Waking the Dead: Pilot
Written by Barbara Machin; Directed by Martin Hutchings
The two-part pilot episode aired almost a year before the series itself, and feels very much like a dry run. Not in the sense that it’s inferior to what followed, but because it clearly serves as an opportunity to test the waters by experimenting with the various parameters. Several elements were changed between the pilot and the first episode of Series 1: among them, fairly minor details like Mel’s surname (Silverman in the pilot, Silver in the series) and the music and title sequence, the familiar Joe Campbell composition not having yet been adopted. More significantly, elements of the characters’ lives shown in this episode directly contradict what we learn in the series itself. This is particularly true of Boyd, who, in the pilot, is still with his wife, with whom he has a baby, Matt. (In the series, Boyd and his wife are separated, and their son, Luke, is considerably older and is missing presumed dead. Actually, if you want, an argument could be made that Boyd does in fact have two sons, but I’m not sure how theoretically possible that would be.)
The pilot sets the tone by dealing with a case which has personal significance for Boyd. Several years ago, he was the investigating officer in the kidnap of a teenage girl. The girl was raped and then murdered, and the press announcement that Boyd has re-opened the case prompts the original attacker, Jimmy Marshall (Finbar Lynch), to abduct another girl, Jodie Whitemoor (Amelia Warner). By cross-cutting between scenes with Jimmy and Jodie, and the investigation itself, a considerable amount of tension is built up, exacerbated by our knowledge of how the previous case, the obvious template for this one, ended. To a degree, Boyd’s personal involvement feels ever so slightly contrived, but it’s an effective way to introduce the characters and the formula, and, in the second part, when it becomes clear that Marshall’s plans for Boyd go far beyond making him relive his previous failure, things (without giving too much away for first-timers) become even more personal.
Interestingly enough, Boyd, who, in the series, clearly believes in the “he who shouts loudest” mantra, is quite an understated presence here, quiet and contemplative, and actually diffusing rather than causing any arguments that break out among the team. Most of the conflict comes from the protocol-obsessed Frankie and her dealings with Spence, who is more concerned with the feelings of the dead girl’s relatives than with following the book. (Their opposing attitudes towards an exhumation raise some interesting moral and ethical dilemmas.) In later episodes, Boyd would become Frankie’s sparring partner, which in a sense is a shame, because I always felt Spence was the least interesting of the core cast, and confrontations such as the ones he has with Frankie in the pilot hint at a more interesting personality than we would end up with as the series progressed.
Holby connections: the director, Martin Hutchings, has helmed episodes of all three Holby shows, including the pilot episodes of both Holby City and Holby Blue. Additionally, David Sterne (Mac in Holby Blue) has a very brief appearance in this episode as a shopkeeper.