Silent Witness
Overview
Silent Witness is a BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 crime thriller series focusing on a team of forensic pathology
Forensic pathology
Forensic pathology is a branch of pathology concerned with determining the cause of death by examination of a corpse. The autopsy is performed by the pathologist at the request of a coroner or medical examiner usually during the investigation of criminal law cases and civil law cases in some...

 experts and their investigations into various crimes. First broadcast in February 1996, the series is still airing to the present day, with a fifteenth series expected to air in January 2012. The series was created by Nigel McCrery, a former murder squad detective based in Nottingham
Nottingham
Nottingham is a city and unitary authority in the East Midlands of England. It is located in the ceremonial county of Nottinghamshire and represents one of eight members of the English Core Cities Group...

. He later went on to create the hit series New Tricks, with writer Roy Mitchell.
The original series was based on Professor Helen Witwell, a forensic pathologist based in Sheffield
Sheffield
Sheffield is a city and metropolitan borough of South Yorkshire, England. Its name derives from the River Sheaf, which runs through the city. Historically a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, and with some of its southern suburbs annexed from Derbyshire, the city has grown from its largely...

, whom McCrery had known while serving as a police officer.
Encyclopedia
Silent Witness is a BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 crime thriller series focusing on a team of forensic pathology
Forensic pathology
Forensic pathology is a branch of pathology concerned with determining the cause of death by examination of a corpse. The autopsy is performed by the pathologist at the request of a coroner or medical examiner usually during the investigation of criminal law cases and civil law cases in some...

 experts and their investigations into various crimes. First broadcast in February 1996, the series is still airing to the present day, with a fifteenth series expected to air in January 2012. The series was created by Nigel McCrery, a former murder squad detective based in Nottingham
Nottingham
Nottingham is a city and unitary authority in the East Midlands of England. It is located in the ceremonial county of Nottinghamshire and represents one of eight members of the English Core Cities Group...

. He later went on to create the hit series New Tricks, with writer Roy Mitchell.

Background

The original series was based on Professor Helen Witwell, a forensic pathologist based in Sheffield
Sheffield
Sheffield is a city and metropolitan borough of South Yorkshire, England. Its name derives from the River Sheaf, which runs through the city. Historically a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, and with some of its southern suburbs annexed from Derbyshire, the city has grown from its largely...

, whom McCrery had known while serving as a police officer. The programme originally followed the activities of a female pathologist
Forensic pathology
Forensic pathology is a branch of pathology concerned with determining the cause of death by examination of a corpse. The autopsy is performed by the pathologist at the request of a coroner or medical examiner usually during the investigation of criminal law cases and civil law cases in some...

, Dr Sam Ryan, played by Amanda Burton
Amanda Burton
Amanda Burton is an award-winning actress from Northern Ireland. Burton is best known for her high-profile television roles as Karen Fisher in Waterloo Road , Sam Ryan in the BBC crime drama series Silent Witness, Clare Blake in The Commander, Beth Glover in Peak Practice, and Heather Black in the...

. However, Ryan's character departed early in the eighth series in 2004. There had been a succession of regular supporting characters, changing almost every series, but Dr Leo Dalton (William Gaminara
William Gaminara
William Gaminara is an English actor and screenwriter, best known for playing pathologist Professor Leo Dalton on the television series Silent Witness . His other television credits include Will Newman in Attachments and Dr Andrew Bower in Casualty.Gaminara voiced Dr Richard Locke in the...

) and Dr Harry Cunningham (Tom Ward
Tom Ward
Tom Ward is a British film, stage and television actor.-Early life:Tom Ward was born in Swansea, to the poet and academic John Powell Ward and Sarah Ward OBE, a farmer. His brother Tristan became a partner at Macfarlanes LLP, a firm of solicitors in the City of London.Ward was sent to the Dragon...

), who were introduced in the sixth series in 2002, remained in the series and continued as lead characters following Ryan's departure, with Dalton replacing her as professor. A new character, Dr Nikki Alexander (Emilia Fox
Emilia Fox
Emilia Rose Elizabeth Fox is an award-winning English actress, known for her role as Dr. Nikki Alexander on BBC crime drama Silent Witness, having joined the cast in 2004 following the departure of Amanda Burton. She also appears as Morgause in the BBC's Merlin beginning in the programme's second...

), was introduced to the team in the eighth series in 2004. She began as a forensic anthropologist, not a pathologist, and was originally enlisted by the team to help analyse bones. Alexander was later represented as having the necessary qualifications to fill the vacancy for a pathologist left by Professor Ryan, although she was initially stated to have a PhD
PHD
PHD may refer to:*Ph.D., a doctorate of philosophy*Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*PHD finger, a protein sequence*PHD Mountain Software, an outdoor clothing and equipment company*PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...

 in anthropology and not a medical qualification. She has, however, since been represented as medically qualified. Some early series were set in Cambridge
Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

, but it was later relocated to London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. The programme is typically made up of a series of two-part stories, usually with six to eight episodes per series. The theme music for Silent Witness is a song called "Silencium" by John Harle
John Harle
John Harle is an English saxophonist and composer.-Biography:John Harle - SaxophonistJohn Harle is one of the world’s leading saxophonists, and the most significant performer of the saxophone in the concert hall today...

. The incidental music for Silent Witness is written by BAFTA nominated composer Sheridan Tongue
Sheridan Tongue
Sheridan Tongue is a BAFTA-nominated British television and film music composer. He has written and produced music for many television shows including the BBC's Wonders of the Universe and Wonders of the Solar System, Silent Witness and Spooks , the score for which achieved a BAFTA Television...

. In 1998, writer John Milne received an Edgar Award
Edgar Award
The Edgar Allan Poe Awards , named after Edgar Allan Poe, are presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America...

 from the Mystery Writers of America
Mystery Writers of America
Mystery Writers of America is an organization for mystery writers, based in New York.The organization was founded in 1945 by Clayton Rawson, Anthony Boucher, Lawrence Treat, and Brett Halliday....

 for the Series 2 episode "Blood, Sweat, and Tears". In the United States, the show aired during 'Mystery Monday' on BBC America
BBC America
BBC America is an American television network, owned and operated by BBC Worldwide, and available on both cable and satellite.-History:The channel launched on March 29, 1998, broadcasting comedy, drama and lifestyle programs from BBC Television and other British television broadcasters like ITV and...

. It airs in Norway using the name "Tause vitner" on the Norwegian Broadcast Channel NRK, in the Netherlands by public broadcaster KRO
KRO
KRO, or Katholieke Radio Omroep , is a Dutch public broadcasting organization founded on 23 April 1925. Broadly Catholic in its spiritual outlook, KRO broadcasts the bulk of its television output on the Nederland 1 channel. KRO is also responsible for managing broadcasts made by the Catholic Church...

, Belgium on VRT
VRT
The abbreviation VRT may be a reference to:* Vehicle Registration Tax* Verkehrsverbund Region Trier, Trier regional transport* Vision Restoration Therapy, a therapy to improve the visual field after a stroke or brain injury...

 channel Canvas and in Finland on the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE using the name "Hiljainen todistaja" (Direct translation of the original title). Silent Witness has been criticised for gruesome and harrowing scenes as well as for its failure to convey the work of forensic pathologists accurately. Nevertheless, fifteen years after its inception, it continues to achieve good audience ratings.

Characters

  • Dr. Sam Ryan - Amanda Burton
    Amanda Burton
    Amanda Burton is an award-winning actress from Northern Ireland. Burton is best known for her high-profile television roles as Karen Fisher in Waterloo Road , Sam Ryan in the BBC crime drama series Silent Witness, Clare Blake in The Commander, Beth Glover in Peak Practice, and Heather Black in the...

     (Series 1-8)
  • Dr. Trevor Stewart - William Armstrong
    William Armstrong
    William Armstrong may refer to:* Kinmont Willie Armstrong , Scottish border reiver, known as "Kinmont Willie"* William Armstrong , Scottish border freebooter, known as "Christie's Will"...

     (Series 1-3)
  • Dr. Fred Dale - Sam Parks (Series 1-3)
  • Wyn Ryan - Ruth McCabe (Series 1-3)
  • Superintendent Helen Farmer - Clare Higgins
    Clare Higgins
    Mary Clare Higgins, a Democrat, was elected to her first term as Mayor of Northampton, Massachusetts in November 1999; she took office in January 2000. She was elected to a sixth two-yearterm in November 2009...

     (Series 1)
  • DCI Tom Adams - John McGlynn
    John McGlynn
    John McGlynn is a Scottish former footballer and current manager of Scottish club Raith Rovers.- Playing career :Musselburgh-born McGlynn enjoyed a brief senior playing career with Berwick Rangers, having been a youth player with Bolton Wanderers...

     (Series 1)
  • DC Kerry Cox - Ruth Gemmell
    Ruth Gemmell
    -Early life:Ruth Gemmell was born in Darlington, Durham, England. She has three brothers. She attended an all girls school in Darlington called Polam Hall.Her parents divorced when she was a child and she moved with her mother to Darlington from Barnard Castle....

     (Series 1)
  • Superintendent Peter Ross - Mick Ford
    Mick Ford
    Mick Ford is a British actor, screenwriter and playwright, best known for his portrayal of intellectual convict Archer in the cinema version of Scum. He also played Chico Barnes in the TV series based on the Dick Francis racing thrillers...

     (Series 2)
  • DCI Rachel Selway - Nicola Redmond (Series 2)
  • DS Tony Speed - Richard Huw (Series 2)
  • DS Rob Bradley - Mark Letheren
    Mark Letheren
    Mark Letheren is an English actor possibly best known for his roles as journalist Simon Kitson in ITV1s drama The Bill, as Ben Harding in the BBC1 drama Casualty and for his recurring role as DS Kevin Geoffries in Wire in the Blood.- Career :His large screen debut was in Restoration, with Robert...

     (Series 3)
  • DCI Micheal Connor - Nick Reding
    Nick Reding
    Nick Reding is a British actor. During a career of more than two decades, he is probably best known for playing PC Pete Ramsey in The Bill and DI Michael Conner in Silent Witness...

     (Series 3-4)
  • Professor Leo Dalton - William Gaminara
    William Gaminara
    William Gaminara is an English actor and screenwriter, best known for playing pathologist Professor Leo Dalton on the television series Silent Witness . His other television credits include Will Newman in Attachments and Dr Andrew Bower in Casualty.Gaminara voiced Dr Richard Locke in the...

     (Series 6 - Present)
  • Dr. Harry Cunningham - Tom Ward
    Tom Ward
    Tom Ward is a British film, stage and television actor.-Early life:Tom Ward was born in Swansea, to the poet and academic John Powell Ward and Sarah Ward OBE, a farmer. His brother Tristan became a partner at Macfarlanes LLP, a firm of solicitors in the City of London.Ward was sent to the Dragon...

     (Series 6 - Present)
  • Dr. Nikki Alexander - Emilia Fox
    Emilia Fox
    Emilia Rose Elizabeth Fox is an award-winning English actress, known for her role as Dr. Nikki Alexander on BBC crime drama Silent Witness, having joined the cast in 2004 following the departure of Amanda Burton. She also appears as Morgause in the BBC's Merlin beginning in the programme's second...

     (Series 8 - Present)
  • Professor Janet Mander - Jaye Griffiths
    Jaye Griffiths
    Jaye Griffiths is a British stage and television actress.Griffiths trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and has appeared in many television dramas, including a starring role in Bugs, which ran for four series...

     (Series 12 - Present)
  • Dr. Zak Khan - Arsher Ali (Series 14)

Parodies

The approach of the show, portraying a pathologist as having an active role in the crime investigation, was parodied by British comedic duo French and Saunders
French and Saunders
French and Saunders is a British sketch comedy television show written by and starring comic duo Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. It is also the name by which the performers are known on the occasions when they appear elsewhere as a double act....

 as 'Witless Silence'. Dead Ringers
Dead Ringers (comedy)
Dead Ringers is a UK radio and television comedy impressions broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and later BBC Two. The programme was devised by producer Bill Dare and developed with Jon Holmes, Andy Hurst and Simon Blackwell. It starred Jon Culshaw, Jan Ravens, Phil Cornwell, Kevin Connelly and Mark Perry...

also parodied Silent Witness, with Sam Ryan as an overconfident pathologist who makes incredibly specific guesses about the body; for example, 'Just by looking I can tell that this was a man aged 35–37 called John, having an affair with his secretary', only to be proved wrong by one of her assistants ('no that's an onion bagel I got for your lunch'). She then refuses to accept her mistake claiming 'wrong? Oh, I'm never wrong. I'm forensics professor Sam Ryan PhD'.

See also

The use of forensic pathology
Forensic pathology
Forensic pathology is a branch of pathology concerned with determining the cause of death by examination of a corpse. The autopsy is performed by the pathologist at the request of a coroner or medical examiner usually during the investigation of criminal law cases and civil law cases in some...

in the investigation of crime has been the central theme of several TV mystery-suspense dramas, including:
  • Wojeck
    Wojeck
    Wojeck is a Canadian dramatic television series, which aired on the CBC from 1966 to 1968. It was the first successful drama series on English Canadian television....

    , Canada (CBC), 1966
  • Quincy, M.E.
    Quincy, M.E.
    Quincy, M.E., also called Quincy, is a United States television series from Universal Studios that aired from October 3, 1976, to September 5, 1983, on NBC...

    , US (NBC), 1976
  • Waking the Dead
    Waking the Dead (TV series)
    Waking the Dead is a British television police procedural crime drama series produced by the BBC featuring a fictional Cold Case Unit comprising CID police officers, a psychological profiler and a forensic scientist. A pilot episode aired in September 2000 and there have been a total of nine series...

    , UK (BBC), 2000
  • Da Vinci's Inquest
    Da Vinci's Inquest
    Da Vinci's Inquest is a Canadian dramatic television series that aired on CBC Television from 1998 to 2005. Seven seasons of thirteen episodes each were filmed for a total of ninety-one episodes....

    , Canada (CBC), 1998
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