Waking the Dead: Series 6, Episodes 3 and 4: Deus Ex Machina
Written by Nicholas Blincoe; Directed by Andy Hay
This episode manages quite a remarkable feat: on the one hand, it’s completely different from any other episode of Waking the Dead ever aired; on the other, it totally forgettable. It plods along to its conclusion, going in one ear and out the other, leaving no lasting impression. The plot is an odd one that doesn’t really feel like it belongs in the series, clumsily roping Boyd and co into recovering the Skull of the Mahdi, an artefact taken from Sudan as a war trophy more than a century ago, when a prominent Sudanese politician, Khaled Ahmed (Abdi Gouhad), goes on hunger strike. The team are also tasked with re-investigating the murder of an Iraqi refugee, Omar Jaffiri (Hassani Shapi), whose death may be related to the case of the skull. Along the way, they come across the Fakir society, a crowd of pretentious academics who like to dress up in robes and perform bizarre, masonic-like rituals.
Struggling to put my finger on just why this episode left me so cold, I popped over to the BBC’s official Waking the Dead web site and took a gander at the various user reviews that had been submitted. One writer, Ian Gould, hit the nail on the head:
There were too many loose ends and the first part gave the viewer no ideas at all. I expect to be confused but this was beyond confusion, almost bordering on boredom.
The top and bottom of this episode is that it was based on three ideas of interrogation and that seemed to be the whole plot. I have never been disappointed with this excellent programme before but this particular episode was rubbish.
I apologise for using another viewer’s review in place of my own, but this simply demonstrates how much of a non-entity this episode was for me. Barring some striking images injected by the director, among them Eve’s physical reconstruction of the scene of Jaffiri’s murder, which mixes the past with the present in a manner reminiscent of Series 3’s vastly superior Breaking Glass, I can’t recall a single memorable moment in the storyline’s entire two-hour duration. Admittedly, it’s been a while since I actually watched the episode (I’m currently playing catch-up with my reviews), but I didn’t in any way feel compelled to revisit it. When it aired it was, by a considerable margin, the worst Waking the Dead episode to date, and while I feel that the next season’s Wounds was even poorer, there’s not really all that much between them.
Holby connections: in addition to his appearance in Dario Argento’s Mother of Tears, Adam James (Michael Leonard in this episode) had a recurring role in Casualty as lawyer-cum-rapist Pete Guildford during Series 19.