TV Review: Silent Witness

TV Review: Silent Witness

Silent Witness Rating:  M Distributor: ABC1 Release Date: Fridays, 8:30 PMThere’s something about British criminal drama that sets it apart from its American contemporaries – the human storylines, the believable cityscapes, in short the realism. And no program more realistically deals with the tragedy of death than Silent Witness.Silent Witness has returned to the ABC for its fourteenth […]

By Mark HadleyMonday 5 Sep 2011TV and StreamingReading Time: 2 minutes

Silent Witness
Rating:  M
Distributor: ABC1
Release Date: Fridays, 8:30 PM

There’s something about British criminal drama that sets it apart from its American contemporaries – the human storylines, the believable cityscapes, in short the realism. And no program more realistically deals with the tragedy of death than Silent Witness.

Silent Witness has returned to the ABC for its fourteenth series, which scarcely seems possible given its continually fresh take on an overly familiar storyline. The program follows the casework of a team of forensic pathologists charged with providing English bobbies with the scientific facts that can be gleaned from the bodies of murder victims. The mysteries are filled out by the usual human stories – Dr Leo Dalton (William Gaminara), Dr Harry Cunningham (Tom Ward) and Dr Nikki Alexander (Emilia Fox), who each struggle to cope with the dehumanizing nature of their jobs, rampant workaholism and the subsequent struggle to form meaningful relationships. But the understated, more realistic brand of drama that its writers bring to the series makes it a gem to watch.

The structure won’t surprise crime time viewers: a murder is committed, the experts are called in, there’s a tussle between a system that requires a solution and the human heart that desires closure, and our plucky pathologists make up the difference. Only, they don’t. Silent Witness doesn’t hide from the tragedy of death. It covers autopsies in a very graphic way, without reducing the deceased to science experiments like the many CSI clones. Neither does it pretend that the solution of the murder represents the resolution of the crime.

Death is the real tragedy in Silent Witness. The ‘silent witness’ may point investigators to his or her murderer, but their voice will never be heard again. It’s this pervading sadness of lives cut short that will remind Christians of the ‘shadow of death’ which the Bible says we all live under. But Zechariah celebrated with his audience that God’s mercy has provided a sun (son) to dispel this universal darkness:

“The rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”   Luke 1:78,79