|Amanda Burton as Dr. Ryan.|
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).