Posted by: Paul | March 14, 2011

Waking The Dead

Rejoice and lament at the same time, as Waking The Dead returns for its ninth, but final, series. I imagine it’s just one more victim of the cuts across the BBC, but it’s such a well-loved show and was probably far advanced in the making by the time the cuts became clear, so at least it’s being given a swansong rather than simply not returning at all. I will miss grumpy Boyd and his blacker than black humour far more than, say, Silent Witness, should that also fall by the wayside. I hope the end lives long in the memory – for what’s essentially a police procedural it is beautifully shot and far more entertainingly written than comparable shows.

I think Boyd (the brilliant Trevor Eve) is one of the most interesting Police character creations of recent years. Rather than fitting a generic grizzled senior officer stereotype he is genuinely multi-faceted – caring deeply for his team in his own odd, rather damaged way, utterly committed to his work, but very unorthodox in approach. Incredibly outspoken but also respected by his superiors, Boyd seems happy to have been stuck in the basement working on long-dead inquiries, where he has created his own dominion. He bends the rules as far as he can, but not usually in the direction you’d expect. Even though he’s obviously extremely difficult to work with on a day-to-day basis, he inspires fierce loyalty in those he surrounds himself with. Will the same be true of new DSI Sarah Cavendish (Eva Birthistle)? We only have 6 episodes to find out (what’s with the Beeb and these short 3-week runs now? Let something breathe, for goodness sake!)

The central cast is one of the most convincingly cohesive units on TV. Members come and go but are never forgotten; Boyd carries around the deaths of Mel Silver and Stella Goodman like a monkey on his back. I like the fact that the show rewards repeat viewers – something many other British programmes are afraid to do, leaving individual series to stand alone. But the main players – Eve, Sue Johnstone, Tara Fitzgerald (who is lovely by the way, I did a small job with her many moons ago), Wil Johnson – clearly know each other well ofter so long together and enjoy bouncing off one another. I get the feeling that there’s an element of improvisation in the show, particularly in the segments where they’re dissecting the known facts of each case in the ‘Think Tank’ early on, especially on the part of Trevor Eve – it seems to me that occasionally he’ll throw a line out that the others aren’t expecting at all. I imagine the producers brief them with an outline, saying ‘These are the ideas you need to get across in this scene. Off you go’, and it results in a very naturalistic performance from all concerned, a round-table where everyone chips in. Great fun to watch!

So I’m very sorry to see it go. If it were being replaced with another run of Zen I might be more forgiving, but alas…

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