TV Review: Waking the Dead Series 1

Turning my lockdown TV watching attention to the BBC’s Waking the Dead, a show I remember fondly but have never revisited

“I ended up with a fridge full of dolcelatte and olives”

I was a big fan of Waking the Dead at the time, Series 1 airing in 2001 after a pilot in 2000, but I did wonder slightly how it would hold up on rewatching. And tbh I think I have slightly mixed feelings about it now. Created by Barbara Machin, the show revolves around a cold case unit, a team investigating old murders that have long remained unsolved.

By incorporating a forensic scientist and a psychological profiler alongside regular coppers, the show finds its USP in the breadth of the stories it can tell.  And as is often the case, this turns out to be both a strength and a weakness. A strength in that Holly Aird’s Frankie and Sue Johnston’s Grace are both standouts but as they’re both the sole representatives of their respective fields, they’re forced to become almost improbably wide-ranging experts.

That’s not a problem that the police personnel in the team are forced to reckon with. Wil Johnson and Claire Goose spar entertaininly as the juniors and Trevor Eve’s highly irascible Boyd leads with arrogance, forthrightness and of course, a haunted past. And even at this early stage, an impressive array of actors come along to pad out the cases of the week, some of my faves listed below.

Top guest appearances

  1. Finbar Lynch takes the honours as Waking the Dead’s first bad guy, his Jimmy Marshall a creepily effective antagonist in the pilot
  2. In ‘Burn Out’, Angela Griffin’s Marina is a powerful presence as a daughter relentlessly in search of answers about her father’s death
  3. The twists and turns of ‘Blind Beggar’ are really well worked and their tragic eloquence is embodied a sterling performance from Annette Crosbie
  4. The stand out of the series though is Harriet Walter’s eerily composed turn as convicted murderer Annie Keel in ‘A Simple Sacrifice’ 
  5. And it is an episode full of great work, Rakie Ayola’s prison guard takes supporting honours for me but Cal MacAninch, Lynda Bellingham and a baby Nicholas Hoult all impress too

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