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).

11 thoughts on “The Silence: BBC TV drama

  1. I found the plotting excessively silly; too bad, because it had such potential.
    It seems as if television crime shows don’t feel they have to bother with plausibility or even coherence. The number of times Jim “protected” Amelia by taking her somewhere risky and leaving her to her own devices was mind-boggling.

  2. Was anyone else disappointed at the ending to this really good drama? I felt I had wasted four hours of my life.

  3. It started off well, but then what a let-down!I thought there must be another episode, but the whole thing was too long anyway, so I was glad there wasn’t. I felt cheated and wished I’d not bothered watching it for four nights.

  4. I agree, it was riddled with coincidences and lots of laziness. One example – the two families were in-laws – I wasn’t sure for a while which of the parents were siblings. It turned out to be Jim and Amelia’s Dad Chris. Yet they had totally different accents – Jim was broad Scottish and Chris standard English. I did like the first two episodes even despite the plot daftnesses, because of the acting, atmosphere and the way it depicted teenage concerns so sharply. But – the second half (final two episodes) – it ran out of ideas so was reduced to threats and implausibilities (eg as you say, Barbara, Jim constantly failing to protect Amelia by taking her to places he knew were compromised eg the gym, and leaving her there). And, why didn’t he make a copy of the dreaded CCTV tapes? And so on. It’s one of those programmes where the more you think about it, the sillier it is. Back to reading, for me.

  5. Just downloaded it all – but having seen the comments not sure I’ll bother watching it after all. What a shame – I rather liked the haunted expression in the girl’s eyes.
    I’ve recently got thoroughly addicted to audiotapes – I’m not sure if I’ve had a lucky start but exh one I’ve listened to so far has been truly excellent.

  6. Yes. TOTALLY disappointed with the ending. I too felt that 4 hours could have been put to better use. BBC – what was with the ending ??(that for me wasn’t really an ending) it was as if the writers were just about to complete the script then had to leave the country suddenly or were kidnapped by aliens and the BBC thought ‘sod it’ we’ll show it anyway. Rubbish !

  7. The girl was exteremely good, Clare, I am glad I watched it for her alone. I don’t regret the time I spent on it, though it was a bit lazy of me!

  8. Agree with accent comments BUT must add that THE SILENCE was set in Bristol and having lived there for three years what was missing? Predominently SouthEast accents with a smattering of Scottish and a dash of Irish but not one lovely Bristolian burr even from the crowd around the boxing hall or the operator asking Jim about his injuries. For gods sake BBC get out of castle London and listen to the people of England!

  9. hi. No idea how it ended went away that week and the last episode didnt record. Does that not pis….. you off. any idea how i can see it.

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