We’re halfway through this special anniversary series of Silent Witness and already, so much has happened.
The Health Secretary was shot dead, Nikki (Emilia Fox) and Jack (David Caves) slept together, and viewers discovered returning Sam Ryan (Amanda Burton) may somehow be involved in the fabrication of peoples’ DNA.
Away from this complicated, layered arc about forensic science and DNA, we’ve also learnt a lot more about our leading characters.
After it was revealed Tom Faulkner (Matthew Gravelle) is Nikki’s ex-husband, the focus was on Simone (Genesis Lynea) tonight, who experienced a traumatic event when she was younger that saw her sister go missing.
Tomorrow night, it’s Jack’s turn.
Arriving in 2013, Jack is a character with a past heavily impacted by the Northern Ireland Troubles, he has difficult relationships with his father and criminal brother and last year, he was forced to come to terms with the fact new face Cara (Rhiannon Jones) may be his daughter – not his niece.
Despite the fact we do know quite a bit about Jack, there is still so much more to discover as tomorrow night, he heads back home to Northern Ireland after learning his father, Conor (Richard Durden) is seriously unwell.
It’s an emotional storyline set to change Jack’s life forever and for Nick Lambon, producer of the series, he was looking forward to delving further into Jack’s past as he explains here, in an exclusive chat with Metro.co.uk:
‘There’s a story in series 17 called Fraternity, where we get to know Jack a bit more – it’s always been one of my favourites. Because of that story, I think that was why last series and in this one, there was quite a strong focus on Jack and his family. I want to try and reconnect with who is Jack, where has he been? Who is he now that he’s a bit older than when we first met him? I mean, when Jack was introduced, and no offence to David, but Jack was this young, bolshy character, sleeping with all these people and even took part in cage fighting!
‘Men who get older, who are quite isolated, I’m immediately fascinated by! If they haven’t quite committed in relationships, haven’t quite grown up, I immediately want to know why, and that feeds into the Nikki relationship in series 24. I decided there must be a reason why a really good looking, well paid, intelligent guy hasn’t been in a long-term, sustainable relationship, and I think the answer is because Nikki is there.’
‘Nikki’s relationship, Jack as a character and his past is all linked together really, in this episode’, Nick continues.
‘We want to explore Jack and Nikki, but to understand that you have to understand him and where he is in his life. We really wanted Jack to face real, difficult, complex emotional problems head on, which his brother represented, and his father represents in this story.’
In tonight’s episode, Nikki and the team worked with DI Johnny Campbell (Duncan Preston), someone Simone recognised.
It became apparent Simone knew Johnny as he investigated her sister’s disappearance when she was a child.
In emotional scenes, Simone discovered the case closed three weeks after Alayah went missing, leading her to wonder why on earth her family allowed her to believe the police simply gave up.
Simone’s grandma revealed Alayah had been in contact with her shortly after she disappeared but also said she wouldn’t be returning home ever again.
A devastated and lonely Simone made her way back to the Lyell Centre, ready to drown her sorrows.
What followed next was a scene Nick particularly loved:
‘Whenever I read that scene, and seeing the way they played it, it was all that stuff about sisters, you know? That’s what the show does brilliantly, they show the Lyell becoming a sort of surrogate family for each other, and I think that’s really clever writing between the two of them.
‘I also think Nikki doesn’t have many female friends. There was Clarissa, yes, but it was always Clarissa and Jack, and I love Simone and Jack together too, but it was nice to be able to push Simone and Nikki together as well.’
Away from Simone, Nikki is continuing her efforts to try and prove someone has tampered with Tom Faulkner’s DNA.
Unbeknownst to Nikki, Sam is hot on her tail and may have quite possibly had Tom arrested at the end of tonight’s episode.
With Nikki failing to tell the police about her theory, she is playing an incredibly dangerous game, and with Jack involved as well – two things are at risk: their friendship, and the future of the Lyell Centre.
‘Nikki is partly driven by some of the wrong motivations’, Nick explains.
‘She feels really guilty about where she left this man [Tom] and how and what happened, and the fact she had to shut him off. If you watch the series from the moment Nikki arrives to today, we really see a feature of her relationships is shutting people out or not talking to or about them again.
‘Jack senses that and is now on the receiving end of something really difficult and painful. He wants to help her but actually, her way of dealing with it is to not talk about it – which is really difficult for them as a duo. There’s a lot at stake for their relationship, she doesn’t want to drag Jack into it, she feels guilty, but she’s also convinced of what she’s saying.’
‘When it comes to the science, so much of the evidence is pointing at Tom’, he adds. ‘Nikki knows she’s taking a huge risk and some of the stuff she’s saying sounds a but crazy! Because of that, she’s not confident enough to let Jack or Simone or anyone else join her, and she doesn’t want anyone else to get into trouble, right? She thinks “if I get burned, that’s really bad, but at least it’s only me”.’
While Nikki may not fully understand what’s going on just yet, she is certain about one thing: what DNA fabrication could mean for the future of forensic science.
Look at it from another angle and Nikki’s discovery also has the potential to change this BBC crime drama forever.
Addressing this, Nick said: ‘Everything we understand about forensics, about DNA and about the makeup of Silent Witness is now under threat.’
‘That’s huge. That’s massive! So when Nikki puts forward her theory to Sam and her reaction is cold, she’s confused. This is Sam, the ultimate, the pathologist, the very first hero of the show, and she is definitely someone who would understand the stakes of what Nikki is saying immediately.
‘So, for Sam to say “I can’t help you”’, that’s very suspicious. It’s a very strange reaction and that’s what sends Nikki down the path she goes through the series.’