Friday, 29 April 2011

The Expert

So ‘Waking The Dead’ has finally ended its 9 year TV run and Superintendent Boyd has walked off into the sunset to shout at someone else.  Shame really, as despite the grisly stories of torture and death, WTD was a first rate drama built around plot and character development rather than special effects and car chases.  It also added to a burgeoning tradition of police procedurals based around forensic pathology that over the years has brought us ‘Silent Witness’, ‘CSI’ and er…’Quincy’.  Even the demise of WTD has not stopped in-house pathologist, Dr Eve Lockhart (Tara Fitzgerald) spinning off into her own series, ‘The Body Farm’ to be shown later in the year.

But does my memory play tricks or was there a much older version of this genre – a BBC series called ‘The Expert’?  It ran from about 1969 to 1972 and starred Marius Goring as a Home Office pathologist assigned to help the local police solve crime.  The reason this programme sticks in my memory is down to one particular episode, the finale of season 2 or 3.  The plot involved the kidnap of Goring’s screen wife and the efforts of both him and his police inspector partner, played by Victor Winding if I remember correctly, to find her.  The shockingly unexpected denouement saw the kidnapper kill his hostage before she can be rescued and seeing Goring’s anguish, the inspector’s composure snaps and he beats the crap out of the kidnapper, effectively ending his own police career.

The series thus ends on a bombshell with the future of all the major characters in the balance. At the time, this episode made a huge impression on me.  In my experience of TV programmes up to that point, major characters did not die, nor did the police beat suspects to within an inch of their life.  The tension and the emotional intensity were almost unbearable.  Of course, these days such occurrences are almost mandatory, as ‘Waking The Dead’ illustrated time and again, but back in 1971 or thereabouts it was rare and the drama was genuinely shocking.

Unfortunately, ‘The Expert’ was made at a time when the BBC regularly wiped videotape after broadcast and I don’t believe many episodes exist in the archives.  Certainly, the series has not appeared on DVD so I fear the worst.  Nevertheless, I’d still like to track down that episode and see it again.  Does anyone know anything more about this series and whether episodes still exist?

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