TV Review: Silent Witness Series 6

Not a moment too soon, Series 6 of Silent Witness finally includes some colleagues for Sam Ryan to give us some relief from her relentless dourness

“Everyone know you love…getting involved”

Having flirted with releasing Sam Ryan from her torment with a suspected tumour at the end of the last season, Series 6 of Silent Witness makes the wise decision to change things up by building a team around her, to relieve some of the pressure of making her the centre of every case. So we welcome William Gaminara’s Professor Leo Dalton and Tom Ward’s Dr Harry Cunningham as colleagues to the sainted Sam, who allow for multiple cases to now be featured in each story.

It’s a good development and one which improves as the season goes on, even if the inclusion of drama in both their personal lives pushes us a little closer to the soapier side of things. But with the show now anchored in London, we do start to see the rapid changeover of police personnel between each story which, to me, feels like a missed opportunity. Brilliant work by the likes of Lia Williams and Stuart Graham, even Tim Healy, makes any of their investigating officers ripe for a series-long feature but no, it’s not to be.

And even with colleagues in tow, the show now openly mocks Sam’s predilection for getting involved, aka meddling, even to the point of standing in the middle of an active police operation with her hands on her hips saying ‘how dare you tell me what to do’. It’s a ridiculousness that is increasingly hard to bear. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 6”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 5

Series 5 of Silent Witness aka the one with a travel budget, as wunder-pathologist Sam heads off to Belgium and Norway 

“They make it look very easy on television, I don’t think it quite works like that”

Series 5 of Silent Witness feels like the one where they had money to burn, with 2 different European trips worked into the three stories of this season. And with Sam Ryan apparently the forensic pathologist that everyone wants, she gets to pick and choose her cases with gay abandon, even if it is deciding whether the body of a beatifed nun is valid for sainthood.

It’s not the cheeriest of series though, dipping into the Holocaust and dark family secrets as well as shoehorning in a medical crisis for the good doctor herself. For a character so resolutely unsympathetic in both its writing and portrayal, it’s an odd choice as she remains someone who you really struggle to invest in. It’s still watchable to be sure, but change can’t come quickly enough… Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 5”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 4

Series 4 of Silent Witness sees Sam finally leave Cambridge for London and start to lean into her savant side…

“I’m not in the police, I’m independent. That’s what makes my opinion worth having”

Perhaps cognisant of just how much a pathologist can be needed to do in Cambridge, Series 4 of Silent Witness transplants Sam Ryan to London, ostensibly as a professor at Imperial University but in reality, becoming the pathologist-on-call for any and everyone who wants her services in this shortened series of 3 stories.

So she heads up to Lincolnshire to deal with a North Sea helicopter crash and even returns to Cambridge (already so soon) to reunite fractiously with now-DCI Connors for some furious hate-flirting over the bodies of 12 burnt-alive cinemagoers. The opening out of the scope of location is a definite plus for the series, allowing for a believable variety. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 4”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 3

Guest stars such as Lesley Manville, Adam James and Elizabeth Berrington help elevate an interesting Series 3 of Silent Witness 

“I’d’ve thought you’d learned by now, this is police work not yours”

Series 3 of Silent Witness brings a new recurring police team for us to get to know, a(nother) new handsome man from Sam’s past who is waiting to jump into bed with her, and a new set of cases for Sam to get overly invested in. It gets to beyond the point of mockery when almost every episode has a line like the above quote in it but you sense the writers acknowledging this, as the opportunity to work in a different capacity in London is presented at the end of the season.

Which is probably right as there can’t be many more police officers in Cambridge that Amanda Burton’s Sam Ryan hasn’t royally pissed off. And in a Midsomer Murders/Morse way, surely there’s a limit to the number of crimes that can take place in a single locale. The casting is on point in this series though – Adam James and Mark Umbers appearing as posh students and somone had clearly been watching Mike Leigh films as Lesley Manville, Heather Craney and Elizabeth Berrington all make appearances here.

Top guest appearences

  1. a baby Nicholas Hoult appears briefly as a grieving child
  2. a fresh-faced Adam James as an earnest undergrad who describes someone as “a bit of poof but he didn’t deserve to get beaten up” (1998 doesn’t feel that long ago…)
  3. there’s a performance of striking froideur from Lesley Manville in ‘Fallen Idol’
  4. Jimi Mistry makes up the numbers in the incident room for one scene in one of the cases early on, never to be seen again
  5. and no spoilers but Josette Simon is brilliant as the slick Drug Squad DCI at the heart of ‘Divided Loyalties’

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 2

Series 2 of Silent Witness sees the show quickly slip into the patterns that bristle against the limitations of the format, whilst Amanda Burton warms up a little

“If you’re lucky, you’ll get away with a slap on the wrist and a warning not to get too involved in the future”

And so to series 2 of Silent Witness, Nigel McCrery’s forensic pathology drama, and the return of Amanda Burton’s remarkably chilly Sam Ryan. Perhaps wisely, there was a big swerve away from her family drama, the focus shifting more solidly to the numerous work crises passed her way. The only problem there is that the writers were in no way content to let her just be a pathologist. 

“I’m a forensic pathologist. All I’m interested in is the truth”, she cries at one point. But it patently isn’t true, her insistence on playing detective with every single case actually having led to the death of someone innocent last time around (she gets over the trauma of that pretty quickly…) and said behaviour continues apace here, reaching almost parodic levels far too quickly. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 2”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 1

Is Silent Witness the new The Bill in terms of most actors having a credit on their CV? I start a rewatch of the last 24 years with Series 1…

“They say a victim dies only once, but a scene can be murdered a thousand times”

As it approaches its 25th anniversary, and since the BBC have kindly put all 219 episodes on the iPlayer, my infinite wisdom has decided that I’m going to do a watch/rewatch of Silent Witness. I can’t be fully precise because I don’t really remember exactly when I started watching the show – it arrived on BBC1 in 1996 but my first clearest memory is actually of the brilliant, and sadly not online, French and Saunders spoof Witless Silence. (Seriously, if anyone can point to where I can watch it again, get in touch!)

Creaated by former police officer Nigel McCrery, Series 1 introduces us to the world of forensic pathology through the eyes of the Northern Irish Dr Sam Ryan, Amanda Burton getting her name above the title in the iconic leading role. And as she moves to Cambridge to take up a position aiding the police with their enquiries and also to be closer to her mother who is ailing with dementia, there’s something really quite bold in just how chilly and spiky Ryan is as the central figure. Uber-professional to be sure but defiantly uncompromising with it. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 1”