DVD
Waking the Dead
Series 1 (Plus Original Pilot Episode)

Starring: Trevor Eve and Sue Johnston
BBC DVD

RRP: 24.99
BBCDVD 1685
Certificate: 15
Available 12 September 2005


The Cold Case Squad is a crack team of specialists set up by the Metropolitan Police with the specific brief of reopening the files on unsolved cases. They re-examine the evidence and requestion witnesses. If anyone can track down a killer, years after a murder, they can...

Series One of Waking the Dead sees the Cold Case Squad take on the challenge of five unsolved crimes: the kidnapping and murder of a young woman; the suspicious death of a war photographer in a car accident; a skull buried for 20 years in a church crypt which shakes the local Catholic community to its core; a double murder to which a woman confessed and has served 25 years in prison; and who killed a well-known policewoman - a stalker, her estranged husband or the father of her unborn child?

Leading the hunt is Detective Superintendent Peter Boyd. Haunted by the disappearance of his own teenage son years ago, his is committed to getting at the truth at all costs. Dr Grace Foley brings a psychological insight into the killers, Dr Frankie Wharton analyses the forensics, and doing the ground work are detectives Mel Silver and Spencer Jordan. They are the best minds in their field and dedicated to their jobs.

The pilot episode sees the team reopen a five year old murder investigation. A young girl was kidnapped and killed and her murderer was never caught, but now it appears he may have struck again. Boyd and his team must stay one step ahead of the killer in order to save another girl from being murdered.

Burn Out sees Boyd and his team tackle a case that is not, on first appearance, a cold case at all. Boyd tackles a young woman, Marina, as she sets fire to an abandoned car. It transpires that Marina's father died in a car accident a few years earlier at the same spot, and Marina refuses to accept that his death was an accident. Frankie runs forensic tests on Marina's father's car and discovers that he was still alive after the crash and could have escaped. So who killed Marina's father and why?

Blind Beggar sees a skull being unearthed in a church crypt when workmen are excavating the site. Nothing odd there you might think, but it soon becomes apparent that the skull is a fairly recent addition.

A Simple Sacrifice follows the case of a woman who has already served 25 years in prison after she confessed to killing her husband and her son's friend. The case is reopened when someone starts sending in forensic evidence that proves that the killer is still on the loose. Boyd sets about trying to uncover why a woman would spend the best years of her life in prison if she is innocent.

Every Breath You Take sees Boyd investigating the murder of a policewoman after her body is found in the Thames a year after she vanished. But with so many people who have motive for killing her (a couple of stalkers, her ex-husband and the father of her unborn child) the clock is ticking for Boyd and his team.

While all five two-parter episodes have their merits, I personally found A Simple Sacrifice and Every Breath You Take to be the most satisfying. It's not that the murders are incredible difficult to work out - in fact of all the episodes in this collection these two are the easiest (it's pretty obvious in Every Breath You Take but the writer has tried to confuse the viewer by introducing the murder into the story as late as possible. But once they are introduced it's fairly obvious). No, the reason I enjoyed these two stories is that there is a lot more going on than you normally expect in this sort of drama.

While you may not guess who the murderer is in A Simple Sacrifice, you will easily be able to work out why the mother confessed so readily. This story works incredibly well, tugging at the heart strings only when really necessary. And the identity of the person sending the clues into Boyd is incredibly well conceived.

But it is Every Breath You Take that really sees the show hit its stride. This episode also has some very subtle humour that works really well. When one witness is questioned he gives the police a photofit of the guy he saw hanging around the policewoman's house. The result is a comical man who would stick out in a crowd. It's obvious that this man never existed... or is it? There are so many suspects and so much going on that it quickly becomes a bit of a mess and the viewer will change their mind every five minutes about who they think the murderer is.

The first series of Waking the Dead is an incredible success. Clever writing and some of the best acting seen in a drama, make this a must own collection.

Nick Smithson

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