Waking the Dead: Series 1, Episodes 1 and 2: Burn Out
Written by Peter Jukes; Directed by Edward Bennett
The series proper begins, and the various alterations made after the pilot had aired are firmly in case. The status of Boyd’s son now conforms with the established canon, although the fact that it is stated that he would be 25 now (i.e. 2001) is somewhat at odds with the depiction of the character seven years later in the recently aired Series 7, in which the actor playing the re-emergent Luke Boyd couldn’t have been much more than that age. Still, that’s a complaint for my Series 7 reviews, which I’ll no doubt get on to at some point.
In any event, this first episode dwells to a considerable extent on the degree to which the loss of Boyd’s son is playing on his mind. The specifics of his disappearance are not elaborated on at this stage, with it simply being made clear that he is missing, presumed dead. Fitting, therefore, that, on what would be his son’s 25th birthday, he encounters a young woman, Marina Coleman, whose father supposedly burned to death in a car crash nine years ago, who is haunted by the man’s memory and believes that there is more to the case than either suicide or accidental death. Badgered into taking on the case by Marina, Boyd, who initially tells her that he doesn’t accept cases on request, becomes increasingly driven to solve this mystery, much to the annoyance of his team, who are being leaned on by Detective Assistant Commissioner Christie (Simon Kunz) to produce results.
Marina, by the way, is played by Angela Griffin, who portrayed nurse Jasmine Hopkins throughout the first three series of Holby City. Several other names crop up on both sides of the camera related to it and its parent show, Casualty, beyond the obvious example of series creator Barbara Machin, and Claire Goose (who, immediately prior to Waking the Dead, played nurse Tina Seabrook for three years in Casualty), and if I can remember I’ll point them out as they occur.
This episode’s greatest strength, the straightforwardness of the mystery, is also its greatest weakness. On the one hand, the pool of suspects is fairly small and the script doesn’t throw in any unreasonable twists out of left field, which means that, unlike some of the later episodes, you can actually make sense of this one on the first viewing. On the downside, I guessed what was going on a few minutes into the second hour, after which point it became slightly frustrating having to watch the team going around in circles. Boyd is remarkably slow to catch on to all of this - “I don’t understand,” he says at one point. Well, it’s not exactly rocket science, and if I was DAC Christie I wouldn’t consider the amount of time it took the case to be solved as much of an incentive to keep the Cold Case Unit afloat.
In addition to laying much of the groundwork as regards Boyd’s son, we also get something of a hint of the sheer nastiness of which the character is capable when he tells a suspect, with some glee, that the team is about to exhume his brother’s body, and then proceeds, with total calm, to tear him to pieces by completely stripping him of his worth. In many ways, this earlier, calmer Boyd is actually more disturbing than the later one who rants and raves and throws his weight about, because he is so deceptively polite.
At the other end of the spectrum, though, I really enjoy the interaction between the team, and the sense of camaraderie that exists between them - something which is almost completely absent in the more recent episodes, where no-one seems to have a sense of humour. The jubilation they experience over cracking a particularly tough case is quite infectious, and the dinner scene between Boyd and Grace is very nice too. All in all, a good start to the series, if an unspectacular one.