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

    Comment number 1.

    I am truly miserable when I think the Waking the Dead will be no more after this series. It has become compulsive, nay, obsessive viewing since the first episode. The cast is brilliant and the stories suitably gripping and sometimes gruesome but always believable. Will I get over it? I doubt it.....boo hoo

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    Comment number 2.

    I am very much looking forward to the final series of Waking the Dead - as part of a small on-line community of borderline obsessive fans, I think I speak for all of us when I tell you how excited we are! :) I can't wait to discuss the new episodes when they air. Thank you, Colin, in advance for what looks to be a really gripping final series!

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    Comment number 3.

    I have harbored a wish for a while now that Peter Boyd might run into Leo Dalton and the rest of the team from Silent Witness someday, all in the line of duty of course. The stunning potential of a joint storyline involving the writers, producers and characters of both shows could, in my opinion, have the potential of producing one of the greatest TV drama events in the history of British television, especially if the storyline spanned a complete series.

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    Comment number 4.

    I'm completely gutted to hear that this is the last ever season. That being said, it does sound like it's going to go out with the proverbial "bang" and I for one can't wait till it happens. I will miss this show immensely, and although I'm not happy that it's ending, I'm happy that I've had the chance to watch such an amazing show from start to finish.

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    Comment number 5.

    Back in the day I worked in telly (for 10 years and now am a trainee Media teacher!) and Waking the dead is one of me and my husband's favourite programmes ever ever ever! To see tonights episode, which was probably one of the best drama episodes I have ever watched, and learn its the last series has been a total kick in the tummy (would have put whack in the guts/kick in the balls! but this a beeb forum)-WHY WHY WHY WHY has it been cancelled? It has, without a doubt, the best best cast, fantastic story lines, unbelievably brilliant twists, .... we are sooo sad tonight I just don't understand how the bloody Beeb justify cancelling such an amazing series..... Trevor Eve and Sue Johnston are as good a actors and top calibre talent as the Beeb will ever get and we are amazed that the bleeding top execs refuse to take a minor paycut (perhaps?) to finance what will surely be the loss of a totally brilliant, much loved jewel in the Beebs crown and leave an absolutely gutted audience. Shame on you guys (upstairs) but thank you all the others who have made this our favourite ever programme and to really transform our Sunday nights and (for what is such a brief time) make worth watching again.... oh that is just so poo :( x

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode and can't wait for tomorrow.

    I noticed a couple of things..
    I wondered if the two older people.. the Geigers, were perhaps a nod to American Gothic? As soon as I saw them, my mind went straight there! Loved it.
    But mainly, was there a small homage to David Lynch in there!? That shot with two elderly people gardening, bright red flowers in the back ground and a water hose spraying everywhere... Blue Velvet anyone!?

    *shrug* I suppose I shall never find out, but it certainly added to the enjoyment!

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    Comment number 7.

    Trough out the years Waking The Dead has made it mark on BBC for the show to end like this is sad on the ninth season of the show Trevor Eve has done a great job with Waking The Dead it is a pleasure for me to watching the show from the start and this final show and I watched every single show thank you to you the BBC for put this on tv and I wish Trevor Eve all the luck in the world because with Trevor Eve they will be no Waking The Dead and he done the well because I have watched dramas in the past but Waking The Dead and Trevor Eve is the best , I wish the rest of the cast good luck for the future I love Trevor Eve and his cast in the show you are the best so thank you all very much and finally you are breath taking to watch on TV.

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    Comment number 8.

    I only became aware of this show about two years ago, since then I have seen every episode, some more than once. This is one of the smartest shows on TV, and as an American living in "TV wasteland", it was a welcome breath of fresh air, nothing was ever solved in 42 minutes on this show the way it is on US crime dramas. I loved the cranky, bitter and sad Peter Boyd (Trevor Eve), the dapper Spencer Michael Jordan (what a name) (Wil Johnston), Boyd's foil, the motherly Grace (Sue Johnston), and rounding out the cast Mel, Stella, Felix, Eve and Frankie.
    I'm going to savor every episode of this final season, I pray it's as good as the last eight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I've been an avid viewer of Waking the Dead since Series 3, and regard it as being one of only a small handful of truly high calibre television dramas on our screens today: brilliantly written, superbly acted (particularly by Trevor Eve and Sue Johnston), visually top-notch. As an undergraduate student hoping to make a career for myself in television production, Waking the Dead is a show I consider to be a masterclass in quality, and as such I'm currently building my DVD collection of each series (up to series 3- will be buying 4 and 5 with the next student loan!). I'm genuinely saddened that it's time is coming to an end, and wish to congratulate all cast and crew on what has been, for me, one of the most valuable and enjoyable television dramas I've ever had the pleasure of watching.

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    Comment number 10.

    Great to see the series return, but get the detail right please. Peacehaven has never been in West Sussex (topic of e-chatter around here since that error was noticed last night) -- it's EAST Sussex. And was the uniform right for Sussex Police?

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    Comment number 11.

    Love the show - shame it's the last series. But I couldn't take my eyes off Sue Johnston's face. I don't know how much work she's had done on her face but she now looks like she's got cotton wool stuffed in her cheeks, and upper lip. Every time she talks she sounds like she's got a mouth full of doughnuts! Sorry Sue, love you as an actor, but please don't ruin your naturally beautiful features with cosmetic surgery eh...

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    Comment number 12.

    Sloppy BBC I expected more from you... Peacehaven is not in West Sussex it is East Sussex.

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    Comment number 13.

    I have never posted on anything like this before - but have watched Waking the Dead for many years. I have to say that I was disgusted to see Munchausen by Proxy being used as a factual condition in the story line. Professor Meadows - who 'discovered' this condition has had his work totally discredited by the GMC but has clawed his way back in on a technicality. Several women were falsely imprisoned only to be later released and exonerated of murder, many people had their children taken away from them only to have the Judges involved subsequently retire early 'to spend more time in their gardens' etc. A little more research and consideration for those who have been falsely accused would not go amiss. Parents lives have been totally ruined by false accusations - many of the children have grown up traumatised or worse.

    An announcement at the beginning of the next programme is called for stating that Munchausen by Proxy is a medically discredited condition.

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    Comment number 14.

    Did anyone else notice the mistake made in this weeks episode of waking the dead? When the characters referred to Peacehaven they said it was in West Sussex. I would like to point out that Peacehaven is in EAST Sussex. Surely the writers could at least get these sort of details right.. I ignored the fact that when they chased the criminal from a house in Peacehaven across some sort of lake or water course.. (We don't have anything like that in Peacehaven) and used poetic liecence to show a nice little bungerlow in a leafy street.. (we don't have leafy streets either) but getting the County wrong.. tut tut!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Stylishly rubbish. I'm surprised that actors of such calibre can bear to perform such warped material that has the potential to dangerously mislead the public.

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    Comment number 16.

    I absolutely loved 'Harbinger' - the darkly intense twists and turns were vintage Waking the Dead; the way we as viewers were led in one direction in the first part, only to have everything catapult in a different one in the second part was brilliant. My only criticism (and, without having seen the rest of the series yet, may be premature) is the apparent lack of continuity from series 8 - I'd love to know what happened to Linda Cummings and, more importantly, what happened in respect of Grace's cancer/recovery. That, and I would absolutely love to have seen more Boyd/Grace interaction as that, for me, is what makes the show so utterly addictive. However, all that aside, I thought this episode was a phenomenal start to the series and it just compounds the pain for me that this wonderful show will soon be over!

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    East Sussex - West Sussex: Waking the Dead is a fictional TV programme - does it really matter? When it was filmed in Newcastle it was also full of inaccuracies but does it matter???

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I will miss this fantastic show, it's such a shame they have to finish it it's one of the few good shows on the BBC

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    Comment number 19.

    Why is this series being cancelled? US series seem to run for season after season, but this very good drama is coming to an end too soon. Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    just watched for 1st time and little impressed after no tv for 16 years-however watch the killing, on i player; danish thrller if not already-18 episodes as i type - as its amazing- u will decide ;-]


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