So begins another trip to the world of darkness (and yes, I am referring to the lack on lights in any building inhabited by forensic pathologists…I’m starting to think the BBC employs a team of energy-saving neurotics that stand about on-set and shriek if anyone goes near a switch). This week, we are in court where Nikki (Emilia Fox) has been brought in to give evidence. There may have been a miscarriage of justice; a young man named David Bannetto (Michael Socha, pictured below) may have been sent to prison for killing his boyfriend and another young man. Before she goes on Nikki is very nervous and says she is thinking about taking up smoking. She’s worried about contradicting a previous scientist’s evidence. Surely you’d think, being an eminent and experienced forensic pathologist, she would be used to this kind of gig by now. But apparently not.
Anyway, her evidence went down a storm. She showed the court lots of pictures of young men’s bare buttocks (under the dubious guise that they showed something scientific, but hey, whatever floats your boat Nikki) and the guy was released with his previous conviction for murder overturned.
Of course, this being Silent Witness, the police are portrayed as stupid ineffectual pricks who need to shut the hell up and listen to the scientists. And today they are angry, smug ineffectual pricks, as Nikki has ruined their case and, in their eyes, set a guilty man free. But no matter, they decide Nikki is worth having on their side, so they grin and bear it while she goes back over the case and solve the mystery for them (because, y’know, she’s clever).
The usual catalogue of grim crime scenes and police/pathologist altercations followed, intercut with bits about how the newly freed ex-convict (a haunting performance by Michal Socha) is coping with life on the outside. Needless to say, he spends most of it in rooms that don’t have working lights.
Things go from optimistic to very bad for the young man when he is arrested for another murder (to the undisguised glee of the lead detective, played with gusto by Lorraine Ashbourne, pictured above). Nikki starts to worry she may have helped set a killer free. And the press start to play a large part, with Nikki becoming the central focus. Anyone would think she was Nigella Lawson for the amount of attention they give her.
From what we have so far, this week’s story edged close to the silly areas of Silent Witness Land where nobody speaks like they do in real life and the plots plod along slowly and predictably. Thankfully ‘Coup de Grace’ isn’t as complex as’ Commodity’, last week’s brain-scrambler, and though it doesn’t hit the highs the series is capable of, it remained solidly compelling. Oh, and at the end Nikki put herself in a dangerous situation!!!! Well, it wouldn’t be Silent Witness without Nikki in a scene of peril, would it?
Silent Witness: Coup de Grace Part 1 is available to view on BBC iPlayer for a limited time. The second part airs on BBC One and BBC One HD on Friday 10 January 2014.