Waking the Dead: Series 5, Episodes 11 and 12: Cold Fusion
Written by Ed Whitmore; Directed by Richard Standeven
Series 5 draws to a close, and like Series 4 before it, it’s the end of an era. The casualties this time are long-serving producer Richard Burrell and lead writer Ed Whitmore, who both leave to do other things, and poor Esther Hall, who receives an even less auspicious exit than Holly Aird (whose at least got a brief mention in a conversation following her departure). It also closes on Waking the Dead’s first and to date only end-of-series cliffhanger, and an absolute whopper it is too - a situation made all the more frustrating by the fact that, back when it originally aired, we actually had to wait about 16 months for Series 6, only for it to be addressed in the lamest, more throwaway manner possible (more on that when I get on to reviewing Series 6).
Still, as season finales go, it’s a good one, thanks mainly to the “no holds barred” quality it has. With Mel’s death at the end of the previous series, we were shown that the regulars were by no means safe from harm, and so, when the lives of two of the main characters come under threat in this episode, we genuinely fear for them. At the heart of it all is Spence, who as I’ve mentioned before is, in my opinion, the least interesting of the original cast of five. He’s at his best in episodes that delve into his past (see also Series 3’s Final Cut), because they tend to be the only occasions on which he stops simply being a plod and is allowed to exist as an actual character. Here, in the classic “wrong man” tradition, he finds himself suspected of everything from destroying evidence to cold-blooded murder when vital evidence pertaining to a case he worked on as a uniformed PC back in the 80s goes missing from CCHQ (his pass having been used to gain access to the storage room), followed almost immediately by an arson attack on Central Lab in which further evidence pertaining to the case is lost.
Yeah, after watching the character for five years (six if you count the pilot), I’d find it a bit hard to swallow if he truly was corrupt, but that’s where the episode’s central twist lies. Again, I’d prefer not to give it away to those who are considering watching the series, so for the time being I’ll just say that someone on the team is involved in shady goings-on which have led to this situation, but aren’t fully aware of what they’ve got themselves involved in. As far as twists go, it’s a pretty good one, even if long-term viewers are unlikely to have any trouble fingering the culprit. Either way, it doesn’t really matter: the final half-hour is nail-biting stuff, and the cliffhanger I mentioned before could have been so good if the new regime that came in with the next series hadn’t completely dropped the ball.