The producer of Silent Witness says he has given the drama a “subtle shift” towards reality – by scaling back his forensics team’s unlikely involvement in detectives’ actual jobs.
Silent Witness has never confined itself to the forensics lab. Instead, this team of crime-solving scientists have often found themselves leading investigations and even taking part in police interviews.
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But since becoming producer for series 21 and 22, Kiaran Murray-Smith has made a few key adjustments to the show.
“I suppose the worry of mine, initially, was that they’re pathologists and forensic scientists, being detectives and doing detective work,” he tells RadioTimes.com.
“I think you’ve got to try and justify the fact that it is entertainment and that it’s not a documentary, but at the same time you’ve got to be as real as you can for the characters that we’ve got involved.”
Explaining why he’s made his characters “less present in police interviews,” he says: “Yes, they can be present in some of the interviews in houses, maybe, but generally they’re not around any more in the police interview rooms. Which is just a subtle shift towards a bit more reality.”
But making adjustments to such a “behemoth of a show” that has run for a massive 22 series also means striking a careful balance between evolving the show – and changing too much, too fast.
“It’s just little bits and pieces that we try and drip feed, to have an effect overall without having the audience all of a sudden going, ‘Oh my god this is a completely different show,'” Murray-Smith says. “But I think subtlety and nuance is the way to do it.”
What that means is more character-focused storylines for our Lyell Centre favourites: Thomas (Richard Lintern), Nikki (Emilia Fox), Jack (David Caves) and Clarissa (Liz Carr). It also means episodes which tackle “current issues,” including powerful storylines about drugs, violence against trans people, and flaws within the justice system.
“We’re trying to make it a little bit more expansive than just within the four walls of the Lyell, because after 22 years you have to try and go somewhere else,” Murray-Smith explains.
“And it’s quite difficult to do that and make it interesting, and also to keep the audience. Because the audience has been the stalwart of the last 22 years, and they’re so loyal and frankly we couldn’t have done it without them… we’ve got to do something for them and make it as interesting as we can.”
As for the future of the show, it’s the “constant evolution of Silent Witness” that has made this BBC “juggernaut” such a staple of British television, he says.
“As long as it doesn’t become dated, then I think it’s always going to be a winner,” Murray-Smith reflects. “It’s had years and years and years of doing what it does well, and I don’t see that fading any time soon.”