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					Waking the Dead: Season 1, (2000). This is a British mystery/police procedural
television series made by and for the BBC (British Broadcasting Company). To the best
of my knowledge, it has only been seen here on BBCAmerica: at least that’s where I saw
it, some years ago. But it stuck in my memory, as it just might in yours. The series is
set in contemporary times, and may be considered a British, slower-moving version of
the American CSI. It follows the cold case unit, police investigators who use modern
techniques to solve old murder cases, and has won international Emmys. The unit, led by
DSI (Detective Supervising Inspector) Peter Boyd (Trevor Eve), includes cops, a
scientist, and a psychologist/profiler, who do their best to combine forensics, psychology
and old-fashioned police work. It was created by Barbara Machin, as, apparently, an
original concept, and in fact, shows a strong female influence at the helm throughout.
This set consists of three disks, running approximately 567 minutes, and has good
subtitles.

Eve, a somber, gripping and intense presence, (HEAT OF THE SUN, MASTERPIECE
CONTEMPORARY:FRAMED) is ably supported by Sue Johnston (THE ROYLE
FAMILY) as Grace Foley, psychologist/profiler, and they play off each other well. In
fact, they play off each other so well that Holly Aird, playing the unit’s forensics expert
Frankie Wharton, who was originally given second billing behind Eve on the pilot
episode, is dropped to third billing when the series proper begins. (Boyd also is seen with
a family in the pilot, which he loses by the first episode, apparently in accordance with
the unwritten rule of British TV mystery series, that the detective may have no family.)
The show, although slow-moving by American standards, is intense and suspenseful,
with some onscreen violence, and probably not for shrinking violets. And it is refreshing
to see investigations headed by middle-aged, no longer perfect-looking people, as they
are in real life. Strong supporting players are many, including Annette Crosbie, equally
skilled at comic and dramatic roles (ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE, EDWARD THE
KING), and Anthony Valentine (RAFFLES). Also Amelia Warner, John Vine, Peter
Gallagher, Clive Russell.

The episodes, built around four unsolved crimes that have lain dormant for years, are:

The Pilot. Concerns the abduction and murder of Alice Miller, a young girl who
disappeared five years ago. The team inadvertently triggers the killer, who apparently
holds a grudge against Boyd, to strike again in exactly the same manner as before: this
time he kidnaps and holds the teenage Jodie Whitemore. Boyd fights to get the current,
urgent case for the Cold Team, which then finds they are struggling to solve past and
present crimes at the same time.

BURNOUT. The suspicious death of a celebrated war photographer in a car accident
haunts the photographer’s daughter: in fact, she thinks she has recently actually been
haunted by her father. Was the lensman’s death suicide, an accident, or murder? In the
meantime, her mother has moved on, and now lives with the photographer’s brother.
BLIND BEGGAR. A body is found, buried for twenty years, under the concrete in St.
Joseph’s basement crypt: the local Catholic community is deeply shaken. Annette
Crosbie, as Moira Bowen, wife of a local contractor, dominates the screen in this one.

A SIMPLE SACRIFICE. Annie Keel is a beautiful woman who has already spent 25
years in jail for a double murder, that of her husband and a friend of her son’s, to which
she had confessed. But an anonymous source has recently come to light, who was
apparently in the house that night, and has forensic proof of it. This tipster insists Annie
is innocent of the crimes, and points the finger at her surviving, long-estranged son.

EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE. The body of Debbie Britten, celebrated as a police hero,
is found in the Thames River. She is found to have been pregnant. Was her killer one of
her several stalkers, her estranged husband, or the unknown father of the unborn
daughter?

A minor caveat: the two parts of “A Simple Sacrifice” appear on two different disks.
This was slightly annoying, but the series is of such high quality it kept me riveted on the
sofa. When I was interrupted by a phone call from a friend, I hardly remembered my
name, let alone hers; such is my capacity for losing myself in things I really like.

				
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posted:12/25/2010
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