Silent Witness: 17.01 - Commodity

Here we are again, Silent Witness returns for its seventeenth (yes 17!) series of slightly farfetched forensic investigation. But the 2013 version bears zero resemblance to the one that appeared all those years ago, and doesn’t even really resemble the series how it was a couple of years ago. After Tom Ward left in 2012 and William Gaminara left at the end of the last series in 2013, only Emilia Fox is left from the well established ‘second act’ cast of the series. Newcomers David Caves (cage fighting Jack Hodgson) and Liz Carr (Clarissa Mullery) have had a year to bed into the cast, and Leo Dalton replacement Thomas Chamberlain is played by familiar TV face Richard Lintern (usually a supporting actor) so shouldn’t take too long to familiar in the role.
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The plot for the opening two parter, ‘Commodity’, is a slightly convoluted thing, covering football boardroom politics, murder, kidnap, the Israeli Secret Service, religion, and families. It includes some of the worst fake football scenes ever committed to film or TV, and this episode shows that Silent Witness is starting to fully embrace its hokey approach to the forensic science genre of policing. Really, Israeli Secret Service? There’s also a fake sister who’s allowed into the forensic lab with no request for ID. The one area that’s been toned down is the forensic team playing at being police, it’s been getting worse as the series have progressed. There is still a scene where the highly paid, and skilled, forensic scientist Jack wanders about in the dark looking for a park bench that matches a photo. Surely that job should be farmed out to a bobby on the beat? Anyhow, real world logic doesn’t feature too much in Silent Witness these days.

The nadir for this episode is the appalling accent of the French suspect. He sounds Parisian by way of Manchester, Bristol, and Wales. One thing that the show does very well though is gore. It’s a surprisingly bloody series, it’s had numerous complaints about the levels of gore in recent years, and ‘Commodity’ went some way to upholding that tradition, including three bodies in the first ten minutes. The other success of the series was the introduction of the new boss. Richard Lintern seems well cast as the slightly socially awkward but well meaning boss and it’ll be interesting to see how the new team dynamic, especially between him and Nikki, works.
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Seventeen series is a long time for a procedural crime drama to be going, and is almost unheard of in the UK. But by refreshing the cast this year you feel the show knows it’s make or break time. Although entertaining in a fun kind of way, this wasn’t the most auspicious of starts. Next weeks Thursday/Friday two parter needs to be better. Doesn't it?

You can catch up with Silent Witness on the BBC iPlayer if you so inclined.

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