TV Review: Silent Witness Series 15

Series 15 of Silent Witness ends up being a bit of a dud with both Harry and Leo getting close to the end of the road

“This is police business”

As has become increasingly obvious, criticising Silent Witness for not being a show about forensic pathology is a fruitless task, the blurring of the lines between the lab and fieldwork (aka stepping on the toes of police investigations) has long been a significant part of the show but once the deliberate sainted antagonism of Sam Ryan had gone, I felt that the writing had managed to balance it fairly well, finding a sweet spot where it rarely bothered me too much. 

Series 15 throws all that in the bin though. There’s police interview scenes with a single police officer but both Harry and Leo in there. There’s Leo marching into crime scenes without calling the police, chasing suspects through the forest out back and then casually walking right back into the house with nary a piece of PPE on him. I don’t mean to take it all so seriously but it is just so frustrating to watch, especially coming from so sanctimonious a character as Leo – I think Janet has eventually dodged a bullet here.  Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 15”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 14

With Kieran Bew with his top off and Barbara Flynn breaking every singe person’s heart, Series 14 of Silent Witness is mostly excellent. We just need to talk about Harry…

“If you’re deliberately trying to annoy me, you’re succeeding”

Series 14 of Silent Witness is the first one that contains episodes that I actually remember from first time around, two of them in fact. One – ‘Lost – can lay claim to being one of the best ever stories that the show has produced. The other indulges in a fakeout that had me hook line and sinker at the time though as I recall, not my dad!

It’s a season that start off tremendously, the serial killer vibes of ‘A Guilty Mind’ and the decades-spanning effects of ‘Lost’ offering up a different take on forensics for once. But towards the end of the run, it is clear that a decision has been made (who knows by whom) to give Harry more to do and that throws things off balance. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 14”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 13

God-tier guest casting, daring deviation in the storytelling and Leo getting hit on the head, Series 13 of Silent Witness is probably one of my absolute faves 

“Your kind think you’re some kind of heroic martyr, you won’t be told or fobbed off. If people get dragged into your mess then it’s jolly unfortunate but you don’t give a shit because you have right on your side”

Now this is the good stuff. Series 13 of Silent Witness opted to shake things up just a little more than usual and the result, for me, is one of their most effective seasons to date. For one, having Leo be the one who is attacked rather than Nikki is (three series on the trot in case you’d forgotten) is just nice for the variety but adding a note of frailty into this most sanctimonious of characters works well.

It also sets up a cracking episode which sees Nikki and Harry at loggerheads as they take the same evidence and end up with wildly different conclusions which they’re then forced to defend in court. And a campus shooting episode, whilst having hardly anything to do with forensic pathology, is brilliantly conceived and chillingly executed. Fresh takes on the storytelling really makes this series feel alive. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 13”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 12

Series 12 of Silent Witness, aka the one they are allowed to start getting jiggy with it, oh and they jet off to Zambia for a bit 

“You lot are expert arse coverers”

Expanded to six full-length stories and moving one of them to Southern Africa, Series 12 of Silent Witness ought to be something of a golden age for the show. And even if it doesn’t quite hit that highmark for me as the writers start to head increasingly to the personal lives of the team, it is still immensely watchable.

The series starts off well with a horny paramedic getting his arse out for Nikki and Leo’s sanctimony being punctured (briefly) by being done for drink driving. And as we move through London gangs and elite police units, vengeful Russian oligarchs and insular Hasidic Jews, a wide range of stories certainly challenges the team.    Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 12”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 11

Signs of staleness start to creep in Series 11 of Silent Witness as Nikki ends up in ‘mortal’ peril for the second time in four stories

“Please, you’re letting this become personal”

There’s an easy chemistry that flows between William Gaminara, Tom Ward and Emilia Fox as the core team in mid-career Silent Witness that it seems churlish to criticise. I find their gentle banter and dad jokes just a delight to watch in their office scenes, but sadly that’s not enough to hang a top-rated BBC series on.

So as it is, Series 11 finds itself tackling such wide-ranging topics as military secrecy and medical bureaucracy, neglect of the traveller community and asylum seekers, abuse in both the Catholic Church and in African religious groups, even mad cow disease. The less said about Leo’s white saviour moment the better. And of course, there’s a pronounced divergence from their remit as forensic pathologists. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 11”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 10

Series 10 of Silent Witness, aka the one where they add episodes, make Harry a wannabe stand-up and Harry and Nikki do it, or do they?

“I went as far as I believed I could”

Because in TV-land, a young(ish) man and woman couldn’t possibly work together without shagging, Series 10 of Silent Witness sees the inevitable hooking-up of Nikki and Harry. Although to its credit, it instantly puts a fly in the ointment and in the harrowing final story, really earns the affection between this pair. 

As we flit from people-trafficking to performance art, angsty teenagers to animal rights activists, this emerges as a solid rather than spectacular series. Adding in a fifth story adds to the sense of general competence without really raising the stakes, until ‘Schism’ at least, though I’d question just how much mortal danger we ever thought ‘someone’ was in. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 10”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 9

Series 9 of Silent Witness, aka the one where it is dangerous to be related to the team

“You know you shouldn’t be interfering. You could be jeopardising your career, the investigation, everything”

Series 9 of Silent Witness is the first full one without Amanda Burton’s Sam Ryan at the helm and to its credit, you barely notice for the most part, such is the efficiency and effectiveness of the new dynamic cultivated by the seamless introduction of Emilia Fox’s Nikki Alexander. This series also marks the pronounced increase of their investigative roles in many a crime scene, taking them further and further out of the lab.

At its worst, as in series opener ‘Ghosts’, tragic news pushes Leo to Sheffield where his character is thoroughly mangled ostensibly through grief but in reality, in a cack-handed attempt by the writers to make him interesting. Which kinda misses the point, as William Gaminara has nailed the perfectly bland tone of quiet competence – making him head of the department doesn’t need to change that. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 9”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 8

Amanda Burton’s departure is smoothly managed as Series 8 of Silent Witness heralds a major new age for the show 

“Hard act to follow…the blessed Sam”

Given that the first 7 series of Silent Witness featured Amanda Burton’s name above the title, it is impressive that the show’s transition to life without her is effected so smoothly here. She leaves after the first story of Series 8 with a return to Northern Ireland and some long held secrets from the past and if her departure comes a little as a surprise, it’s slightly less so given how the first part of that story finishes on quite the cliffhanger.

Harry and Leo then get one story to themselves and their petty rivalries until Emilia Fox’s effervescent Dr Nikki Alexander is introduced to the team. She comes as a forensic anthropologist, focusing on Iron Age facial reconstructions but is soon co-opted into the Lyell Centre’s ways (“Why are they still involved? They’re pathologists”) in a dicey tale of horse racing and helicopters and then a truly harrowing tale of the aftermath of a train crash, stirringly written by Michael Crompton. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 8”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 7

Some cracking guest stars elevate Series 7 of Silent Witness which settles rather well into its mould of slightly fractious teamworking

“This is not Toy Town. I am not Mr Plod. You are not Tessie Bear”

The establishment of a team around Sam Ryan at the Lyell Centre was certainly one of the best decisions Silent Witness made, certainly while Amanda Burton’s frosty lead was still at the helm. And I think Series 7 ranks as one of her best as the writers finally tackle her self-declared infallibility and throw her inability to work nicely with others right under the microscope.

Through stories of suspected terrorism, steroid abuse and sexual assault, there’s an ongoing theme of reputational integrity, examining how far people will go to protect their name. Professionally, she has her own judgement called into question, both by outsiders and in a clever twist by William Gaminara’s Harry as the colleagues are pitted against each other in a high-profile case. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 7”

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”