It’s back! Nikki is back! Dr Nikki Alexander and her merry band of oddball body cutters are back to brighten (or darken) our January nights. This ten-hour eighteenth series (Yes! Eighteenth!) will no doubt offer us plenty of adventures that will test our patience and insult our intelligence whilst still, miraculously, keeping us gripped.
At the start of this two part story Bloody Nikki (I’m not swearing, she’s a pathologist, so naturally she is usually covered in blood) is running on what looks like Hampstead Heath. She isn’t bloody today. She looks happy. She looks content. Nikki is running and the sun is shining. And because she is a glamorous creation in a major television show and not a real person in real life, Nikki was approached by a traffic-stoppingly handsome man who starts talking to her about origami. But enough of that. Let’s get to the murders.
There is a sniper running around London shooting people. Bodies, blood. Very nasty. And in walks this episode’s complicated-copper-of-the-week, DCI Jane De Freitas (Zoe Telford, pictured below – IMDb her, she’s been in literally everything). She’s been given some really cracking lines to throw out: ‘It’s our daily routines that govern the ecology of victimisation’ she muses aloud as she examines a corpse. God help us. To assist her are a grumbling DS (Sean Gilder) and a DSC, and former romantic partner (played by Steve Wall), which adds a touch of awkward atmosphere. Some terrifically bitchy verbal sparring between the senior coppers about who has been shagging who ensues. It works out like one of the better written scenes in Waterloo Road, albeit with occasional references to the media’s reaction to petrol station massacres.
As is the usual with Silent Witness, Nikki is interviewing grieving relations of murder victims. The most gaping elephant in the room is the fact that the police know there is an armed sniper at large bumping off random people and wander about crime scenes, minutes after the shooting, without any bullet proof clothing.
When it comes to police, who are routinely portrayed as stupid cretins in this show, we have a very weird situation. The SIO is, at least so far, respectful of the scientists rather than rude. She is also a trained criminal profiler (not an unusual thing in 2015 policing), yet her team all seem to be a bit wide-eyed and freaked out by the whole concept of psychology. There are even whisperings of resentment and people making fun of her. To be honest it all feels a bit Life on Mars. For a moment you could be forgiven for thinking you’d fallen into 1973, and at any second people were about to light cigarettes, make a homophobic jokes or sexually harass our lead female copper and excuse it as ‘all good fun’.
In terms of look and style, so far it’s all remarkably unremarkable. Considering this used to be one of the most daring and beautifully shot series when it came to cinematography (it pioneered rich and arresting digital high definition technology back in the 2000s) it was a bit of a let down. The images presented to us were generally plain and naturalistic, which isn’t bad necessarily, just less interesting. The cinéma vérité has gone too. At least they have turned the bloody lights on this year.
The set has been given a fresh new revamp, with probably more of a tilt towards actual pathology departments. Their lab used to look like a Gucci catwalk with added scalpels and sumptuous lighting. Now we have something a bit more simple, though they barely spend any time in there.
The episode closes with an ominous phone call to our lead detective where the sniper killer guy tells her to close all the schools, implying he will be targeting children next. It would have been unsettling if BBC One hadn’t used this very phone call over the trailers for the episode. Still, even after hearing it a number of times before, it was good to hear it in context. Watch out tomorrow, kids!
Silent Witness: Sniper’s Nest, Part 1 is available to stream on BBC iPlayer for a limited time.
It's back! Nikki is back! Dr Nikki Alexander and her merry band of oddball body cutters are back to brighten (or darken) our January nights, and thats all that really matters!
Typical Silent Witness6