The post-Christmas comedown can be a tedious place. However, through the soundtrack of stunned silence trills a theme tune containing The Highest Note On Television ™. Hooray hurrah, it’s Silent Witness!
Much to the joy of your correspondent (see Lustbox passim), Silent Witness has returned to our screens for a whopping series of 5 two-parters. And it begins in true restful SW style – with a series of borderline-intrusive close-ups on the corpse of an 8 year old girl. Oh. We are then further relaxed by the sight of White-Coated Type Professor Silverlake (Roy Marsden, who always seems to play “wrong ‘uns” in these sort of things) having some sort of loopy fit at various wino patients outside a hospital, followed quickly by the discovery of one of said patients deaded in a pile of wee (presumably and indeed hopefully his own, though you can never tell in SW land). What time did you say the Darts on BBC2 started again…
Having said this, what develops is an absorbing morality tale on motive, the mind and whether evil thoughts and deeds can ever truly be explained away by mental disorders. As per usual with SW, there are various plotlines which may or may not interlink, depending upon how late the writers had to stay up to finish the episode. Whilst Dr. Harry Cunningham and Professor Leo Dalton investigate the strangely simultaneous and inexplicable carkings of all 3 patients from the beginning, Dr. Nikki Alexander is drifting around looking even more glassy-eyed and crazily haired than usual (swoon) at the aforementioned deceased 8 year old girl, who has been raped and murdered by a former patient of Professor Silverlake who appeared to have his violent behaviour curbed by the apparently successful removal of a brain tumour. Only now it doesn’t look that way. And besides, as far as poor Nikki is concerned, being forced by the costume department to wear a top resembling a fried egg having a panic attack and pedal pushers that looked less Jane Norman, more Jolly Roger would probably be enough to send anybody to a walking-out-of-meetings, lying-on-the-postmortem-table stylee breakdown.
It rattles on, albeit at a strangely uneven pace. One minute we have some very thoughtful exchanges between Harry and Nikki about depression and whether it is ever possible to make sense of the senseless, the next we have Professor Silverlake lying on the floor full of bullets after a shootout in Wild West London. The bizarre shifts in tone in SW annoy me. If I wanted crazy shouting, randomly exploding car windscreens and pig-ignorant PCs interfering (Mark Lewis Jones as stoneaged DI Skipper was amusing but ultimately a bargain-basement Gene Hunt), I’d watch Trevor Eve in Waking The Dead (actually, I wouldn’t watch that voluntarily even if I was Fast Asleep Dead). It’s a shame, as it distracts from what SW does really well, which is something altogether more explorative. The scenes between Professor Silverlake’s daughter (Being Human’s Sinead Keenan, again putting in a sharp performance) and Nikki about the morality of the press in instantly blaming “murderers” without looking further show a lot of depth and are also rather unfortunately apt, given recent Joanna Yeates/Chris Jefferies related events.
By the end of the episode, we have a dead nurse hanging up in a cupboard (thus making her death number 6 in under an hour, which is tidy work even by SW’s standards), Dr. Nikki wandering around making like Virginia Woolf with blank-faced monologues about “the undertow”, a child-murderer unfit to stand trial, a dead Consultant who may have offed his patients and himself as some sort of revenge and an awful lot of loud “atmosphere” Techno music. During its hour, Silent Witness has managed to be deeply sensible and utterly senseless at the same time. Business as usual then, pretty much.
Tune in tomorrow as I gawp at Dr. Nikki Alexander’s eye mak- I mean selflessly try and work out what the hell is going on, on your behalf. It is both an honour and a privilege, PLA readers.
Posted by Velocity Girl