real place or a fictional city but I said no," Doctor Blake series creator and producer George Adams said.

"I wanted it to be somewhere people could recognise and go and visit. It's been a great place to film and a great part of the show. It's become a character of the show, really."

The Doctor Blake Mysteries first premiered on our screens in 2013. The period drama, set in historic Ballarat, was an immediate hit, and has since gone to become the number one Australian drama as well as the first ABC-commissioned drama to be shown on BBC1.

Attracting a hefty 1.6 million viewers a week, not including the viewers abroad, there's definitely no denying that Doctor Blake is one of Australia's most successful exports.

Adams said the success of the show can be owed to its universal themes.

"A good killing is pretty universal," he said.

"People can easily buy into the stories. Also, because it's a period piece, it feels quite British so for a UK audience, it wasn't a hard ask."

Doctor Blake Visit Ballarat

The start of something grand

IN 2009, George Adams was asked to commission a walk-through installation at Sovereign Hill.

It was here that he fell in love with Ballarat.

"I had been thinking about a mystery detective show of some kind and I liked the look and feel of Ballarat. So I stored that away in my head and about six months later, December Media called me up and said the ABC was looking for a detective show," he recalled.

"I went away and wrote up half a dozen pages about what I thought the the story would be about and sent it to the ABC and they wanted more."

The rest, as they say, is history. Doctor Blake went on to premiere in Australia a few years later, and Friday Nights with Doctor Blake has now become a household tradition.

Adams said the history of Ballarat captured his hearts.

"I love it. I love the grandeur of it and the city scape and the old architecture. I like the idea that it's a microcosm of Melbourne in a way and isn't a city that everyone knows.

"It has a look that is very unexpected in Australia and its buildings are pretty much as they were when they were build.

"It's a city built out of the ground, dug out of the goldmines and a lot of the buildings are testament to individual wealth.

"Also, its a bit dark, and I'm Scottish and I like that it's dark and rainy there. Great for this type of historic piece."

What's to come?

THIS season, Ballarat's Blake-lovers can expect to see familiar locations including the local racecourse, the Ballarat Observatory, The Old Colonists Club, and Lake Wendouree.

But Adams said it wasn't only the locals who took a keen interest in the show's landmarks.

"We get a lot of Facebook traffic tourists come and want to go to Ballarat and look at all of the points of interest. This wasn't a deliberate thing but it was something I was aware and hoped would happen."

"Our audience is enormously, fiercely loyal to the show and there's a huge ongoing interest which is always surprising to me.

Images courtesy of December Media