The only compelling mystery in Silent Witness, which began it’s 17th series on BBC1 last night, is who on earth actually watches it? This deathly dull forensics drama has been going since 1996, (Emilia Fox took over from Amanda Burton as the lead in 2004) and it still hasn’t developed any watchable assets.
In last night’s episode (part one of two), Dr Nikki Alexander (Emilia Fox) was investigating two cases, one involving a charisma-free Premiership footballer facing a forced transfer after making some unfortunate remarks on Twitter; the other involving a Jewish businessman who found his wife and autistic son dead after returning from a business trip.
That sounds like a plot that’s moved with the times, but in fact Silent Witness has remained so consistently impervious to criticism, that only the ever-changing support cast can be used to date an episode. The forensic pathology team still work in an office so dimly lit, it’s a wonder anyone can find the way to their own desk, the autopsies are still gratuitously gory and the acting is still as lifeless as the corpses.
Much of this can be attributed to the script, consistently one of the clunkiest on television, and exemplified in this episode by Nikki and Jack’s crime scene banter, an attempt so pathetically wooden it makes CSI look like Pinter.
“Why are you breaking his balls?” asked Nikki after she arrived to find her hunky colleague arguing with a detective about a contaminated scene. “I’m not breaking his balls,” he replied. “You’re breaking his balls. What’s wrong with you?” she countered, thus repeating not once, not twice, but three times, an American colloquialism that no real-life British person has ever used in everyday conversation.
Except, maybe, if they were doing an impression of Silvio from The Sopranos. If only Nikki had been doing an impression of Silvio from The Sopranos. Anything to lighten the tedious gloom of Silent Witness.