Forensics: The Real CSI, review: Silent Witness has a lot to answer for

Kat Harrold and Dani McGarry examine the fridge
Kat Harrold and Dani McGarry examine the fridge - Blast Films/BBC

By the end of the first episode of the new series of Forensics: The Real CSI (BBC Two), I was in two minds. As the credits rolled the voiceover said, “If you want to find out about what it takes to work in forensic science, visit”.

I mean, on the one hand, just try and stop me. I have watched enough CSI, and several lifetimes of Silent Witness, to know that what it takes to work in forensic science is to be able to rock a pair of disposable shoe coverings, smoulder gently in front of a toothsome colleague and leave little yellow signs by anything that piques your interest.

A thousand-yard stare to take you into the ad breaks also helps. But on the other hand, Forensics, a documentary series about what being a Gil Grissom or a Nikki Alexander is actually like in real life, was a salutary reminder that it is a) quite hard and b) quite gross.

This episode was entitled Body in a Freezer and that pretty much said it all. There was a body in a freezer in the recent drama Bad Sisters, and a couple of other sub-zero cadavers in some early episodes of Luther, but none of them looked like this one. Which is to say so decomposed and mushed up that the real CSI couldn’t show it without some heavy pixelation.

The freezer had turned up at a dump and the discovery of what was inside set off a forensics trail that, eventually, led to a prison sentence for the poor dead man’s carer. He’d loved him like a dad when he was alive, so he said… but once his surrogate dad died, his carer stuffed him in a freezer (that turned out to have been bought for the purpose) and left him there, so that he could continue to live in his flat and access his bank account.

As such there was a 24 Hours in Police Custody part of the programme (“the real” Law & Order, if you like) that was riveting, as detectives closed in on what had happened to the corpse and who had done it.

The actual forensics part, however, was less engaging. I suspect this is because forensics is, by definition, painstaking and slow. Of course, it’s churlish to criticise something for being precisely what it tells you it is going to be. Maybe that’s just a sign that on reflection, forensics isn’t for me.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.