'Silent Witness: The Complete Season Seventeen'
(Emilia Fox, David Caves, Liz Carr, Richard Lintern, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2014 / BBC America)
Overview: In this long-running, hit BBC crime thriller, baffled police once again turn to forensic pathologists Nikki Alexander, Jack Hodgson and Thomas Chamberlin for help to solve murder cases with harrowing evidence that speaks louder than words.
DVD Verdict: As I mentioned in my review of the very first season (released at the very same time as this latest seventeenth season), I have watched every single episode, of every single season of this wonderful show; and have to say that each and every one was a complete and utter joy to behold. But, like most TV shows that have gone on for 17 seasons (18 now, as it just got renewed), the original cast was always the best. And as much as the group that surrounded Dr. Ryan in the first five season were good, and as much as the guys that surround Nikki Alexander from season 16 on are great too, the true A-Team came into play during the sixth season onwards re: Samantha Ryan (Burton), Professor Leo Dalton (William Gaminara) and Dr. Harry Cunningham (Tom Ward).
But, as that is leading us down the path into Season Six and subsequent seasons for a long time thereafter, let us concentrate on this very last inclusion in the wonderful 'Silent Witness' series. First broadcast in 1996, and still on air today, the series was created by Nigel McCrery, a former murder squad detective based in Nottingham. He later went on to create the hit series 'New Tricks,' with writer Roy Mitchell.
Having originally appeared in the Season 8 episode, 'Nowhere Fast', Nikki (Emilia Fox) was originally assigned to the Lyell Centre to defuse the tension between Harry and Leo after Sam Ryan's departure. However, Nikki soon became a permanent fixture within the team, and although at first she held a lower rank in pathology than her boss Leo, upon his departure - and then that of Harry thereafter - she soon got promoted.
Despite her native home being South Africa, Nikki regards the United Kingdom as her second home, as the reason for her departure from the country lies solely in the hands of her father, Victor, as explained in the previous Season 8 episode, 'Double Dare'. Before his arrival at the Lyell Centre, Jack Hodgson (David Caves) was a forensic scientist for the police, working on regular murder investigations. However, when he is called out to the scene of a man's suspicious death in Season 16's 'Change', both Nikki and Leo spot his potential, and looking for a senior colleague to replace Harry, decide to offer Jack a job as the centre's forensic expert.
As it turns out, Jack is close friends with fellow colleague Clarissa Mullery (Lizz Carr), whom he invites to work with him at the Lyell Centre. She has a very cheeky side, and most definitely adds some light to the darkness here sometimes. Lastly, Dr. Thomas Chamberlain (Richard Lintern) took over as head of the Lyell Centre from Leo, who ** SPOILER ** died at the end of Season 16. He is an experienced forensic pathologist with a renowned reputation in toxicology and described as charming, charismatic and socially shrewd.
In the style of a murder-cop show starring someone besides a cop, the team of pathologists manage to solve all of the cases themselves, only occasionally calling on the aid of one of the actual police officers! Can you say, CSI-esque? Regardless, this British series is very often intense and graphic during some of the autopsy scenes, but it is consistently well-written and well-acted.
In the first Season Seventeen episode, 'Commodity.' as Leo's replacement Thomas Chamberlain arrives just as Nikki investigates the murders of Rachel Freedman. Shot in the head her little autistic son Nathan is also found poisoned. Nikki rejects policewoman Anne Burchett's theory that Rachel killed them both and sets out to discover the truth behind this horrific crime. In 'Coup De Grace,' forensic evidence given by Nikki contributes to the release on appeal of disturbed ex-soldier David Bennetto, charged with murdering two gay boys; one of whom he had sex with. But, DI Rachel Klein is not convinced of David's innocence , especially when a rent boy calling himself Byron Lee is shot dead and David's car is caught on CCTV near the murder scene.
In 'In a Lonely Place,' following the discovery of a young woman's corpse in a forest, Nikki and Jack travel to Scotland to assist DS Jason Ross, who mistrusts local pathologist Dr Jenkins. Prime suspect is hunter and gunsmith Niall Wallace, but he is eliminated from inquiries. In 'Undertone,' Nikki and Jack assist DS Sally Kirchner in identifying teen-aged Alice Preston, who was murdered and her baby taken live from her womb. DNA identifies the father as married Simon Turner, who admits to a one night stand with Alice, but claims he never saw her after giving her money for an abortion.
In the last episode of this thrilling season, 'Fraternity,' the body of teenager Katie Bowman is found dumped in an open grave. DI Carter suspects Ryan Kelvin, boyfriend of Lizzie Kennedy, whose daughter Hannah was Katie's best friend. Ryan is also Jack's half-brother, whom he has not seen since he was forced to testify against him in a court case some years earlier. To avoid a clash of interests Thomas brings in pathologist Helen Ferguson, suspending Jack. Jack however does his own sleuthing.
'Silent Witness' is still a very well-written show and I highly recommend it when you get the chance to invest in this long-running British crime series. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.