Whisper it quietly but Series 26 of Silent Witness might just be the beginnings of a return to form
“You’re just a pathalogist, there’s no good reason for you to be here”
From its opening episode with human remains being extricated from the stomachs of wild pigs and barrels of sulphuric acid, it’s clear that Series 26 of Silent Witness is unafraid of being gruesome (for me, you can add Nikki and Jack being together to that list too…). More significantly, it also feels like a bit of a steadying of the ship after a turbulent time of it with a couple of series I really wasn’t a fan of, turning me off to the point that it has taken me a year to get around to watching this series.
We’re back to the two-part story format, which is a blessed relief, and as the churn of staff turnover throws up two new series regulars in Aki Omoshaybi’s Gabriel Folukoya who now heads up the Lyell and Alistair Michael’s Velvy Schur as a rather green trainee anatomical pathologist. Further on into the series, we also see the return of Rhiannon May as Jack’s niece Cara, her name appearing in the titles despite not having much to do (her choice to study criminology at uni presumably setting her up for a future role at the Lyell?).
With a fair amount of change in this stalwart show, Series 26 actually does an impressive job of pulling it all together. Perhaps wisely, it does mean that we don’t get to discover that much about data scientist Gabriel as the focus of the newbies lies squarely on Vevly who, as we discover, has left his Orthodox Jewish community including his wife and kids, the ramifications of which are tenderly explored across the episodes without too much intrusion – the tension between actual cases and stories about their personal lives has long been a challenge.
Sadly, we still have to deal with Emilia Fox’s Nikki and David Caves’ Jack still being kind-of together, despite no evident romantic chemistry although, I can’t lie, it was nice to see Jack getting punched in the face as his gung-ho attitude finally got him into hot water for once (I really hate the re-enactment thing they’re doing with him too, his apparent ability to divine exactly what happened by looking at, say, a footprint). Story-wise, it’s all much of a muchness, varying inventive and gruesome death scenarios into which the team intervene and interfere in the name of often self-righteous investigation – more watchable than it has been for a while.
Top guest appearances
- Sophia Myles has a great swing in opening story ‘The Penitent’ as shadowy agent Laine Cassidy at the forefront of investigating the Mafia-like ‘Ndrangheta
- ‘Familiar Faces’ features an excellent Nadine Marshall as DI Sarah Torres, looking into the harrowing world of people trafficking
- It’s always nice to see Ed Bennett pop up in things and he’s an effective grieving husband of ‘Hearts of Darkness’
- The same story also sees Jemma Redgrave get to come back again as DI Jill Raymond – I wish we got more recurring characters like this.
- And in standout final story ‘Southbay’, Sarah Woodward’s Commander Bridget Laing is a brilliantly chilling presence in a world of potential police corruption