Silent Witness is a British television crime drama series, produced by
the BBC, which focuses on a team of forensic pathology experts and
their investigations into various crimes. First broadcast in 1996, the
series was created by Nigel McCrery, a former murder squad detective
based in Nottingham. (He later went on to create the series New
Tricks, with writer Roy Mitchell.) Twenty-one series of Silent
Witness have been broadcast since 1996.
Amanda Burton starred as
primary character Dr. Sam Ryan before leaving the show during the
eighth series. Since her departure the series has featured an ensemble
cast, currently consisting of Emilia Fox, David Caves,
Liz Carr and
Richard Lintern. The programme is broadcast in more than 235
territories, including ABC in Australia, Showcase and the
Knowledge Network in Canada,
KRO in the Netherlands, TV One and
Prime in New Zealand, and
BBC America in the United States. Silent
Witness continues to achieve good audience ratings in the UK. In 2011,
for example, Series 14 attracted an average audience of nine million
3.2 Main characters
3.3 Other characters
5 See also
7 External links
The main character in the original series was based on Professor Helen
Whitwell, a forensic pathologist based in Sheffield, whom McCrery had
known while serving as a police officer. The programme followed the
activities of pathologist Sam Ryan, played by Amanda Burton, until she
departed early in the eighth series.
There was a succession of regular supporting characters, changing
almost every series, but Dr Leo Dalton (William Gaminara) and Dr Harry
Cunningham (Tom Ward), who were introduced in the sixth series,
continued as lead characters following Ryan's departure, with Dalton
replacing her as professor.
A new character, Dr Nikki Alexander (Emilia Fox), was introduced in
the eighth series. While working as a forensic anthropologist, she
appropriates facilities and software in the pathology department to
Iron Age find, with the belated, bemused and begrudging
approval of Dalton. Dr Alexander is able to assist in a set of cases
being investigated by the team, as it turns out she has "worked in
forensic pathology in
Johannesburg for six months" and is certified by
the Home Office to practise. She eventually overcomes Leo's reluctance
and, with Harry's support, is offered and accepts a position on the
During the fifteenth series Dr Cunningham leaves to accept a position
in New York City. He is replaced by forensics expert Jack Hodgson
(David Caves) and his assistant Clarissa Mullery (Liz Carr). During
the sixteenth series Dr Dalton is killed in an explosion. His
replacement, Dr Thomas Chamberlain (Richard Lintern), is introduced at
the start of the seventeenth series.
Although the show focuses heavily on areas of pathology, the police
also have a presence in each case. During later series of the show
detectives and investigators tend to differ from episode to episode,
with guest artists appearing in these roles. However, during the early
years of the show several characters appeared regularly to investigate
The first three series were set in Cambridge. This changed to London
from the start of the fourth series, following Sam as she took up an
Each series is typically made up of a series of two-part stories. The
first nine series typically featured eight episodes (four two-part
stories), increased to ten episodes (five two-part stories) from the
tenth series onwards.
In 1998 the writer John Milne received an
Edgar Award from the Mystery
Writers of America for the second series episode "Blood, Sweat and
Tears". In the
United States the series airs during 'Mystery Monday'
The series airs in
Norway under the title "Tause vitner" on the
Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation NRK and in
Sweden on TV4 under
the name "Tyst vittne". Both the Norwegian and Swedish titles are
direct translations. The show is also broadcast in the
public broadcaster KRO,
Belgium on VRT channel Canvas and in Finland
on the Finnish Broadcasting Company
Yle using the name "Hiljainen
todistaja", which is also a direct translation of the original
The theme music featured in the series is entitled Silencium and is
performed by John Harle. The arrangement, for chamber orchestra and
soprano saxophone solo, was first performed as part of the Canterbury
Festival on 22 October 2011. The vocal section is performed by
The incidental music used in the series is written by the
BAFTA-nominated composer Sheridan Tongue.
In August 2012 the series came under criticism for being "unduly
gruesome". Controversy was specifically focused on the
fifteenth-series episode Redhill, written by Ed Whitmore. The BBC
responded with the following:
"As programme makers we take our responsibility to the audience
extremely seriously and try to make sure we strike the right balance
between compelling drama without being unnecessarily graphic. Towards
the end of the first episode, we had established that DI Bridges and
Officer Kessler had previously worked together and that he was the one
very much in control. The final scene was not an attempt to
gratuitously shock the audience; it was rooted in character and
research, showing just what DI Bridges was prepared to do for her
colleague for the sake of her family, as well as the brutality that
Kessler was capable of.
We acknowledge that certain scenes may have been challenging, but we
filmed and presented them in such a way as to make sure that although
as a viewer the implication was there, it was never actually
Silent Witness is now in its fifteenth series, and we believe the
general tone and content is widely recognised by its regular audience.
It’s fair to say the show is known for tackling challenging stories
and exploring adult themes and we don’t feel the content of these
episodes would have gone beyond viewers' expectations. As well as
scheduling the series after the watershed, we made sure the content
was widely publicised and gave a warning before both episodes."
Further information: List of
Silent Witness episodes
Professor Sam Ryan
Professor Leo Dalton
Dr. Harry Cunningham
Dr. Nikki Alexander
Dr. Thomas Chamberlain
Professor Sam Ryan (Amanda Burton) – Series 1–8. Sam
originally lived and worked in Cambridge, but moved to
London at the
end of series three after she was offered the job of professor at a
university. Sam departed in the first episode of series eight, "A Time
To Heal". Sam returned home to
Ireland after a member of her family
was implicated in a murder.
Professor Leo Dalton (William Gaminara) – Series 6–16. Leo
first appeared in the episode "The Fall Out", where he was nothing
more than a simple doctor. However, he was promoted to professor after
former professor Sam Ryan left. In the episode "Ghosts", both his
wife, Theresa, and his daughter, Cassie, are killed in a car accident.
He began a relationship with fellow professor Janet Mander in "Death's
Door", but ended their relationship in the episode "Domestic". Leo
often took a strong opinion on cases and became emotionally involved.
He died in the series 16 finale "Greater Love", when he sacrificed
himself to save many others from a terrorist bomb explosion. He
briefly appeared in a flashback in the last episode of series 20.
Dr. Harry Cunningham (Tom Ward) – Series 6–15. Harry started
out life as a junior doctor, who worked as an apprentice alongside Sam
and Leo. However, he soon qualified as a pathologist, and has worked
on equal footing with the team for a number of years. Harry was
single, and lived alone, but has had several romantic relationships,
including an ongoing 'will they-won't they' relationship with his
colleague Nikki. Harry left the team to accept a professorship in New
York at the end of series 15. As this was decided after filming was
completed, and the stories were reordered, with "And Then I Fell in
Love" airing last, where it was originally scheduled as the second
episode, his departure was never on screen.
Dr. Nikki Alexander (Emilia Fox) – since Series 8. Originally
appearing in the episode "Nowhere Fast", Nikki was originally assigned
to the Lyell Centre to defuse the tension between Harry and Leo after
Sam's departure. However, Nikki soon became a permanent fixture within
the team, and although she features more prominently in the series,
holds a lower rank in pathology than Leo. 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 episode "Double
Dare". Nikki often flirted with colleague Harry, and even invited him
to stay at her house after his flat blew up in an explosion. Nikki and
Harry were in an ongoing 'will they-won't they' relationship until he
left in Series 15. As well as this, she developed a close relationship
with Leo and looked up to him as a father figure.
Jack Hodgson (David Caves) – since Series 16. Before his
arrival at the Lyell Centre, Jack 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 "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. Jack is close friends with colleague Clarissa Mullery, whom he
invites to work with him at the Lyell Centre, much to Leo's surprise.
In his spare time, Jack is a cage fighter, and splits his home life
between forensic research and training for his next fight.
Clarissa Mullery (Liz Carr) – since Series 16. Clarissa is
Jack's personal lab assistant, who first appears in the episode
"Change", when Jack invites her to work at the Lyell Centre with him,
much to Leo's surprise. She is a disabled by an unspecified condition
and uses an electric wheelchair. She has a very cheeky side, first
making a quip at Leo after he fails to recognise who she is on her
first arrival. Clarissa had clearly worked for Jack for a long period
before his appointment at the Lyell Centre; however, the exact period
of time is unknown.
Dr. Thomas Chamberlain (Richard Lintern) – since Series 17.
Thomas Chamberlain has taken over as head of the Lyell Centre from Leo
who died at the end of series 16. He is an experienced forensic
pathologist with a renowned reputation in toxicology and is described
as charming, charismatic and socially shrewd. His first encounters
with Jack, Nikki and Clarissa did not go well but they were gradually
warmed to him. It is revealed in the last episode of his first series
that his wife has left him just before he started working at the Lyell
Centre, and has taken their daughter with her.
Dr. Trevor Stewart (William Armstrong) – Series 1–3. As well
as being a pathologist in his own right, Trevor was Sam's business
partner, owning half of the morgue and its facilities. Trevor decided
to stay in
Cambridge with his friends and family when Sam accepted the
professorship position at a university in
London and moved away at the
end of series three.
Dr. Fred Dale (Sam Parks) – Series 1–3. Fred was 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. He was also notable for not having many speaking
lines, and regularly appearing without speaking. His fate at the end
of series three was not revealed.
Professor Janet Mander (Jaye Griffiths) – Series 12–15. Janet
is a psychological profiler who assists the police in cases of serial
offences. She began a relationship with Leo in the episode "Safe", and
they lived together as partners until Leo ended the relationship in
"Redhill". She recurringly worked alongside the team to provide them
with information in order to get an idea of the suspect they are
looking for. Janet decided to move away from
London after Leo ended
Dr. Charlie Gibbs (Wunmi Mosaku) – Series 13. A junior doctor
and lab technician, who was appointed to work with the team by
Dr. Zak Khan (Arsher Ali) – Series 14. A junior doctor who
worked his forensic science apprenticeship with the team, to learn the
ropes of the profession.
Wyn Ryan (Ruth McCabe) – Series 1–3. Professor Ryan's sister,
who, after coming over to visit her from her home in Ireland, ended up
living with her on a permanent basis.
Ricky Ryan (Matthew Steer) – Series 1. Wyn's son and Sam's
nephew, who regularly got into trouble and was expelled from school
for very poor behaviour.
Rosemary Mason (Jane Hazlegrove) – Series 6–7. The main
receptionist at the Lyell Centre, before the change in focus from
university department to purely commercial pathology.
Superintendent Helen Farmer (Clare Higgins) – Series 1. A
superintendent, and Tom Adams' boss and mentor, who accompanied him on
investigating several cases during his time in the force.
Detective Chief Inspector Tom Adams (John McGlynn) – Series 1.
An investigator with the Cambridgeshire police force, who had an
affair with Kerry Cox, before her death.
Detective Constable Kerry Cox (Ruth Gemmell) – Series 1. A
junior trainee detective who had an affair with Tom Adams, but was
later killed in a freak accident in a hospital basement.
Detective Constable Marcia Evans (Janice Acquah) – Series 1. A
fellow junior trainee detective for the Cambridgeshire police force,
who resigned after Kerry Cox's death.
Superintendent Peter Ross (Mick Ford) – Series 2. A
superintendent, and an ex-boyfriend of Sam's, who believed in a strong
relationship between the police and the pathology lab.
Detective Chief Inspector Rachel Selway (Nicola Redmond) –
Series 2. Tom Adams' replacement, following his resignation from the
force. She joined the team alongside junior sergeant Tony Speed.
Detective Sergeant Tony Speed (Richard Huw) – Series 2. A
junior sergeant, who joined the team alongside his superior officer,
Rachel Selway. He knew Peter Ross from a previous posting.
Detective Chief Inspector Michael Connor (Nick Reding) – Series
3–4. A detective chief inspector, and old friend of Sam's, whom she
met during her junior years at university.
Detective Sergeant Rob Bradley (Mark Letheren) – Series 3. A
detective sergeant, who as Connor's junior officer, accompanied him
with the investigating in the cases which he was assigned to.
During the early years of the show, series creator McCrery wrote and
published a number of tie-in novels relating to the series, following
Sam Ryan (Amanda Burton) and Trevor Stewart (William Armstrong), as
well as former main character Superintendent Tom Adams (John McGlynn),
and brand new character DS Stanley Sharman, with Burton generally
appearing on the front cover of each novel. The fifth novel, due to be
published in 2003, was placed on indefinite hold, and has never been
"A Case for the Defence"
9 September 1996
Walking home from a night out, Sam stumbles upon the remains of a
mutilated body on a footpath in the Northwick graveyard. Evidence
suggests that the killing may be linked to a particularly ritualistic
form of the black arts, but Sam is unconvinced as the murder bears an
uncanny resemblance to another murder committed in the same town many
years ago. When a second body is discovered, Sam's evidence is called
into question, and is used to create the information that the police
need to solve the case, before the killer strikes again. As Sam and
Trevor uncover information surrounding the circumstances of the
murders, elements that once seemed like coincidences soon appear to
belong to a more horrific plan.
"Strange Screams of Death"
3 August 1998
Sam is tasked with investigating the circumstances surrounding the
death of a woman whose body is discovered in a disused shed at a
former American airbase on the outskirts of Cambridge. The post mortem
reveals that she had been violently raped, before being tortured, and
viciously murdered. When a second body is discovered in similar
circumstances, Sam finds herself dealing with a serial killer, who has
the hunger to slaughter again. Can her profile of information find the
identity of the killer before it is too late? Meanwhile, as Tom Adams
closes in on his prime suspect, Sam discovers that he may not be
working alone, and a search is launched to find the accomplice of a
"The Spider's Web"
2 August 1999
Sam is asked to perform a second autopsy on a teenage boy who was
killed in a tragic joyriding accident, when despite his parents'
protests, the results of the autopsy seem clear—he died of multiple
injuries consistent with a high-speed car crash. However, as Trevor
performed the post mortem, Sam is reluctant to go up against her
friend and colleague, in an attempt to find the answers that the
family are looking for. However, reading Trevor's post mortem report
prompts Sam to go ahead with the second autopsy, and her findings seem
to suggest that the accident may have been no such thing. But neither
Trevor nor Superintendent Tom Adams accepts her findings, and believe
that she is reading between the lines.
3 September 2001
When the wife and beau of a local member of parliament is found dead
in her own home, Superintendent Tom Adams calls upon Sam and the
entire resources of the
Cambridge Constabulary, in an attempt to
further his career, and solve the case as quickly as possible.
However, his investigation is halted by the discovery of the
decomposed body of a homeless drug addict in the local underground
toilet block. When Adams dismisses the death as an open and shut case,
one of his juniors, DS Stanley Sharman, decides to enlist Sam's help,
to discover the identity of the dead woman—and discover just who is
responsible for her death. Meanwhile, Adams is determined to crack his
"In Search of Evil"
3 November 2003
When the body of elderly widow Violet Thorpe is discovered beneath the
floor of her own cellar, Sam quickly establishes that she had been
poisoned, and died more than a year prior to the discovery of her
body. Meanwhile, the victim's contact with an old friend living in
Brighton, appears to be a vital piece of evdidence in discovering who
is responsible for her murder. When Sam and DS Stanley Sharman visit
the address of the old friend in Brighton, they find themselves on a
bizarre trail of a mentally deranged killer, who appears to be
travelling up and down the country in search of lonely old ladies to
kill, and Sam finds herself in a race to discover the identity of one
of the country's most prolific serial killers.
The use of forensic pathology in the investigation of crime has been
the central theme of several TV mystery-suspense dramas, including:
Canada (CBC), 1966
Quincy, M.E., US (NBC), 1976
Da Vinci's Inquest,
Canada (CBC), 1998
Waking the Dead, UK (BBC), 2000
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, US (CBS), 2000
Crossing Jordan, US (NBC), 2001
CSI: Miami, US (CBS), 2002
CSI: NY, US (CBS), 2004
Bones, US (Fox), 2005
RIS Delitti Imperfetti, Italy (Canale 5), 2005
R.I.S, police scientifique, France (TF1), 2006
Post Mortem, Germany (RTL), 2007
Rizzoli & Isles, US (TNT), 2010
Body of Proof, US (ABC), 2011
Silent Witness entry at TV.com
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^ "The Fall and
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^ "Arsher Ali". Retrieved 9 September 2011.
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Silent Witness at
Silent Witness on IMDb
Silent Witness at TV.com