Silent Witness, parodied as Witless Silence by French and Saunders, is back on TV and we saw the first two-part episode earlier this week. It’s extraordinary that it has been going so long, and has maintained its high standard of acting and writing. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a crime series revolving round a forensic pathology lab – and in real life it may be a little implausible that scientists based in a lab would be so active in solving strange and tricky crimes, but on TV it’s dramatic, gripping, and in its own world, believable.
When it was first broadcast in 1996 the senior pathologist was Professor Sam Ryan, played by Amanda Burton and was set in Cambridge. Since then there have been many change in personnel and the location has changed to London. The director now is Dr. Thomas Chamberlain played by Richard Lintern, and between Prof Sam and Dr Thomas there has been Professor Leo Dalton. However, as with all such dramas there is a team, and as usual with teams there is a mix of men and women, ordinary and eccentric, dashing and down to earth. The team now comprises of Dr Chamberlain, Dr. Nikki Alexander, Jack Hodgson and Clarissa Mullery. They have very different personalities and, as in real life, they sometimes fall out or upset each other, about they are a team, loyal, strong and at ultimately fond of each other.
The stories nearly always involve murder, but sometimes it is abduction or smuggling or trafficking, and does not shy away from current and sometimes controversial subjects. Sometimes the characters are compromised, sometimes their hearts rule their heads, but science is at the core of their investigations. Most of the episodes are set in the UK, but there have been various times when the team or one of them has been involved in a case abroad, most recently when Nikki was kidnapped in Mexico and her life put at risk – the programme is so good that it was really unclear whether she would escape alive – in a previous series Professor Dalton was unexpectedly murdered, so there’s a precedent for the unexpected!
- Professor Sam Ryan – Amanda Burton
- Professor Leo Dalton – William Gaminara
- Dr. Harry Cunningham – Tom Ward
- Dr. Nikki Alexander – Emilia Fox
- Jack Hodgson – David Caves
- Clarissa Mullery – Liz Carr
- Dr. Thomas Chamberlain – Richard Lintern
I wonder if there is a box set – I’m tempted, and then have a Silent Witness orgy of watching all twenty series!
Here is a link to the BBC SW website: