Waking the Dead: Series 3, Episodes 5 and 6: Breaking Glass
Written by Stephen Davis; Directed by David Thacker
“Yes, it is a speculation, Grace. I’m allowed to speculate - in fact I get paid to speculate.” - Detective Superintendent Peter Boyd
I’m slightly surprised, in retrospect, that I’d completely forgotten about this episode, given that, not long after I started watching it the other night, I immediately remembered it as one of my favourites. The investigation focuses on a young man, Terence Tanner (Charlie Creed-Miles), who, during a session of hypnotherapy, uncovered repressed memories of the abuse he suffered as a child in a care home. Initially sceptical, Boyd quickly becomes convinced that all is not right when the man in question is discovered to be someone other than who he claimed to be, and abruptly disappears from his home armed with a gun. Searching his computer reveals that he may be looking for a man he knows as “Papa Doc”, his former abuser. However, given that the man widely believed to be Papa Doc, Peter Murdoch, committed suicide years ago, the team have to contend with the fact that, if he isn’t stopped, Tanner may end up hurting the wrong man… unless, that is, Murdoch was framed.
Perhaps what is most effective about this episode is the way in which it intermingles past and present without resorting to any of the traditional flashback cutting associated with film and television. Instead, the director, David Thacker, seamlessly shifts between the two simply by moving the camera and, through various tricks, giving off the impression of having moved from one location and/or time period to another. From a purely logistical point of view, it must have been a nightmare to setup.
Beyond the aesthetics, though, we also have an excellent script, one which provides a fascinating look at the nature of having two distinct personalities and how it occurs in the first place (often as a result of unbearable trauma). As tends to be the case with Stephen Davis’ episodes, the treatment of the subject matter, while sensitive, is not above throwing in the odd bit of dry wit to lighten the mood. “I’ve got some bad memories, but I haven’t split my personality,” says Mel. “How do you know?” replies Frankie. I really miss this sort of banter between the team, and I’m acutely aware that it will disappear all too soon when two members of the cast are lost at the end of Series 4. We also get an interesting and unusually convincing (for television) portrayal of what this layman takes to be autism or Asperger syndrome, in which I detect something of the hand of creator/consulting producer Barbara Machin, given certain similarities between this and her equally effective portrayal of bipolar disorder in her Series 13 Casualty episode, One from the Heart.