The Silence: BBC TV drama

Extraordinary news – I've watched a TV programme over the past two or three evenings, due to an unusual combination of no football, no Prof Petrona, daughters busy doing other things, and not being impressed enough by current reading for it to keep me awake for a whole evening.

So, based on some good reviews in the paper during the week and with some technical assistance with the iPlayer (a new experience on me), I watched the BBC's four-part series The Silence, and rather enjoyed it – the first two episodes anyway, before it slipped into predictability. The plot is that the 18-year-
The silenceold, deaf  Amelia witnesses a murder while walking her uncle's dog in the park. The uncle is a senior detective in the Bristol police, Jim Edwards. Amelia is staying with Jim and his family while she undergoes therapy for her recent cochlear implant. Before she witnesses the murder, she sees the victim, a policewoman, having sex with a boxer at a local gym. She is so terrified by her experience that she does not tell anyone. Jim is a workaholic and brings CCTV tapes home of another investigation he's working on. Because Ameila is deaf she's jolly good at lip reading, so looking over Jim's shoulder while he's watching the tapes, she speaks out loud what the people are mouthing. This makes Jim realise that the case is linked to the murder in the park. His dilemma is that he suspects police corruption, so does not want to reveal to his colleagues that his niece is a witness as this would put her in danger, or that she has seen the tapes as this would compromise that investigation as well.

The positive aspects of this series are overwhelmingly the acting of Douglas Henshall, who plays Jim, and Genevieve Barr, the deaf woman who plays Amelia. Amelia's psychological relationship with her condition, together with her fraught relationship with her mother, are excellently portrayed, as is the whole "teenage condition". 

The downsides are the usual "beautifully designed TV lifestyles" of everyone and the cliched character of Jim's wife, overplayed by Dervla Kirwan in a way that reminded me of a marshmallow; the number of coincidences which if you stop to think about it is very silly; the length – two episodes would have been far better than four; the police complaints woman who looks like all those other suited, lipsticked-to-death TV detectives who surely bear zero relationship to reality; and the ending which threw in as many new (and blindingly obvious) ideas as it could in the last 15 minutes and then didn't do anything with any of them. (Oh, and while I am about it, the baddies were exceptionally stupid in the end, having been marginally cleverer than the impulsive and short-tempered Jim for the previous 3.75 episodes, but pretty comprehensively bettered by the cooler, more thoughtful Amelia.) 

Well, that seems like quite a lot of downsides. Even so, I did enjoy it: perhaps because the first two episodes were far superior to the last two, I was sufficiently mellow to forgive all the latters' laziness and cliche. In sum, a reasonable enough way to pass the time if you don't have anything better to do, but my TV-watching experiment has not convinced me that I'm missing anything much by not doing it and reading books instead.

The Silence at the BBC website, with various links including to the iPlayer version, good for a few more days on the TV and for about 3 weeks on your computer, I believe, if you are in the UK.

About The Silence at Douglas Henshall's website, including lists of cast, crew, episode guides, etc.

Reviews of The Silence at The Guardian blog (positive, mainly about deafness), HeraldScotland (negative), The Telegraph (mixed), The Arts Desk (mainly positive).