|Created by||Nigel McCrery|
|Theme music composer||Geoffrey Burgon (s. 1)|
John Harle (s. 2–present)
|Composers||Geoffrey Burgon (s. 1)|
John Harle (s. 2–7)
Paul Leonard-Morgan (s. 8)
Sheridan Tongue (s. 9–20)
Andy Price (s. 21-23)
Nick Holywell-Walker (s. 24-25)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||25|
|No. of episodes||228 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producers||Caroline Oulton (s. 1–3)|
Patrick Spence (s. 4)
Mike Dormer (s. 5)
Jessica Pope (s. 6–9)
Laura Mackie (s. 6–9)
Hilary Salmon (s. 10–11, 19)
Phillippa Giles (s. 12–18)
Anne Pivcevic (s. 19–20)
|Producers||Tony Dennis (s. 1)|
Alison Lumb (s. 2)
Anne Pivcevic (s. 3)
Lars Macfarlane (s. 4)
Diana Kyle (s. 5)
Nick Pitt (s. 6–8)
Tim Bradley (s. 9–10)
George Ormond (s. 11–12)
Ruth Kenley-Letts (s. 13)
Richard Burrell (s. 14—ep. 15.2)
Mat Chaplin (ep. 15.3)
Lachlan Mackinnon (ep. 15.4–15.6)
Sharon Bloom (s. 16—18)
Madonna Baptiste (s. 19)
Ceri Meyrick (s. 20)
|Running time||50 minutes (s. 1–5)|
60 minutes (s. 6–present)
|Production company||BBC Studios Drama Productions|
|Original network||BBC One|
|Picture format||576i (4:3) (1996–1998)|
576i (16:9) (1999–2006)
(1080i) (16:9) (2007–present)
|Original release||21 February 1996 –|
Silent Witness is a British crime drama television series produced by the BBC, which focuses on a team of forensic pathology experts and their investigations into various crimes. First broadcast in 1996, the series was created by Nigel McCrery, a former murder squad detective based in Nottingham. Twenty-four series of Silent Witness have been broadcast since 1996.
Amanda Burton starred as primary character Dr. Sam Ryan before leaving the show during the eighth series. Since her departure the series has featured an ensemble cast, which initially consisted of William Gaminara, Tom Ward and Emilia Fox, and later on David Caves, Liz Carr and Richard Lintern alongside Emilia Fox. At the end of series 23 Carr and Lintern both departed.
The programme is broadcast in more than 235 territories, including ABC in Australia, Showcase and the Knowledge Network in Canada, KRO in the Netherlands, TV One and Prime in New Zealand, BBC First in South Africa and BBC America in the United States. Silent Witness continues to achieve good audience ratings in the UK. In 2011, for example, Series 14 attracted an average audience of nine million viewers.
The main character in the original series was based on Professor Helen Whitwell, a forensic pathologist based in Sheffield, who McCrery had known while serving as a police officer. The programme followed the activities of pathologist Sam Ryan, played by Amanda Burton, until she departed early in the eighth series.
There was a succession of regular supporting characters, changing almost every series, but Dr Leo Dalton (William Gaminara) and Dr Harry Cunningham (Tom Ward), who were introduced in the sixth series, continued as lead characters following Ryan's departure, with Dalton replacing her as professor.
A new character, Dr Nikki Alexander (Emilia Fox), was introduced in mid-series eight, based on Dr Brooke Magnanti, a forensic scientist based in Sheffield. While working as a forensic anthropologist, she appropriates facilities and software in the pathology department to analyse an Iron Age find, with the belated, bemused and begrudging approval of Dalton. Dr Alexander is able to assist in a set of cases being investigated by the team, as it turns out she has "worked in forensic pathology in Johannesburg for six months" and is certified by the Home Office to practise. She eventually overcomes Leo's reluctance and, with Harry's support, is offered and accepts a position on the team.
Before the sixteenth series begins, Harry has left to accept a position in New York City. He is succeeded by forensics expert Jack Hodgson (David Caves) and his assistant Clarissa Mullery (Liz Carr). At the climax of the sixteenth series Leo is killed in an explosion. His replacement, Dr Thomas Chamberlain (Richard Lintern), is introduced at the start of the seventeenth series.
Although the show focuses heavily on areas of pathology, the police also have a presence in each case. During later series of the show, detectives and investigators tend to differ from episode to episode, with guest artists appearing in these roles. However, during the early years of the show several characters appeared regularly to investigate each case.
The first three series were set in Cambridge. This changed to London from the start of the fourth series, following Sam as she took up an academic position in the Lyell Centre, the Pathology Department of UCL. The programme remained in an academic setting until the end of series 16 when the Lyell appeared to have become separated from the University and operated as a stand alone institution.
Each series is typically made up of a series of two-part stories. The first nine series typically featured eight episodes (four two-part stories), except that series 4 and 5 each featured just six episodes (three two-part stories); this was increased to ten episodes (five two-part stories) from the tenth series onwards, except that series 12 and 15 each featured twelve episodes (six two-part stories). Series 25 will consist of just six episodes three two-part stories).
In 1998, the writer John Milne received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for the second series episode "Blood, Sweat and Tears". In the United States the series airs during 'Mystery Monday' on BBC America.
The theme music from series 2 onwards is entitled Silencium and is performed by John Harle. The arrangement, for chamber orchestra and soprano saxophone solo, was first performed as part of the Canterbury Festival on 22 October 2011. The vocal section is performed by Sarah Leonard.
The incidental music used in the series is written by the BAFTA-nominated composer Sheridan Tongue.
An episode first broadcast in April 2012 attracted criticism for its violent and sadistic content. There were 632 complaints made about the fifteenth-series episode Redhill, written by Ed Whitmore, which included a scene depicting a sadistic sexual and murderous attack. The BBC was censured by the editorial committee of the BBC Trust, which said in its report:
When the prison officer emerged from the toilet holding the bloodied stick with a pool of blood on the toilet floor, viewers were left in no doubt that an act of sexual violence was being carried out. ... The committee concluded that the final scenes in the toilet block were in breach of the guidelines on harm and offence as they exceeded audience expectations for this series as they depicted a sadistic method of inflicting pain, injury and death.
The BBC had responded to the initial criticism of the episode by saying that it took its responsibility to its audience "extremely seriously" and always tried to "strike the right balance between compelling drama without being unnecessarily graphic". It said that "The final scene was not an attempt to gratuitously shock the audience; ... We acknowledge that certain scenes may have been challenging, but we filmed and presented them in such a way as to make sure that although as a viewer the implication was there, it was never actually shown."
The show has also been criticised by reviewer Michael Hogan. Reviewing the first episode of series 21, he asked in the UK's Daily Telegraph how it had become the world’s longest running crime drama, writing: "In place of convincing dialogue or emotion, they instead exchanged meaningful stares" and "The leading pair were so wooden, they made the bodies on the autopsy slab look lively."
Main article: List of Silent Witness episodes
|Series||Episodes||Originally aired||Average viewership|
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||8||21 February 1996||3 April 1996||N/A|
|2||8||14 February 1997||11 April 1997||N/A|
|3||8||19 March 1998||24 April 1998||N/A|
|4||6||30 May 1999||16 June 1999||9.27|
|5||6||11 December 2000||20 March 2001||8.78|
|6||8||28 September 2002||27 October 2002||7.79|
|7||8||11 October 2003||2 November 2003||7.79|
|8||8||5 September 2004||26 September 2004||7.43|
|9||8||25 July 2005||16 August 2005||6.89|
|10||10||16 July 2006||14 August 2006||6.87|
|11||10||28 August 2007||25 September 2007||6.49|
|12||12||1 October 2008||6 November 2008||6.32|
|13||10||7 January 2010||5 February 2010||7.46|
|14||10||3 January 2011||1 February 2011||7.97|
|15||12||1 April 2012||20 August 2012||6.59|
|16||10||10 January 2013||8 February 2013||7.24|
|17||10||2 January 2014||31 January 2014||7.38|
|18||10||6 January 2015||3 February 2015||8.82|
|19||10||4 January 2016||2 February 2016||9.09|
|20||10||2 January 2017||31 January 2017||8.92|
|21||10||8 January 2018||7 February 2018||8.75|
|22||10||8 January 2019||5 February 2019||8.61|
|23||10||7 January 2020||4 February 2020||8.47|
|24||10||6 September 2021||5 October 2021||7.28|
|25||6||23 May 2022||TBA||TBA|
|Amanda Burton||Sam Ryan||Main||Does not appear||Main|
|John McGlynn||Tom Adams||Main||Does not appear|
|Clare Higgins||Helen Farmer||Main||Does not appear|
|William Armstrong||Trevor Stewart||Recurring||Main||Does not appear|
|Ruth McCabe||Wyn Ryan||Recurring||Main||Guest||Does not appear|
|Mick Ford||Peter Ross||Does not appear||Main||Does not appear|
|Nick Reding||Michael Connor||Does not appear||Main||Does not appear|
|Mark Letheren||Rob Bradley||Does not appear||Main||Does not appear|
|William Gaminara||Leo Dalton||Does not appear||Main||Does not appear||Guest||Does not appear|
|Tom Ward||Harry Cunningham||Does not appear||Main||Does not appear|
|Emilia Fox||Nikki Alexander||Does not appear||Main|
|David Caves||Jack Hodgson||Does not appear||Main|
|Liz Carr||Clarissa Mullery||Does not appear||Recurring||Main||Does not appear|
|Richard Lintern||Thomas Chamberlain||Does not appear||Main||Does not appear|
|Jason Wong||Adam Yuen||Does not appear||Main||Does not appear|
|Genesis Lynea||Simone Tyler||Does not appear||Main|
In Australia (Region 4), Series 1 through 23 have been released on DVD through Roadshow Entertainment, starting with Series 1 on 7 September 2006 through to Series 21 on 28 May 2018. Universal then took over the releases beginning with Series 22 on 20 November 2019, and have re-released some earlier seasons this time as individual seasons rather than 2 season editions.
|Australia (Region 4)|
|DVD Title||Release Date|
|Series One||7 September 2006|
|Series Two||5 September 2007|
|Series Three & Four||6 May 2010|
|Series Five & Six||2 September 2010|
|Series Seven & Eight||5 May 2011|
|Series Nine & Ten||4 August 2011|
|Series Eleven & Twelve||1 December 2011|
|Series Thirteen & Fourteen||7 June 2012|
|Series Fifteen & Sixteen||5 June 2013|
|Series Seventeen & Eighteen||6 May 2015|
|Series Nineteen & Twenty||3 May 2017|
|Series Twenty One||28 May 2018
11 December 2019 (Universal)
|Series Twenty Two||20 November 2019 (Universal)|
|Series Nineteen||11 December 2019 (Universal)|
|Series Twenty||11 December 2019 (Universal)|
|Series Twenty Three||8 April 2020 (Universal)|
|Series Eighteen||6 May 2020 (Universal)|
|Series Fifteen||28 October 2020 (Universal)|
|Series Sixteen||28 October 2020 (Universal)|
During the early years of the show, series creator McCrery wrote and published four tie-in novels relating to the series, following Sam Ryan (Amanda Burton), Trevor Stewart (William Armstrong) and Superintendent Tom Adams (John McGlynn), and brand new character DS Stanley Sharman, with Burton generally appearing on the front cover of each novel. A fifth novel, "In Search of Evil", was due to be released in 2003, but its publication was cancelled.
|"A Case for the Defence"||1||9 September 1996|
|Walking home from a night out, Sam stumbles upon the remains of a mutilated body on a footpath in the Northwick graveyard. Evidence suggests that the killing may be linked to a particularly ritualistic form of the black arts, but Sam is unconvinced as the murder bears an uncanny resemblance to another murder committed in the same town many years ago. When a second body is discovered, Sam's evidence is called into question, and is used to create the information that the police need to solve the case, before the killer strikes again. As Sam and Trevor uncover information surrounding the circumstances of the murders, elements that once seemed like coincidences soon appear to belong to a more horrific plan.|
|"Strange Screams of Death"||2||3 August 1998|
|Sam is tasked with investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a woman whose body is discovered in a disused shed at a former American airbase on the outskirts of Cambridge. The post mortem reveals that she had been violently raped, before being tortured, and viciously murdered. When a second body is discovered in similar circumstances, Sam finds herself dealing with a serial killer, who has the hunger to slaughter again. Can her profile of information find the identity of the killer before it is too late? Meanwhile, as Tom Adams closes in on his prime suspect, Sam discovers that he may not be working alone, and a search is launched to find the accomplice of a dangerous criminal.|
|"The Spider's Web"||3||2 August 1999|
|Sam is asked to perform a second autopsy on a teenage boy who was killed in a tragic joyriding accident, when despite his parents' protests, the results of the autopsy seem clear—he died of multiple injuries consistent with a high-speed car crash. However, as Trevor performed the post mortem, Sam is reluctant to go up against her friend and colleague, in an attempt to find the answers that the family are looking for. However, reading Trevor's post mortem report prompts Sam to go ahead with the second autopsy, and her findings seem to suggest that the accident may have been no such thing. But neither Trevor nor Superintendent Tom Adams accepts her findings, and believe that she is reading between the lines.|
|"Faceless Strangers"||4||3 September 2001|
|When the wife and beau of a local member of parliament is found dead in her own home, Superintendent Tom Adams calls upon Sam and the entire resources of the Cambridge Constabulary, in an attempt to further his career, and solve the case as quickly as possible. However, his investigation is halted by the discovery of the decomposed body of a homeless drug addict in the local underground toilet block. When Adams dismisses the death as an open and shut case, one of his juniors, DS Stanley Sharman, decides to enlist Sam's help, to discover the identity of the dead woman—and discover just who is responsible for her death. Meanwhile, Adams is determined to crack his case.|