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This week’s Silent Witness; a homage to Barbara Vine

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You’ve got to love Silent Witness. Back for it’s eighteenth series and still coming up with strong storylines. This BBC drama has lost its way on occasion, notably in series fifteen and sixteen, when the format was tiring and the writers made up for this with increasingly ludicrous and gory plots. With the arrival of David Caves, as fellow pathologist Jack Hodgson, the programme has reinvigorated itself. What is particularly of note, is the great relationship between the character of Jack and scientist Clarissa Mullary, played by the brilliant Liz Carr. Carr is a stand-up comedian and a campaigner for disabled rights, she is also the only physically disabled actress starring in a prime time British drama. It doesn’t really need to be said that we obviously need more. I’ve always liked the fact that the main actors in this programme always get equal billing and firstly Amanda Burton and now Emilia Fox, are undoubtedly the stars of the show.

This week’s two-parter I particularly enjoyed. It immediately reminded me of Barbara Vine at her very best, even down to the setting of the London Underground, including the focus on a west London Tube stop. The story was reminiscent of a combination of ‘Grasshopper’ and ‘The House of Stairs’, focussing as it did on a pair of young, lost souls who find solace in one another. Only later do we discover that one is using the vulnerability of the other to manipulate them into carrying out their murderous bidding. There was a very atmospheric section at Mornington Crescent, where Nikki fears she is being followed through the empty tunnels, it immediately put me in mind of a similar sequence from the early eighties horror classic, ‘An American Werewolf in London’ which also took great advantage of the inherent spookiness of the London Underground system.
There was also an interesting sub-plot involving a young policeman trying to piece together the events of his father’s death twenty years earlier, only to discover a secret he should never have attempted to uncover.

Unfortunately, this series is running up against Broadchurch on a Monday night, but it is certainly worth setting the recorder for or catching up with on iPlayer. The writing is always interesting and original and the two hour format means it is faster paced than many of its rivals. Silent Witness continues to live on…

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