Waking The Dead: Maggots, jam and mouldy corpses

Friday 11 March 2011, 12:50

Colin Wratten Colin Wratten Producer

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It's a wet Friday morning at our studios in West London and it's my last day on series nine of Waking The Dead.

We have just delivered 10 hours of primetime drama to BBC One - the final ever series.

It's been a lightning five years since I started on series six and my mind turns to what I'll take away from the experience of working on a forensic crime drama.

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For a start, I could probably kill someone 20 different ways now and have an above average chance of getting away with it. It's good for you to see the different ways your licence fee goes to work, I think.

Oh wait, I've just thought of a downside. With the amount of gruesome script research I've done on my BBC computer, I'm probably on every government, police and Ministry Of Defence watch list, so maybe not a good idea after all.

Danger lurks at every turn. This series we have a scene where a corpse has a distinctive imprint on its skull. Eve works out it's where the head hit a manhole cover after the victim was run over.

After researching this element of the story, I will certainly think twice before putting the word 'manhole' into Google again, I can tell you.

One of my abiding memories from my time on the show is the day we filmed a scene in a mansion that involved a naked decomposing prosthetic corpse suspended upside down from a first floor balustrade.

The victim's silicon skull had been filled with jam to encourage the maggots to stay put (maggots love jam, apparently - who knew?).

In addition, the fly and maggot wrangler (yes, it's a real job) released hundreds of blowflies as the camera manoeuvred its way through the hallway, avoiding the dead taxidermal dog lying on the floor.

Eva Birthistle as Detective Superintendent Sarah Cavendish, Will Johnson as Detective Inspector Spencer Jordan and Trevor Eve as Detective Superintendent Peter Boyd in Waking The Dead.

It was at this point I was told the owners of the house were coming home early in the hope of meeting Trevor Eve.

Now, we are always completely upfront with potential location owners about our intentions. However, I wasn't convinced they'd be prepared for the harsh reality of the situation when they returned home.

So, as I stood by to welcome them back, the crew flew into action (like the last five minutes of an episode of Changing Rooms), using fly spray, vacuum cleaners and dustpans and brushes.

This was one occasion where we weren't able to say that "no animals (flies) have been harmed during the making of this film."

This last series of Waking The Dead certainly provides us with the opportunity to do something special, and hopefully surprising.

There are brief references to Mel Silver, Stella Goodman and Boyd's son Luke, not in a reverential way, but as a way of prompting audience memories.

Do you remember Boyd buying an enormous yellow model aeroplane in series five - Towers of Silence - when Grace's back was turned?

The plane has been knocking around the prop store for five years.

When we see Boyd's home for the first time this series, I suggested the yellow plane should be evident.

It's one of many small details for regular fans of the show. See if you spot it.

It's great working on such a highly regarded show. It's the producer's job to galvanize a film crew of 60 people.

Detective Superintendent Boyd and paramedics at a crime scene.

I try to provide an environment where the writers and the crew feel empowered to create compelling stories with dark locations, great sets, stylish costumes, authentic looking corpses and atmospheric lighting set-ups.

My job has been made so much easier because the quality you see on your television screens, in turn, attracts high calibre actors and crew year after year.

Quite simply, quality stems from quality.

The decision was made to finish and it certainly feels that we're finishing on a high, having not outstayed our welcome. Would you agree?

Boyd is about to come up against the biggest challenge of his life this series. Will he prevail?

You can judge for yourselves if we've got it right. I hope you'll let me know as I'd be very interested to hear.

Colin Wratten is the producer of Waking The Dead.

Waking The Dead is on BBC One and BBC One HD at 9pm on Sunday, 13 March.

For further programme times, please visit the upcoming episodes page.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 41.

    I was shocked to hear that there will be no more episodes, as "Waking The Dead" has been essential TV viewing right from the start. Over the years the quality of episodes has been outstanding, as has the parts played by all the cast members. "Waking The Dead" has certainly not outstayed its welcome, and I shall miss it terribly. Thank you for giving us this wonderful part of TV history. This is one occasion when I can honestly say that I will look forward to repeats!

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    Comment number 42.

    As most of the people in England I, from Holland, am shocked to hear that this series is coming to the end. I sincerely hope that it'll be repeated as there are a lot of people in the Netherlands who are fans of this series and even remember Trevor in one of his first TVshows: Shoestring I think it was called.
    But tribute to all the actors and other people who worked on these series!

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    Comment number 43.

    I think that the decision that Waking the Dead series was cancelled because someone somewhere thinks" that the show is getting tired" is a misjudgement of the decade because the quality of the programme is a constant value even from the very beggining. It would be very interesting to see what were the arguments used for this infamous decision. If the actors were fed up, many personal changes of the actors team already have been made without any damage to the quality of the series. The production team already includes many writters and directors, thus that cannot be problem at all. If we compare many other crime series: A touch of Frost, Trial and retribution, The Sommervil murders, Spooks, it is obvious that some of them were produced for even 16 seasons and are still going strong. The same is situation with Waking the dead. If I was a person on a position in BBC, I would rather cancel all those who insisted that Waking the Dead should be cancelled, than the series itself because this series represent the peak of the decade long tradition of BBC series quality. Like the other public, I have not seen the finale, and there is only two ways to finish the series: either to kill all the members of the cold cases unit, or to disband it due to costs for example. If someone in BBC think that the public opinion is important, surely the series would be continued, at least for some specials , for Christmass or something like that.Unfortunately, The Big BBC Brother decided to kill the series. How unfortunate!

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    Comment number 44.

    Please reconsider the end of Waking the Dead, it is a fantastic show, with a great cast and brilliant writing. The viewing figures speak for themselves.

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    Comment number 45.

    I can't believe the BBC is dropping Waking the Dead. It's been one of the best programmes they've produced in recent years, and I'll miss it a lot.
    Thanks to everyone involved for all those riveting storylines - they made my Sunday and Monday evenings all the better.
    BBC - PLEASE CHANGE YOUR MIND!!

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    Comment number 46.

    I'm afraid the BBC has decided to devote its financial resources elsewhere, thus it is hopeless. It saddens me greatly that the BBC does not care to explain thoroughly and unambiguously what drives the "creative" and budgetary cuts decisions of its "top managers" when it kills excellent programs. I 'm aware Trevor Eve is not the easiest person nor most diplomatic one to deal with but his Boyd character is much more credible than the one he just came up with in Kidnap and Ransom (I found it rather "unbelievable" and I'm a fan ...).
    It is hard to find gripping drama on TV that does not fall short as all the American series do, except for Dexter or Breaking Bad for example.
    I must give 5 stars to The Danish thriller "the killing" and impatiently await the second series to come to our screens too.
    The last episode starts now...

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    Comment number 47.

    WOW. Please forgive me if this is incoherent - I am literally in the aftermath of 'Waterloo', Part 1 and I am absolutely buzzing. THAT WAS AMAZING. In every possible way imaginable. The storyline is brilliant (albeit exceptionally disturbing), the acting is superb...and the scenes between Boyd & Grace were beyond beautiful. I am incredibly conflicted about tomorrow night's conclusion - I'm desperate to see how it all gets resolved (if indeed it does!) but equally I'm dreading the end of this amazing show. This finale has compounded my feelings that I am so not ready for it to be over. However, what an episode to go out on! I'm sure I will be back on here to heap praise once again on Part 2. My sincere thanks to everyone who has been involved with 'Waking the Dead' since its conception - you should all be exceptionally proud.

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    Comment number 48.

    Yes, most of what the reviewers below say is true but for goodness sake why axe decent drama when most TV whether BBC or ITV is crap. Most television programmes play to the lowest common denominator and are trivial, cheap to produce, not interesting or exciting and are badly acted. I suppose (she says reluctantly) there is room for something for everyone. There are far too many brainless programmes such as: who can sing, dance and act, who can stay in a room the longest with a group of morons or who can eat insects in a jungle etc. Then there are the usual dismal 'soaps' and the constant house and cookery programmes which keep being turned out in a different format. So please keep: the programmes showing how beautiful our country is, the interesting ones about the universe etc, the lovely filmed period dramas and the exciting and well acted dramas such as 'Waking The Dead' for the people who like to be kept on the edge of their seats!

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    Comment number 49.

    This is the first time i have ever commented on a bbc tv programme but felt compelled to do so as I am so gutted that this wonderfull drama is comming to a final end...what a waste of a brilliant programme. The actors in this drama are all so talented and have worked so well togerther, what with the fantastic writers to put an end to this drama is a move in the WRONG direction.

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    Comment number 50.

    Waking the Dead has always been amazing. I've never been so loyal to a show or so captivated by everyone in it. The actors are great alone, but amazing together. The writing is fantastic. No other programme on TV compares with it. What a shame to see it finish.

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    Comment number 51.

    The latest episodes have been the most troublesome and moving for me and I can't believe they are planned to be the last. I have never seen such a well researched and realistic dipictation of the lives in and around Residential Care in the late '70's, early '80's; homelessness and the police in and around Leicester Square and Piccaddilly at the same time, and as one episode said, pre "child protection" laws. Thank you for your bravery and for acknowledging in the unconftable truth that for so long was denied. I really havn't been so overwhelmed since they closed down 10/11 Highbury Crescent residential care home and 18 Highbury New park after the exposee in the London Evening Standard in the '90's. I was fortunate enough to not be a resident, but aged 13 some contemporaries were passing through this system, even ending up in that place Haut de la Gorren without paper work. Islington still wont'give over the records if they ever had any.

    Truth is often stranger than fiction, but in this case you've married the two. Thank you again especially to the writers and researchers and everyone as well as obviously the wonderful cast. Cheers!

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    Comment number 52.

    boo hoo! I am really sad, as this is the last episode on right now as I am typing this...
    I just can't believe that the one show that I really love on television is finished for good?
    There is nothing else... and I mean nothing... nowt, zilch, worth watching on tv any more...? Waking the Dead was the only show that I could actually sympathise with the characters in it, other shows in the same sort of genre don't even come close to it, the reason being you don't care for any of the characters in that mediocre, half ars*d shows that they call forensic cop dramas and they really suck in comparison to Boyd & Co!
    As the show is not finished yet, I obviously don't know the outcome of it yet but right now I am really, really hoping that there will be some spin off or one off specials in the mix? If not then, I say FAREWELL BOYD, and well done to everyone who has worked in the show from the beginning to end, this will be missed by many and it was truly a brilliant show... Good Bye.

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    Comment number 53.

    What an amazing finale to the last series of Waking the Dead. Heartbroken that it's not continuing, such an incredible and gripping creation. Just seen that Body Farm is coming along.....so let's hope that's just as good. Well done BBC for these last few years of top-class entertainment this is the sort of drama it's worth paying the licence fee for!!!!

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    Comment number 54.

    Superb! A fitting climax to the best series on the box. Will be sadly missed.

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    Comment number 55.

    I'm stunned that the BBC should be cutting this series from its output. They ought to be ashamed! "Waking the Dead" has been a beacon of excellence in an otherwise pretty mediocre schedule.
    A very sad loss to the schedules.

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    Comment number 56.

    I have just watched the final of Waking the Dead. This was truly an exceptional 2 episodes. I have never posted on a site before but this was so so good in every respect. Casting, acting, script, production-- fantastic. I am an not avid T.V. watcher but this could not be missed for a minute. Thank you to all involved.

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    Comment number 57.

    Waking the dead has been a flagship drama for the BBC. Such high quality writing & acting. Whilst it is sad that this evening was the last ever episode i feel the timing and method in which it was ended was right. Congratulations to all the team involved in producing the show. Fantastic.

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    Comment number 58.

    Thank you BBC for the series of Waking The Dead..sorry that it will be no more. Thank you to all those who have taken part..Trevor Eve superb, as Boyd..more of the same please if at all possible

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    Comment number 59.

    I am devastated it is over. What a fantastic show. The actors are amazing. Trevor Eve has this fatherly side to all his performances which makes them ring so true and his supporting cast are just so convincing. I will miss them terribly. It is one of the most gripping, involving, gritty dramas on the telly. If not the best.
    Why is it facing the axe?
    Losing this and Silent Witness is like losing thinking people's shows.
    If it is that the actors want to move on then fair enough but I hope it is not becuase of budget cuts.
    Bye by Boyd, Grace, Eve and Spence. You guys have been totally brilliant and I've so enjoyed watching you all. xxx

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    Comment number 60.

    So very, very sad to see the end of Waking The Dead. Its truely the end of an era, a classic TV program that will live in my memory for ever. Love the program, love the characters, love the actors, love the stories, love the filming. Just the best crime TV ever. So much better than that 'Silent Witness' stuff! Everyone on the program should hold thier head high...well done guys and girls. So very sad to see you go.

 

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