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Series / Silent Witness

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"Dear Points of View, I watched Silent Witness with the sound off and it didn't make any sense."
Frankie Boyle, Mock the Week

British crime/forensic series, running from 1996 onwards, making it the fourth oldest currently airing crime drama in the world and the longest that isn't German (Tatort is the winner, the German show having run since 1970).

Starred Amanda Burton for the first eight series, until her character was written out in a plot involving a reunion with a Long-Lost Relative and a trip to Northern Ireland.

As of 2024, the series now revolves around the activities of Home Office pathologists Nikki Alexander and Gabriel Folukoya, forensic scientist Jack Hodgson, anatomical pathology technologist Velvy Schur, and Jack's niece, student Cara Connelly, as they investigate murders in London, though they sometimes help outside the city and several series feature at least one story in which the team goes abroad.

Could be considered a UK version of the CSI franchise, but lacks its flashiness (although it has elements of the wider investigating role); it also predates it. Like Waking the Dead (which predates CSI as well), it is done in two-parters, with each story shown over two days in the same week.

Has a character page.

This show contains examples of:

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     Tropes # - B 
  • The '90s: The first four or so seasons took place then.
  • Abusive Offspring: The twist of "Snipers Nest" is revealing that sixteen year old Craig Cross abuses his mother rather than the other way around. He regularly verbally abuses and threatens his weak-willed alcoholic mother (who was also abused by Craig's father), and eventually ended up teaming up with the deranged Adrian Turner to kill his father (though it was in retaliation for his father abusing him).
  • Always Murder: Notably averted in "Invisible", in which there are no murders at all. The initial body is a case of mistaken identity, believed to be Paula Jackson. She's still alive, and the deceased stole her identity; Paula's actions did lead to the death but it was accidental and she ends up not being prosecuted. The other death in the episodes is Paula's ex-boyfriend Roy, but he wasn't murdered either. After making a sarcastic comment about being able to fly, he was pushed by someone who had a learning disability and literally believed Roy could fly.
  • Anonymous Public Phone Call: "Snipers Nest" Adrian Turner calls a payphone at the sight of his latest killing, simply for no other reason than to boast how they had no hope of catching him. The police attempt to track the call, but it turns out that it was made from another payphone.
  • Artistic License: DNA testing. In the series, DNA tests apparently take a few days, tops. In real life, they can sometimes take up to 12 weeks. Justified in that it would be a bit dull watching the characters sit around waiting for DNA tests. That, and the reason DNA testing can take so long is because of the massive amount of samples coming into the lab everyday. Cases deemed a high priority (such as murders) tend to get bumped up the list faster and so get processed more quickly.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: during "In Plain Sight", Steve Monk a member of the Police Firearms division jokingly pulls a gun on a disliked woman from Internal Affairs as she's leaving only for another armed officer to angrily bat his arm down, a stunt like that would normally lead to an officer being hauled before the IPCC (Independent Office for Police Conduct) as a minimum. This serves as an early warning that Steve is the killer.
  • Asshole Victim: Comes up occasionally. Some major examples include:
    • Umer, a member of the gang grooming and kidnapping teen girls to be sex slaves in "And Then I Fell In Love", who is beaten to death by the stepfather of one of his victims after she committed suicide.
    • "Buried Lies" has Gary, an abusive drunk who beats his wife and stepchildren and did the same to his ex and her baby, let his young stepdaughter drown because she was ‘annoying’ and breaks into Sam Ryan’s home, rifles through her underwear and sniffs and burns holes into them. He winds up being non-fatally stabbed by his stepson after he tries to attack the boy’s mother.
    • Hearns, one of the main villains of "Trust", who kidnaps, experiments on and kills around three innocent people, and actually ends up being killed by the man he was blackmailing and framing to create anthrax by poisoning him with the same drug he used on him – on top of that, one of his victims was the man’s wife, who was pregnant with their child.
    • Sean Patrick in "Protection". He is stabbed in the head with a meat hook after the killer learned he had raped and impregnated both his daughter and granddaughter, tried to push the blame on his daughter’s husband resulting in the kids being taken into care, blamed his granddaughter for ‘making’ him rape her and killed his son-in-law to cover up the truth.
  • Attempted Rape: Happens to Sam in Series 7.
  • Awesome by Analysis: All the main characters, as per their jobs as forensic pathologists.
  • The Bad Guys Win: Several times. Examples include:
    • "Safe": The team fails to get a gang leader convicted for murder, or even for breaking dangerous dogs laws (since he illegally owned a dog that savaged one of his victims to death). The evidence finally gets him jailed for raping an underage girl, but he'll still be out sooner than he would have been with a murder conviction - and his gang is still active and grooming young boys to join them.
    • "Commodity": Terrorists got away with over two million pounds' worth of blackmail money, ended an innocent man's career by shooting him in the leg (he was a professional footballer), and will probably continue to attack Jewish/Israeli targets.
    • Zig-zagged in "Awakening": On one hand, no one from the cartel is brought to justice, Eva is murdered and the cartel still have informants inside the security detail, but on the other, the hostages, including Luisa, are rescued and Nikki escapes with her life.
  • Batman Gambit: In "After the Fall" Lydia's plan to frame Nikki for murder heavily revolves around this. It fails, though only just.
  • Berserk Button:
    • A murder suspect in "In a Lonely Place" finds out the hard way that openly admitting to hitting, and then insulting, a recently murdered woman around Jack is a bad idea.
    • In "Redhill", the usually levelheaded Leo punches a corrupt prison guard in the face for threatening his girlfriend.
  • Better Manhandle the Murder Weapon: Justified. In "Bloodlines", Harry wakes up in Budapest to notice his girlfriend has been stabbed to death in bed next to him. As he finds the murder weapon, a knife, the murderer comes walking in, causing Harry to take the knife to fend him off. The murderer, in a fit of genre-savviness, simply disarms Harry and leaves him behind to be found by the Hungarian cops.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family:
    • The family in "Domestic", very much so. For context:
    • Two families in "Protection". The family of the missing girl, Lizzie, consist of a very dysfunctional estranged couple who are borderline abusive to each other and let their kid witness it all. It gets worse when it turns out that the parents have been keeping poor Lizzie hidden this whole time after finding out she'd been sexually abused and accidentally killed her attacker, their reasoning being they didn't want her to be taken off them. The other family has three kids that have been taken into care against the will, with the eldest child Kevin trying desperately to keep them altogether. His grandfather reveals the reason they're in care is because his younger sister got pregnant after being raped and they believe his stepfather, whom his mother refused to leave, is responsible. And then, it turns out the real rapist is the grandfather himself. And as if that weren't bad enough, he raped his daughter too...and is Kevin's father as well as his grandfather.
  • Breakout Character: Nikki Alexander, played by Emilia Fox. She didn't appear until part way through Season 8, as part of an ensemble cast, but most people now regard her as the star of the show; she usually gets the most focus in the stories, her name appears first in the opening credits and she's the most prominently featured character in advertising. Some people who started watching in the mid-2000's are surprised to learn Amanda Burton was originally the main character.
  • British Brevity: Averted with the show running for two decades and counting; however, with only around 10 episodes per season, each season is much shorter than an equivalent show in the US.
  • Brother–Sister Incest
  • Buffy Speak: With regards to their chosen profession, Harry, Nikki and Leo are usually very eloquent and specific. However, explaining things to the detectives they work with (and, by extension, the viewer) sometimes necessitates simpler language. That, and they don't know everything.
    Harry: It's a data thing.
    DC Salch: Yeah. It's a micro SD card; from a phone.

     Tropes C - I 
  • Cartwright Curse: At least two of Harry's love interests were murdered by the end of the story.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: There is no explanation ever given for Fred Dale's departure after the third season.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Played with. Most of the main characters aren't really that bothered by grisly crime scenes and horrific murders, because it's part of their job, though there are occasionally cases that get to them, usually if there's kids involved.
  • Constructive Body Disposal: The episode "Hope" is kicked off following a collision with a concrete pillar in a parking garage splitting it open to reveal a woman's skeleton buried inside. The murderer was married to the owner of the construction company that built the site, and persuaded him to hide the body.
  • Cramming the Coffin: In "Hippocratic Oath", a hearse crashes and two bodies are discovered in the coffin. The team is charged with discovering the identity of the John Doe corpse.
  • Cunning Linguist: Clarissa speaks multiple languages fluently including Japanese.
  • Daddy DNA Test: Features in several stories of the week. In season 24, Jack orders one secretly, believing that his brother Ryan's long-lost daughter may actually be Jack's due to him having an affair with her mother. It turns out Ryan really is her father.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Clarissa Mullery. Harry Cunningham also had his moments, although he also had a tendency to be a Pungeon Master.
  • Death of a Child: Big time. If a kid goes missing on this show, there's no guarantee they'll turn up alive and well, and they don't shy away from depicting autopsies of children, either. Not even the main characters are safe: Leo's daughter Cassie is killed in a car accident alongside her mother in Season 9. One notable case where it's played straight is Season 18's "Protection", where the missing child is found alive after two episodes of searching, even though half the characters had given her up for dead.
  • Delicate and Sickly: In "Squaring the Circle", DI Sarah Parks' young daughter has cancer and she is trying desperately to raise enough money to pay for treatment which could save her life.
  • Derailing Love Interests: Many of Nikki's and Harry's (and later Jack's) temporary love interests go through this in order to restore the status quo of the unresolved UST between Nikki and the guy.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: Thomas Chamberlain frequently does this.
  • Disappeared Dad: Sam's nephew Ricky's dad and Nikki's dad.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Several of these show up in different episodes. A prominent example is "In a Lonely Place" where a stripper testifies to Jack that the police told her to stop wasting their time when she reported a co-worker missing.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In "After the Fall", the villain tried to frame Nikki for murder and have her killed because she blamed Nikki for getting her husband convicted of a crime he didn't commit. Nikki herself points out that she was just doing her job by offering expert testimony, that she can't control what the judge and jury decide and that it certainly didn't warrant the murders of three innocent people.
  • Don't Split Us Up: A major plot thread of the episode "Protection" is a teenage boy trying to reunite his siblings who were separated by social services, and prevent the youngest from being adopted.
  • Downer Ending: "Greater Love" ends with Leo sacrificing himself to save everyone from a terrorist bomb explosion in Afghanistan that was set off by a brainwashed British soldier believed to be dead (the discovery of what was believed to be his body was the whole reason the team were in Afghanistan in the first place). No one is brought to justice for any of it, either.
  • Driven to Suicide: Harry's dad suffered from severe, chronic depression and killed himself when Harry was 11. In "Run", a family friend (who had an affair with Harry's mum) also committed suicide in the same way, although in his case it was because he had been diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer. Also one of the many possible reasons for the body-of-the-week.
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous: Averted — naked bodies in the autopsy scenes look like dead murder victims.
  • Enfant Terrible: In one story, it is revealed that a spree killer's accomplice is a very mentally disturbed sixteen year old boy.
  • Everybody Is Single: Leo was married with a daughter until they were both tragically killed, and he eventually entered a long term relationship with a profiler; Harry and Nikki, though, will usually end up dating either the victim, the killer, or someone who just ends up getting in the way. Also played straight with Jack and Sam, averted with the Happily Married Clarissa and double subverted with Thomas (he starts out married, but his wife then asks for a divorce).
  • Faking the Dead: The apparent death of Harry in the Budapest story - to the point where the actor's name was taken off the credits. In reality, Harry killed the attacker and set fire to his body, leaving his own ID with him
    • In "True Love Waits", a woman has faked her death for over a decade (with the help of her friend, a detective) in order to frame her violent husband for her murder. The detective managed to have him jailed despite there being no body. It turns out to be just as well, since the guy is a serial killer, and immediately starts up again once he gets out of jail.
  • Family Relationship Switcheroo:
    • Averted in Season 24 when Jack comes to believe he may be the biological father of his niece Cara, due to him having an affair with her mother while his brother Ryan was away. A DNA test proves Ryan really is Cara's father.
    • In "Invisible", it emerges that a murdered woman's "nephew" is really her son; she was addicted to drugs and couldn't take care of him, so her sister took him in. When it turns out (in a case of mistaken identity) that she's not dead, she returns to her family, but she and her sister decide not to tell him the truth.
  • Fan Disservice: The majority of the nudity depicted on the show consists of naked corpses in autopsy scenes.
    • Also arguably the strip club scenes in the Season 17 story "In A Lonely Place", seeing as most of the half naked girls performing lap dances and the like are being exploited by sleazy guys, physically attacked by some punters and stalked by a serial killer.
  • Fanservice: Jack gets to take his shirt off on several occasions (often justified in that cage fighters often fight shirtless, but still).
  • Fanservice Pack: Harry grows his hair and Nikki dyes it between seasons 11 and 12.
  • Faux Death: At the end of "Trust: Part 1", the forensic pathologists receive what appears to be a dead body of murder victim. However, he was actually just paralysed from pufferfish venom. In the next part, he wakes up and walks right out of the morgue, grabbing a scalpel in the process. It's just as well, because he was due to be autopsied next.
  • Fingerprinting Air: Usually averted; the team generally only find partial fingerprints or can't match them to anyone on the database, and in cases where the victim has been submerged in water or set on fire, they'll often point out they're unlikely to get fingerprints.
  • Fingore: "True Love Waits" involved a serial killer who would murder women and cut off their ring fingers as trophies.
  • Foil: Sam Ryan and Nikki Alexander, who replaced the former as the main female character on the show. Sam starts out as an experienced, somewhat cynical pathologist who doesn't always play nicely with others but has a softer side, whilst Nikki starts out as a newly qualified pathologist, is somewhat idealistic and wears her heart on her sleeve, who gradually becomes thicker-skinned.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The series 17-23 cast, arguably: Nikki is usually Sanguine (though not really disorganised or self-centred), Jack is usually Choleric (though more emotional than some), Thomas is Melancholic and Clarissa is Phlegmatic.
  • Freudian Trio: The most common permutation has Harry as the logical Spock, Nikki as the emotional McCoy and Leo as the balancing Kirk, although this can change depending on who gets the most emotionally involved in a particular case.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: The series 16-23 main casts were this: two women (Nikki and Clarissa) and two men (Thomas or Leo and Jack).
  • GPS Evidence: Comes up a lot, though generally done in a realistic manner.
  • Happily Married: Leo until his wife and child were killed in a car accident.
    • Clarissa is, though she prefers not to work with her husband.
  • Headbutt of Love: Nikki and Harry had a few, as do Nikki and Jack.
  • Heinousness Retcon: Nikki Alexander's father Victor was a minor recurring character between season 11 and season 15 where he's presented as a deadbeat schemer, cheater, and gambler, who is responsible for costing their family everything forcing them to leave South Africa and abandoning them when Nikki was a child. In the present, he is a remorseful man who wants to reconnect with his daughter but can't overcome his old bad habits right up until his death. Come season 23's "Seven Times" he's suddenly a vicious brute who regularly beat Nikki's mother whilst they were together, despite nothing like this even being hinted before especially in the many times Nikki called him out. Handwaved as Nikki being too young at the time to recognize the signs and only realizing it now due to similarities to the case. Although for several fans this was still hard to swallow, especially considering the number of other cases she'd handled that involved domestic abuse before this one (and the number of explicit flashbacks the episode showed).
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Leo in "Greater Love", by dragging a suicide bomber away from the crowds to prevent any casualties and getting blown up in the process.
    • Another prominent example is Nikki in "Awakening", who, knowing they cannot reach both in time, gives Jack the location of some thirty hostages instead of her own, whilst she is Buried Alive. Fortunately, she manages to escape by herself at the last minute.
    • Also Thomas in "For The Greater Good", by testing a deadly sample in order to identify it and help treat Jack, who was in intensive care and close to death. The substance got through all protective gear while Thomas was testing it, and he died in the process, right in front of Nikki and Clarissa, who were helpless to save him.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Averted with Harry who, although explicitly an atheist, is not portrayed in a negative light for it.
  • Honor-Related Abuse: One plot strand of "Sins of the Fathers" involved the team investigating a body found inside the wreckage of a Vietnamese restaurant, which was burned down after the man that the owner's daughter was betrothed to found out she wasn't a virgin.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: A platonic example with Clarissa and Jack. Clarissa (Liz Carr) is under 5ft and looks even shorter at times due to using a wheelchair, whilst Jack (David Caves) is over 6ft and quite muscular. A more downplayed example is Jack and Nikki; she's almost a foot shorter, though because she often wears heels she doesn't look it. Jack makes a point of calling her "shorty" when she takes her heels off in one episode to carry out a height experiment relating to the current case.
  • Identification by Dental Records: Used occasionally. In one case, Nikki was able to figure out that the body of a young woman was not an Iron Age sacrificial victim due to the fact she had modern dental work.
  • Idiot Ball: Frequently taken by the scientists, doing things like confronting suspects on their own... and just as frequently taken by the cops of the week.
  • Indirect Serial Killer: Jim Bell from "Deadhead" is a particularly twisted psycho who draws feelings of supremacy out of ending lives without having to lift a finger. Using an online unofficial chatroom for people suffering from suicidal thoughts, Jim targets the especially vulnerable and subtly pushes them deeper and deeper into depression, all whilst pretending to be their friend and a fellow sufferer, until they are driven to kill themselves. It's revealed that Bell's first victim was none other than his own loving father.
  • Internal Affairs: One turns up in "In Plain Sight", where Internal Affairs member Rachel Sharpe is investigating the Police Firearms division (based off SCO19) over the supposedly justified shooting of a teenage girl. She's disliked immensely by the officers but is shown to be trying to do a necessary role despite her flaws. She's also proven to be absolutely correct when it's revealed the shooting was bad and that one of the officers is a murderer.

     Tropes K - P 
  • Karma Houdini: Although most of his accomplices are arrested, Strader in River's Edge gets off scot-free for drugging, raping and ordering the murders of at least three women and being complicit in the murder of a family and the attempted murder of at least three other people.
  • Killed Off for Real: Kerry and Leo
  • Leave No Witnesses: In "River's Edge", it turns out that this is the reason the family were murdered. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Later, the killer also murders DCI Guillam and tries to kill Jack and Nikki after they find evidence of the crimes.
  • Long Runner: It's run for over twenty-five seasons since 1996.
  • Long-Runner Cast Turnover: None of the original main characters are left on the show by this point; however, Emilia Fox, who plays Nikki, has stuck around since Season 8 and has no plans on leaving any time soon; Tom Ward (Harry) and William Gaminara (Leo) also both starred on the show for almost a decade each. David Caves (Jack) has now starred on the show for over a decade.
  • Matryoshka Object: In "Two Spirits", Evie has a collection of matryoshka dolls in her apartment; one of them is stolen when she is kidnapped, and leads the police to a suspect.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: "Fear", in which a Catholic family believes their children have been possessed by demons. There's a rational explanation given for most of it, but certain elements leave the viewer to wonder.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Nikki in "Coup de Grace". Her testimony at a trial gets a convicted murderer acquitted...only for more people to turn up murdered in the same way. Played with as it turns out that the man's lawyer was the real killer and he manipulated Nikki into helping him get his client acquitted so he could start killing again. The man Nikki helped acquit really was innocent; it wasn't her fault his lawyer was using him to get away with murder. She also helps identify and catch the real killer.
    • Jack in "Fraternity" accidentally makes things harder in the case due to main suspect being his brother.
  • Not Quite the Right Thing: Poor Louise Marsh, the social worker in "Protection", seems to suffer from this. As she herself points out, her attempts to protect innocent children from abusive or neglectful parents often unintentionally makes things much worse for everyone involved.
  • One Drink Will Kill the Baby: Referenced in "Safe" where the post-mortem of a murdered gang leader reveals him to have suffered from Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. His mother, initially aggressive and threatening to sue the police, is devastated when she realizes what her drinking led to.
  • Parental Abandonment: "One Day" reveals Clarissa's childhood fear that her mother would send her to a home for the disabled and abandon her there - although subverted in that this never really happened.
  • Police Are Useless: The forensics team ends up straying from their brief into other law enforcement roles. Typically the police get it wrong and impede the team until the last minute. When either the crim or the pathologist is cornered: here comes The Cavalry! Unlike CSI, these guys are really not cops period, but that doesn't stop anything.
    • They actually do get called out on it sometimes, but again, this doesn't stop them from playing detective.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: A few of these, notably in "Safe", where what gets Nikki to finally dump her obviously untrustworthy new boyfriend is hearing him launch into a racist tirade against the mother of two murder victims.
  • Powerful People Are Subs: In "Change", the Body of the Week is a wealthy CEO whose secretary tries to cover up that he liked being tied up, gagged and whipped in the bedroom to avoid tarnishing his reputation.
  • Prison Rape: Comes up on several occasions, but notably in "Redhill", where a senior prison officer has used his position to get away with this many times.
  • Prone to Tears Nikki, though largely justified.
  • Put on a Bus: Happens to lots of recurring characters. Some major examples would be:
    • Harry Cunningham, who is revealed to have left to accept a new job in New York at the beginning of Season 16.
    • Sam Ryan, who returns to her home country to be with her long lost son at the beginning of Season 8.
    • Janet Mander, who apparently moved away after Leo breaks up with her in Season 15.
    • Victor Alexander, Nikki's father, who turned up in Season 9, then disappeared, before turning up again in Season 11, then going away again. It's implied he kept in contact with Nikki off-screen, before dying off-screen in Season 15. He's one of the few characters in the series to have actually come back once being Put on a Bus.
      • Considering how long its been since most of these characters have been seen or even mentioned, it could be considered a Long Bus Trip, apart from for Sam Ryan, who reappeared as a guest star throughout series 25.

     Tropes R - T 
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: One of Nikki's ex-boyfriends gives her a particularly harsh one in "After the Fall". He later apologizes, only for Nikki to agree with some of what he said, but points out that it's probably too late for her to change now.
  • Retirony: In "River's Edge", DCI Malcolm Guillam is murdered a week before he was due to retire.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Lily the hamster in Protection.
  • Sadistic Choice: In "Squaring the Circle", Council leader Justine Greenwood gives one to DI Sarah Parks - charge a man she knows is innocent with the murder of Greenwood's daughter and she'll give her the money she desperately needs for her daughter's cancer treatment, or stick to her principles and look for the real killer, potentially dooming her daughter. Sarah chooses the former, but Jack later calls her out on it and she finds the real killer. She is discredited and fired in the process, but she is able to keep the money due to having already moved it to another account - meaning Greenwood can't take it back without implicating herself - so there's still hope for her daughter.
  • Scenery Censor: Averted. While forensic drama, particularly US drama often has strategic bits of lab equipment censoring an autopsy scene, here corpses are completely naked during autopsy scenes, even underage kids.
  • Serial Killer: Usually features at least one per season.
  • Ship Tease: Harry and Nikki. Dear God, Harry and Nikki.
    • After Harry leaves, Nikki and Jack, though to a lesser extent.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: While waiting for service in a pub, Dr Nikki Alexander explains at great length to Dr Harry Cunningham how she will end up old and alone. That is until Harry leans over and kisses her, then smiles and says, "Finally she shuts up."
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Sam Ryan and her sister Wyn, who lived together in early seasons.
  • Sliding Scale of Realistic vs. Fantastic: The show has many realistic details, but remains more glamorous and implausibly coincidental than strict realism would allow. Oddly, this has prompted some criticism.
  • Status Quo Is God: Zig-zagged. Although this show is set in a universe where changes do stick, if the main characters do get into a relationship it won't last, due to various factors. Although there are some cases where the status quo will not change:
    • In general, the team of Nikki Alexander and Jack Hodgson will remain, at least since 2015, and any attempts to break that status quo seem to fail.
    • From series 21, Nikki has an American boyfriend and they have a Long-Distance Relationship that's transatlantic. Despite Nikki going through a Trauma Conga Line, they don't break up until series 24.
  • "Strangers on a Train"-Plot Murder: The premise of "Supernova".
    • And ultimately behind the killings in "Covenant".
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Jack Hodgson for Harry.
  • Straw Nihilist: The villains of "Lost"
  • Super Identikit: One of Nikki's areas of expertise is reconstructing decayed faces (or in one case, a face that had been cut off) using clay. Justified, in that she studied forensic anthropology; her reconstructions, whilst usually reasonably accurate, are not pin-point perfect either. Police sketches also come up from time to time.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome (and Snarky): Harry, and later Jack.
  • Tattooed Crook: Exaggerated with El Buitre, a hitman for the local cartel in "Awakening", who is quite literally covered from head to toe in tattoos associated with death, including a skull tattoo across his face. The tattoos are actually real as well, El Buitre being portrayed by Rick Genest, aka Zombie Boy.
  • Tear Off Your Face: In Death's Door, the victim's face is gruesomely shown to have been cut off (save for the eyes) to disguise her identity.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Comes up from time to time amongst the pathologists and the cops they work with.
    • Leo and Harry went through this, especially after Sam left. Fortunately, they got over it, with Nikki helping to balance them out.
    • A downplayed example between Nikki, Clarissa, Jack and their new boss Thomas at the beginning of Season 17. They eventually get over it as well.
  • Terminally-Ill Criminal: "World Cruise" features Doctor Josef Horowitz, a charming respected academic who was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. Discovering he only has months left to live due to lung cancer, Horowitz sets out to complete his "World Cruise" that he spent years thinking about, namely getting revenge on all those responsible for the death of his twin brother Aaron in the camps.
  • Trauma Conga Line:
    • Nikki. First her father abandoned her as a kid and never acknowledges the emotional pain he caused her. Then her mother died when she was a teenager. She finally gets a surrogate family in the form of her co-workers, only for her best friend (and possible love interest) to run off to the US for a better job and her father figure is blown up in front of her trying to save her life. And then she gets framed for murder. It's also later revealed that she spent her twenty-first birthday in hospital delivering her stillborn baby.
    • "Bloodlines" is one big, long Trauma Conga Line for Harry.
  • Traumatic C-Section: In "Undertone", it is revealed that a murdered woman was heavily pregnant when she died and the killer performed a crude C-section with a kitchen knife to remove the baby (she was already dead or at least unconscious at the time, but everyone is still horrified). Much of the story revolves around the team trying to find the missing baby as well as locate the killer.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour: Comes up occasionally, often overlapping with Harmful to Minors.
    • In the very first episode, "Buried Lies", a young boy repeatedly stabs his abusive stepfather.
    • In "Protection", a sixteen year old boy threatens his social worker and his stepfather with a knife whilst trying to reunite his siblings. This is somewhat justified in the latter case, as he had been lead to believe his stepfather had abused his younger sister. He's later suspected of murdering his stepfather and grandfather. In the same episode, it is revealed that the real killer of a dead paedophile found at the beginning of the episode was the little girl he'd been abusing, who stabbed and inadvertently killed him trying to get away from him.
    • In "Falling Angels", a detective discovered he repressed his memories of fatally stabbing his abusive father to protect his mother, who then took the blame to protect him. He is devastated and ridden with guilt when he realises this.
    • "Double Dare" features a young woman recently released from jail for participating in the brutal murder of a woman when she was a teenager, alongside her boyfriend; it later turns out she herself didn't take part in the actual killing, but even so...
    • Craig Cross from "Sniper's Nest", even before The Reveal that he was the sniper's accomplice.
    • Miranda, Hannah, and Kelly in '"Supernova", young schoolgirls who murder multiple people. One of their victims also counts as this trope: at 14 she was sexually active and a drug abuser.
    • Michael Maitland in "Covenant", a young teenager who kills at least two people and arranges his own father's murder basically just for fun.
  • True Companions: Leo, Nikki and Harry. Leo implies to Nikki and Harry that they are as important to him as his (dead) wife and child.
    • Jack and Clarissa, to the point where Jack's condition for coming to work at the Lyell Centre was that they hire her too.
    • More recently, Nikki, Thomas, Clarissa and Jack (especially the latter), with her stating that the reason she never focused on having a family was because she already considered her team her family.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: From Season 6 to Season 16, the main cast consisted of this ensemble, with Sam/Nikki as the girl, and Leo and Harry as the two guys. Surprisingly for this trope, there is no Love Triangle; Sam's relationships with Leo and Harry (the former of whom was Happily Married) are strictly platonic, and whilst Nikki and Harry have bucket-loads of Ship Tease, Leo was a Parental Substitute for Nikki, not a Love Interest.

     Tropes U - Y 
  • Unnaturally Blue Lighting: Used regularly, particularly in pathology scenes. Partially this is an exercise in fashion and style: many contemporary British dramas were also using the technique. In the pathology scenes, the lighting increases the cold, clinical and confronting atmosphere.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Again between Harry and Nikki. Also between Harry and any female, and Nikki and anyone.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Adam Yuen, who's introduced in Season 24, is killed off two episodes later and instantly replaced in the main cast by Simone Tyler.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: In "True Love Waits", Kate Warren is under intense pressure from her father (a very respected retired senior officer) to secure a murder conviction in order to save her own career and uphold the family name. This becomes her motivation for tampering with evidence.
  • Wham Line: Season 24 ends with an after credits stinger. Nikki comes into the office to answer a phone call, and the scene cuts to an outside location where a grey-haired woman with blood on her face is standing next to an ambulance. She turns to face the camera and says "Nikki, it's Sam Ryan. I need your help."
  • Wham Episode: "Greater Love Part 2", the final episode of Series 16. The mystery's been solved, people are setting up to celebrate the completion of the well, the protagonists are preparing to head back home and Fawzia, Leo's new Love Interest, is considering coming back with them, giving Leo another shot at happiness. Then Leo spots the brainwashed soldier lurking in the crowds and discovers he's wearing an explosive vest, set to go off at any minute. Knowing there's no time to do anything else, he begins dragging him as far away as possible. And then, the bomb goes off killing Leo. And just in case you weren't certain he was dead, the next shot is Nikki sitting alone in a plane, staring into space, with a coffin in front of her. Whilst the main characters had had several near-misses, they were usually saved in the nick of time and the other regularly killed off characters were guest characters. Not since the first series, when Kerry was killed in a freak accident, had a major character been killed.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Nikki and Harry, almost from the moment Nikki joined the show. They kept it up right up until the end of Series 15 note , which actually saw Harry moving in with her (though it was only temporary after his flat got blown up). Sadly for Nikki/Harry shippers, they never do get together on-screen and seeing as Harry moved to America, it's extremely unlikely they ever will. Nikki and Jack have this trope as well, before getting together in series 25.
  • You Are Not Alone: In "Awakening", Jack tells Nikki this over the phone to comfort her whilst she’s Buried Alive. Her response: “I’m in a wooden box under the earth, Jack. I am quite alone".
  • You Didn't Ask: In "Coup de Grace", a murder suspect who is living in his father's old house finds his father's gun stashed there, and agrees to give it to his lawyer to hand over to the police; but ends up taking Nikki and the lawyer hostage when Nikki finds the gun first and panics. Later, when the investigating DI asks the lawyer why he didn't tell the police about the gun first, he just says that no one ever asked.