Burying the dead
After some delay, I finally managed to finish making my way through the fourth series of Waking the Dead this evening, a full review of which is forthcoming at DVD Times. As it happens, the sixth series finished airing on TV last Monday, and the difference between the two could not have been more pronounced. I’ve always liked Waking the Dead: its creator, Barbara Machin, is an excellent writer, and one capable of crafting interesting characters with believable foibles. For the first four years, the show focused on the same core five characters, but much changed at the end of the fourth series, with the departure of co-stars Holly Aird and Claire Goose (and executive producer Alexei de Keyser, who died shortly before the final episode of Series 4 was screened). The replacements drafted in to replace them have never quite managed to convince (in fact, Aird’s replacement, Esther Hall, disappeared without any mention after a single series and was herself replaced by Tara FitzGerald), while the notoriously convoluted plots have become baffling in the extreme, with the writers clearly assuming that it doesn’t have to make a blind bit of sense provided you include copious references to DNA and have the character of Boyd have at least three temper tantrums per episode.
Speaking of Boyd, what have they done to this character? He was always an irritable old so-and-so, an egomaniac with a belief that he who shouts the loudest will ultimately get his way, but his behaviour this year has verged on ridiculous. In the past, his outbursts were occasional and often used by the writers to make jokes at the character’s expense, but the sixth series has reduced him to a slavering, screaming moron who behaves like a petulant child. Furthermore, Series 6 was so filled with blithering and moronic, incomprehensible storylines that I actually gave up mid-way through the fifth two-parter (out of six), Double Bind - something I rarely do, and never with a series of which I consider myself a regular follower. Only the final episode, Yahrzeit, which focused on an old case being investigated by Goose’s character, Mel, succeeded in coming even close to matching the quality of the earlier episodes, and even then I found it a little confused as to the adopted Amelia “Mel” Silver, whose birth name was the decidedly Anglican Mary Smith, could have been trying to track down her Jewish ancestors (to be an ancestor, you surely have to be related by blood).
I really am pretty miffed by this turn of events. This show’s decline has been quite staggering - the fifth series wasn’t exactly brilliant, but it did have a couple of solid episodes among the dreck - and, for the first time, I’m not exactly bothered about whether or not another series will be commissioned. (In contrast, the most recent series of ITV’s Trial & Retribution, which aired at the same time on the same nights as this series of Waking the Dead, and which has in the past typically been the more variable of the two shows, was consistently excellent.) Perhaps Barbara Machin needs to come back and write an episode or two, like she did for Casualty during Christmas 2006. Then again, after her two episodes of that show had aired, it promptly went back to its now-customary banality. I don’t know - maybe it’s just time to call it a day.