Monday, October 24, 2016

Silent Witness

Amanda Burton as Dr. Ryan.
Premise:  Dr. Samantha Ryan (Amanda Burton) has recently relocated to Cambridge to work as a pathologist for the police and as a part-time lecturer at the university. Except for her long-time friend Trevor (also a pathologist), she has trouble connecting with her new colleagues. Initially, her lack of experience causes challenges, too, as she berates a witness during an interview and communicates with suspects during ongoing investigations. However, her medical knowledge and keen instincts eventually make her an invaluable member of the investigative team. As for her personal life, Sam has a strained relationship with her sister Wyn, who works at a convenient store while caring for their mother and her teenage son Ricky. After the third season, Sam moves London to teach forensic pathology at London University. Sam departs the series during the eighth season and the focus shifts to Dr. Nikki Alexender (Emilia Fox).

Running Time: 90 minutes (seasons 1-5) and 120 minutes (season 6 - present). The 120-minute cases are broadcast in two parts.

Status:  1996 - present; seasons 1-3 and 17 are available on DVD in the U.S.

Production Notes:  Creator Nigel McCrery, a former police officer, based his lead character on real-life forensic pathology Dr. Helen Whitwell. He wrote six Silent Witness novels that were published between 1996 and 2003. He co-created the later (and better) detective series New Tricks.

Our Review:  We only watched season 1 episodes with Amanda Burton, so it's possible that Silent Witness improved during its lengthy run. But based on our small viewing sample, we were distinctly unimpressed. Burton's pathologist exhibits little personality and makes too many boneheaded decisions for something who is supposed to be intelligent. We have no problem with close-ups of occasional bloody organs during autopsies, but Silent Witness seems to relish piling on the gore. The first episode is not a mystery at all, as the culprit's identity is revealed midway through the plot. Even in episodes where there is a bonafide mystery, it's way too easy to guess the murderer. Finally, Silent Witness needs some humor to balance out the grim, gray atmosphere.

Grade: C- (Amanda Burton episodes only).


  1. You should have stuck with the series Silent Witness with Amanda Burton. She was excellent. A+ series. Emilia Fox is a wonderful actress but her character does not compare . nor the series . to the work of Amanda Burton. Dr. Ryan far surpasses Dr. Alexander. I am both a fan of Ms. Fox and Ms. Burton.

  2. I totally agree with Jennifer, Silent Witness is a great show. Season 1 was just like any other show that is finding it's way. Amanda Burton's character is meant to be very dry in personality. She deals with death every day and most times its violent death. As the seasons progress so do the characters, including Amanda Burton's character. As with any show with such a long run, people leave and new people come and the interesting part I'd the development of all of their relationships. A++