Hot- tempered copper on the cold case trail
IF this highly successful British crime drama should prove a hit for Nine during the summer, as it has for the BBC in Britain, the network will be laughing all the way to the bank.
Series three, which went to air in Britain in 2003, concluded here last week. Tonight season four ( 2004) begins. Waking the Dead indeed.
From a viewer’s perspective it hardly matters because, like the slick American Cold Case produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, the show is about old murders, dug up when new angles emerge. Unlike Cold Case , Waking the Dead has a diehard alpha male in the central role. As Peter Boyd, Trevor Eve takes no prisoners and suffers fools only with a great deal of glad malice at their expense.
The man patronises his way through life, frequently ranting and raving at his loyal staff ( especially Wil Johnson as Detective Spencer Jordan, and Claire Goose as Detective Mel Silver), annoyed when they fail to grasp the meaning of events as he sees them. He nips at everyone’s heels, even when not in a fit of pique, and moves about with a subdued, overconfident air, certain he is the only one who knows what’s going on.
But despite his flaws, or perhaps because of them, Boyd somehow engages our sympathies. In truth he usually does know what’s going on but, in a break with the tradition of such men, he backs down gracefully when proven wrong.
So in place of the usual smart, gregarious forensic champions of American crime TV, worshipped by underlings for their grit and experience, we have a grumpy Brit whose team members are constantly rolling their eyes behind his dogmatic back.
But this is not to suggest that Waking the Dead is in any way daggy or old- fashioned. Great performances, cunning plot shifts, time and perspective changes, and a stunning look to the production make Waking the Dead the equal of, or perhaps better than, any crime show coming out of the US today. Visual highlights include the action from cold cases being acted out in transparent monochrome over the colour shots of the contemporary cast at crime scenes.
Tonight’s particularly gruesome outing involves a case from 1948 in which a young woman awakes to a crunching, squelching sound.
Those with sensitive natures may want to make a cuppa or look away when the team breaks into a house in the present ( 2004), when a similar case emerges. The body has been dead for quite a while and giant blowflies have made a wriggling, maggoty horror of the head, shown in meticulous, lingering close- up.
Grumpy hero: Trevor Eve as Peter Boyd in Waking the Dead