TV Review: Silent Witness Series 17

Series 17 of Silent Witness, in which the show feel very much still in transition, and we’re not just talking about Nikki’s haircut 

“One maverick on the team is enough”

Of course, having finally implemented the significant change that I was longing for, Series 17 of Silent Witness experiences a little bit of turbulence doesn’t quite nail the landing. With the sanctimonious Leo dispatched to the pearly gates, Richard Lintern’s Dr Thomas Chamberlain is introduced as the new forensic pathologist head honcho. But internally, the writers seem to have decided that Nikki is actually the lead and so Thomas finds himself very much sidelined throughout the series.  

Part of the issue is that they’re still figuring out the roles of newcomers Jack and Clarissa. David Caves’ Jack is posited as an insane Action Man figure, throwing himself into rugby-tackling and questioning suspects even with the police right there. It is noticeable that this is somewhat facilitated by more and more stories featuring fewer and fewer police characters, allowing for the appearance at least that the Lyell aren’t stepping on too many toes… And the writers still seem a little hesitant to consider Clarissa’s analyst a full member of the team. 

This feel mainly because the series ends up as the Nikki and Jack show, as the pair of them almost exclusively get to go out in the field, with Clarissa getting to examine the odd bit of evidence and Thomas looming in his office or occasionally over a slab. It has to be that way to make sense of an overblown finale in which Jack goes widly rogue and Nikki has to go ride or die for him rather than her new boss (and the integrity of the whole team it has to be said).

It is change for sure and could just take some getting used to but at the same time, the reconfiguration feels like it has created quite narrowly defined roles for each character and you wonder for how long this can be sustained effectively.

Top guest appearances

  1. Series opener ‘Commodity’ is a curiously tricksy thing, pulling in unexpected directions and Elliot Levey’s Adam is a compelling figure at the heart of one of these
  2. The curse of Nikki’s affections continues in ‘Coup-de-Grace’ as her flirtations with Tobias Menzies’ lawyer Greg Walker herald some really big complications in that particular case of the week
  3. Martin Compston’s DS Ross has a rather spurious reason for dragging the team up to deepest Scotland in ‘In A Lonely Place’ but his copper has an interesting slant as he butts heads with his superior officers
  4. In a bit of a cunning twist, ‘Undertone’ features Charlotte Randle early on in what you think is going to be a starring role but ends up being a heartwrenching, red herring of a cameo 
  5. The excellent Haydn Gwynne is somewhat wasted in ‘Fraternity’ as a replacement forensic bod and friend of Thomas who he has to bring in because of Jack’s fuckery 

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