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Silent Witness is an acclaimed BBC thriller series, focusing on a team of forensic experts and their investigations into various crimes. First broadcast in 1996, the twelfth series was broadcast from 1 October - 6 November 2008. The series was created by Nigel McCrery, a former murder squad detective in Nottinghammarker. He later went on to create the hit series New Tricks with Roy Mitchell. The series was based on Prof. Helen Witwell, a forensic pathologist based in Sheffieldmarker. McCrery had known Helen while serving as a police officer. The series normally attracted around seven million viewers in the UK. In the United Statesmarker, the show airs during 'Mystery Monday' on BBC America.


The programme originally followed the activities of a female pathologist, Dr Sam Ryan (who was promoted to professor part way through the series), played by Amanda Burton. However, Ryan's character departed early in the eighth series in 2004. There had been 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 in 2002, remained in the series and continued as lead characters following Ryan's departure, with Dalton replacing her as professor. A new character, Dr Nikki Alexander (Emilia Fox), was introduced to the team in the eighth series in 2004. She began as a palaeontologist, not a pathologist, and was originally enlisted by the team to help analyse bones. Alexander was later represented as having the necessary qualifications to fill the vacancy for a pathologist left by Professor Ryan, although she was initially stated to have a PhD in anthropology and not a medical qualification. She has, however, since been represented as medically-qualified.

Some early series were set in Cambridgemarker, but it relocated to Londonmarker after Dr Ryan had a serious brush with the authorities.

The programme is typically made up of a series of two-part stories, usually with six to eight episodes per series. 2006 saw five two-part stories, making ten episodes in total.

The series is often criticised for apparently showing the pathologist actively investigating the crime. This characteristic of pathologist as urban hero follows on earlier similar series such as Quincy, M.E. on US TV (itself based on an earlier Canadian TV series Wojeck) and is also shared by the continuing CBS series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

The theme music for Silent Witness is a song called "Silencium" by John Harle. The incidental music for Silent Witness (Series 9 - present) is written by BAFTA nominated TV & film music composer Sheridan Tongue. In 1998, writer John Milne received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for the Series 2 episode "Blood, Sweat, and Tears".


Dr. Nikki Alexander - Paleontologist / forensic pathologist - Emilia Fox (Series 8 - present)

Prof. Leo Dalton - Forensic pathologist - William Gaminara (Series 6 - present)

Dr. Harry Cunningham - Forensic pathologist - Tom Ward (Series 6 - present)

Dr. Sam Ryan - Forensic pathologist - Amanda Burton (Series 1 - 7)


The approach of the show, portraying pathologist as having an active role in the crime investigation as parodied by British comedic duo French and Saunders as 'Witless Silence'.

Dead Ringers also parodied Silent Witness, with Sam Ryan as an overconfident pathologist who makes incredibly specific guesses about the body; for example, 'Just by looking I can tell that this was a man aged 35-37 called John, having an affair with his secretary', only to be proved wrong by one of her assistants ('no that's an onion bagel I got for your lunch'). She then refuses to accept her mistake claiming 'wrong? Oh, I'm never wrong. I'm forensics professor Sam Ryan PhD'.


The current cast of Silent Witness l-r Tom Ward, Emilia Fox, William Gaminara
Series six to eight Cast: Gaminara and Ward with Amanda Burton

  • Note: All episodes in series 1, 2 and 6 to present series are two parts (40 x 2 parts = 120 minutes in total for each episode). Series 3, 4 and 5 are all 120 minutes episodes each (ie. two parts joined as one for each episode).

Series 1:
  • Buried Lies (premiere episode, Amanda Burton's first appearance, her associate(s) were normally guest stars)
Dr Sam Ryan, whilst looking into an apparently accidental death of a child who drowned, finds injuries on the child that show that is had been shaken viciously. But the police want to close this case.
  • Long Days, Short Nights
  • Darkness Visible
  • Sins of the Father

Series 2:
  • Blood, Sweat and Tears
  • Cease upon the Midnight
  • Only the Lonely
A young woman is found strangled and her husband becomes the main suspect, but Peter Ross thinks that this case may be linked to an unsolved murder. It appears that the murderer may have killed again, but Sam and Peter are in disagreement about the case.
  • Friends Like These
Sam is enjoying her relationship with Peter, when a random and vicious murder claims their attention. Then Sam sees two boys re-enacting a murder, she becomes certain that the team are going after the wrong suspect

Series 3:
  • An Academic Exercise
  • Fallen Idol (-Sam Ryan investigates the murder of a young estate agent.)
  • Divided Loyalties (-When a drug user and her child are found dead , it becomes evident that a serial killer is on the loose.)
  • Brothers in Arms

Series 4:
  • Gone Tomorrow
  • A Kind of Justice
  • A Good Body

Series 5:
  • The World Cruise (-Sam Ryan investigates the murder of two Jewish brothers found dead by their cleaner.)
  • Two Below Zero (-The body of a young girl is found in a holiday ski resort in Norwaymarker)
  • Faith (- Sam Ryan is unconvinced that the death of a headmaster's wife is the result of a suicide.)

Series 6:
  • The Fall Out (William Gaminara and Tom Ward's first appearance, ensemble cast established)
  • Kith and Kill
  • Tell No Tales
  • Closed Ranks

Series 7:
  • Answering Fire
  • Fatal Error
  • Running on Empty
  • Beyond Guilt

Series 8:
  • A Time to Heal (Amanda Burton's final appearance)
  • Death by Water (Duo ensemble — Gaminara and Ward [Leo and Harry investigate the death of a school boy and a mystery illness affecting his classmates. Leo is also faced with the decision whether to replace Sam Ryan])
  • Nowhere Fast (Emilia Fox's first appearance)
  • Body 21

Series 9:
  • Ghosts
  • Choices
  • The Meaning of Death
  • Mind and Body

Series 10:
  • Cargo (- the team investigate the deaths of several asylum seekers after the boat they were on crashed in the Thames)
  • Terminus
  • Body of Work
  • Supernova
  • Schism

Series 11:
  • Apocalypse
  • Suffer the Children
  • Hippocratic Oath
  • Double Dare
  • Peripheral Vision

Series 12:
  • Safe (- Leo discovers major problems with black gangs at a London football club, including stabbings, shootings and younger people being told to kill others.)
  • Death's Door (- A trainee goes around with Harry after a young woman is found next to a motorway with her face cut off.)
  • Terror (- A south London house is raided by police, when suspected of housing terrorists.)
  • Judgement (- A homosexual Orthodox Jewish man is found dead, with Harry and Leo having to deal with the tightly knit Hebrew group to solve the case.)
  • The Lost Child (- A young schoolboy is found dead and another has gone missing, Nikki must find the missing boy soon.)
  • Finding Rachel (- The team are in Africa. An aid worker 'Rachel' goes missing ).


External links

Title Music : Silencium by John Harle

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