Waking the Dead: Series 5, Episodes 3 and 4: Black Run
Written by Raymond Khoury; Directed by Ben Bolt
Back when Waking the Dead’s fifth series was first beginning to air, in September 2005, Sue Johnston gave an interview with the Radio Times in which she said that the nice thing about the new series was that it focused exclusively on the characters of Boyd, Grace and Spence. At the time, I thought this was a rather unkind dig at her other co-stars, but, in retrospect, I see what she was getting at: while three of the two-parters in Series 5 are what I would term conventional Waking the Dead cases, with the team solving them in their capacity as detached (personally if not emotionally) professionals, each of the other three focuses on a past case of one of the three remaining members of the original team. Black Run is Boyd’s turn to have his dirty laundry aired, and oddly enough it turns to be the weakest of the three.
The story: former police officer Eddy Vine (David Hayman), rotting in prison with terminal cancer, convicted of murdering his partner, Tom Palliser. Pending an appeal for his early release on grounds of ill health, Vine summons Boyd, the man who succeeded in securing his conviction a decade ago, to offer him forgiveness. Vine’s manner, however, is enough to plant a shred of doubt in Boyd’s mind, leading to him unofficially launching a re-examination of the evidence and witness testimony. Gradually, the rest of the team begin to suspect that Boyd may have coached some of the witnesses, causing them to question just for whom Boyd has re-opened the case. The worst is yet to come, however, when Boyd is suspended after putting a biker in a coma after seemingly being drunk at the wheel while in the company of Palliser’s widow, Sheryl (Diane Parish)…
Actually, this is a rather interesting episode for one very specific reason: the part of Eddie Vine is played by David Hayman, best known as DCSI Mike Walker in rival series Trial & Retribution. Seeing him going head to head with Trevor Eve is like some sort of weird crossing over of two different worlds - think The Flintstones Meet the Jetsons, only less crappy. Their scenes together don’t really have the sort of intensity I was expecting, in part because Hayman is putting on a less than convincing Cockney accent, with his regular Glasgow dialect occasionally slipping through the net, but it’s also because there’s something rather contrived about it all. The basic idea is that Boyd is set up for a massive fall by the vindictive Vine, with him pulling the strings from inside prison. Simply put, there aren’t enough scenes between the two characters, and the identities of the individuals that he manages to manipulate into screwing Boyd over are a little on the far-fetched side. Trevor Eve certainly acquits himself with applomb, as always, but, because the show’s producers would never allow him to commit a cock-up on as grand a scale as the one he is accused of here, the outcome is never in any doubt: Vine must be guilty, and Boyd must have been justified in coaching his witnesses to ensure that he went down. Vine is ultimately revealed to be a deeply unpleasant individual, corrupt to the core, but the programme ultimately ends up sending out the rather less than savoury message that it’s okay for the police to bend the rules to ensure a conviction provided they’re convinced their suspect is guilty. It’s actually not entirely surprising that the script comes from Raymond Khoury, best known for his affiliation with Spooks, a programme which frequently revels in glorifying this “bending of the rules” by authorities who seem to be allowed to operate above the law. The series of events in which Boyd becomes embroiled also greatly demeans the character, turning into a screaming, slavering idiot who by rights should have had his status permanently revoked. This is arguably the character at his absolute worst, and comparing this episode with something from, say, Series 1, provides a clear indicator as to just how much he has (d)evolved since the show’s beginning.
The other point of interest is that this storyline introduces Mel’s permanent replacement, Stella Goodman (Félicité Du Jeu). Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to warm to this character, primarily because she seems so contrived. Without giving too much away, she is brought into Series 5 to serve a very specific purpose, but once that purpose has been served, the writers of Series 6 and beyond allow her to remain, but end up taking significant liberties with her characterisation once her original raison d’être is gone. Du Jeu tries hard, but she’s always in the shadow of the rest of the cast, who are more experienced and have the benefit of better-developed characters. Stella’s input in this episode is fairly minimal, so she is less irritating here than she would later become, but she still makes me wish they had just kept Georgia Mackenzie on instead.