Waking the Dead: Series 1, Episodes 7 and 8: Every Breath You Take
Written by Barbara Machin; Directed by Gary Love
“You know when you put a fork in a sausage and it bursts? Well, it’s the same with brain matter.” - Dr. Frankie Wharton
A body is fished out of the Thames, and is identified as that of missing police sergeant Debbie Britten (Joanne Farrell). Given that Debbie was something of a poster child for the police force, DAC Christie orders Boyd to drop everything and spare no expense in bringing her killer to justice. Prior to her disappearance, Debbie attracted a number of stalkers, among them Michael Skinner (Andrew Buckley) and Christopher Redford (Lee Ross), both of whom emerge as prime suspects. However, Boyd’s old friend Steven Maitland (Thomas Lockyer), who worked on the hunt for Debbie at the time of her disappearance, knows more than he is letting on, and an illicit check on the police DNA database reveals that his relationship with her was far from strictly professional.
Series 1, as a whole, is comprised of four very good self-contained stories, and I’m of the opinion that this one is, overall, the best of the bunch. Actually, it’s a shame this was the last episode Barbara Machin wrote of her own show. One thing I appreciate about her scripts is her attention to procedural detail. Whereas I tend to find that most writers working within the confines of so-called precinct dramas tend to use the basic formula (cop show, medical drama, etc.) as a framework upon which to hang a storyline about relationships (not necessarily of the romantic variety) between various characters, Machin is every bit as interested in the nitty-gritty of what the various professionals do, and will spend a lot of time recreating procedure simply because it can be compelling in and of itself. In this storyline, a considerable amount of time is spent showing how Frankie locates some bullets that have been concealed at the scene of the crime. It’s fascinating to watch and, given Machin’s track record for comprehensive research, no doubt completely accurate. I’ve always been more interested in the psychological than the scientific side of things, however, so the most interesting part of the episode, for me, is the way in which it constructs two distinct profiles for Debbie’s two obsessive stalkers. Likewise, there’s a twist at the end that comes slightly out of left field, but in retrospect it does make a great deal of sense.
Elsewhere, the more compulsive, aggressive side of Boyd’s personality begins to emerge. This is certainly the first time we see him literally bawling at his subordinates and suspects, and on the whole the level of dysfunction between members of the team is much higher here than it has been until now. There are still some nicely touching moments, though, including Boyd telling Grace about his own past stalker-like behaviour towards a woman about whom he became obsessed (“But you see, ultimately, you knew when no meant no,” Grace points out; “No, I married her,” replies Boyd), and Boyd’s apology to Frankie after putting her job on the line (“I love you, Frankie” - I suspect you have to see it for yourself to get it).
Holby connections: Gary Love directed a number of episodes of Casualty between Series 12 and 14, among them my second-favourite episode of all time, Love Me Tender, which contains what can reasonably considered to be Claire Goose’s finest performance to date. This episode has a considerably more ambitious look than that of the rest of the first series as a whole.
Update, June 16th, 2008 12:05 PM: Incidentally, something I forgot to mention last night is that, in this episode, Grace states that she has a thesis to work on and “kids I never see”. Later episodes, in which it is stated that Grace never married or had children, directly contradict this.