'Silent Witness: Season Two'
(Amanda Burton, William Armstrong, Sam Parks, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / 2015 / BBC America)
Overview: In this long-running, hit BBC crime thriller, forensic pathologist Dr. Samantha Ryan (Amanda Burton) helps solve murder cases with harrowing evidence that speaks louder than words.
DVD Verdict: 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, the original cast was always the best. And as much as the group that surrounds Dr. Ryan are good here in Season Two, the true A-Team comes 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 sophomore set of episodes. First broadcast in 1997, 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.
Amanda Burton's Professor Sam Ryan is a clever, highly-intelligent and sometimes intimidating coroner and professor at London University. Her professional qualifications set her apart from other coroners in the area, and so she is regularly called upon to assist the police at homicide crime scenes and in subsequent autopsies.
In the style of a murder-cop show starring someone besides a cop, Professor Ryan manages to solve all of the cases herself, 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.
Indeed, very little of Sam Ryan's private life leaks into the series, and the series' primary focus on the murder in question is somewhat unusual to this genre. When a glimpse of Professor Ryan's personal life is revealed to the audience, it leaves them curious for more. Not that we get it, but it does begin to unravel as the years/season go by.
Helping Sam Ryan out along the way is Dr. Trevor Stewart (William Armstrong), who as well as being a pathologist in his own right, is also Sam's business partner; owning half of the morgue and its facilities. Dr. Fred Drake (Sam Parks) is Sam's main assistant during post mortems and on visits to crime scenes, often identifying DNA samples at the scene of the crime, and linking them to those responsible.
Having returned to Cambridge to take up a teaching assignment, Forensic pathologist Dr. Sam Ryan's job is to ensure that the truth will out; no matter what state the body in front of them may rest in. For, if the living told the truth, forensic pathologist Dr. Samantha Ryan wouldn't have to spend so much time examining the dead! Here in the second season of the mega hit UK TV show, the living want us to believe that an Asian boxer died of a fatal blow in an exhibition fight, an AIDS sufferer died of AIDS, a young woman was stabbed by her jealous husband, and an old woman was beaten to death by a violent alcoholic. But the dead tell different stories with their grim clues.
On a personal note, and due (one assumes) to budgetary cuts, unfortunately, half the outstanding members of the supporting cast from season one are COMPLETELY gone! Sam's family, which provided much of the drama in the first series, is now represented only by Wyn; Dr. Stewart's wife is gone, and we were left wondering for a while as to what had happened to his baby; and the cop shop, also a source of great drama in the first series, has been decimated. It is now headed by the blandly handsome Mick Ford (How to Get Ahead In Advertising), who plays Detective Superintendent Peter Ross, and does double duty as Sam's beau; and Nicola Redmond (The Phoenix and the Carpet) as D.I. Rachel Selway: her looks are more interesting than she is as an actor, in truth though! There are also fewer strong guest stars, but the show still stands strong on its own medical legs.
The first episode is "Blood, Sweat and Tears," where an apparently fit and healthy young boxer dies in the ring: Sam's suspicions are aroused and so an investigation is launched. In "Cease Upon The Midnight," Sam's postmortem upon the body of Stuart Evans reveals a suspicious needle track on his foot. He was too ill with AIDS to have administered this to himself, so who did? In the third episode, "Only the Lonely," a young woman is found strangled with her own tights. Ross would love to connect this case to an older, unsolved one, but Sam isn't so sure.
And in the final episode of the quartet, "Friends Like These," the body is found of an older woman who was frequently seen walking her dog. Ross and Sam disagree about this one BIG time, so who will be born out to be the smarter judge of character come the end? 'Silent Witness' is a very well-written show and I highly recommend it when you get the chance to invest in this first season. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.