The cerebral crime procedural is back
Let’s be honest, at this point in its existence Silent Witness could coast by on nostalgia and inertia. Heading into its 17th season, the cerebral crime procedural is the popcorn of BBC programming. Nobody really wants it that much, but you kind of expect to see it on offer. It’s no Waking the Dead – which became increasingly overdramatic in its later seasons, like a one-time prom queen eager to keep the limelight – but there have been a few over-wrought season finales that did the show no favours (‘Prodigal’, which saw Dr Harry Cunningham roaming Budapest in a delirium after his girlfriend met her inevitable, dramatic end, is top of my list).
So, with head Dead Person Poker Professor Leo Dalton vaporised in the Homeland-esque ‘Greater Love’, what is season 17 shaping up to be?
Well, mostly more of the same. Dr Niki Alexander (Emilia Fox) has cut her hair into flighty bob, but otherwise remains intense, aggressively empathic and vaguely passive-aggressive. Presumably at some point in the season she’ll have a short lived and ill fated demi-romance with a bloke that, at best, is a rake and a filth-merchant. At worst he’ll be a cannibalistic paedophile terrorist. In the meantime, she’ll pass the time making cow eyes across the corpses at her co-worker Dr. Jack Hodgson (David Caves).
Last season’s replacement for the increasingly maudlin Dr Harry Cunningham (Tom Ward), Hodgson is intelligent and aggressive. That’s pretty much it. He is the volatile humour that counterbalance Niki’s phlegmatic nature. If it wasn’t for the fact that every cop they work with is corrupt, incompetent or both, he’d look like a bit of a jackass. Luckily they are, so his attitude is deserved.
Joining them this year is Dr Thomas Chamberlain (Richard Lintern). Apparently he is ‘charming, charismatic and socially shrewd’. Which is odd, because tone deaf introduction – where he asked a woman in a wheelchair ‘what are you’ and was staunchly, Big Bang Sheldony oblivious to the offense he was giving – made me think he was somewhere on the autistic spectrum. Apparently not though.
The three of them, along with Dr Clarissa Mullery – who is beautifully waspy and exasperated, but has no storylines I’ve seen so far – solve crimes. They broke the seal on Season 17 in ‘Coup de Grace’, a case that combined murder, blackmail, terrorism and kidnapping. They even had Mossad agents dipping in and out.
Maybe no one told them that there is going to be a Spooks film? So they don’t need to fill in that gap.
Silent Witness is back on Thursday at 9 with ‘Coup de Grace’