Tara Fitzgerald plays forensic pathologist Doctor Eve Lockart, a character that originally appeared in Waking the Dead from 2007-2011. Dr. Lockart and her team work in a remote research facility, the body farm, where they are able to conduct all manner of experiments as to the decomposition characteristics of the deceased. Needing a steady source of funding the unit agrees to help Detective Inspector Craig Hale on a number of cases.
Keith Allen has the role of D.I. Hale and is seriously miscast in the part, one of a number of decisions that appear on the surface to have made it easy for the BBC to cancel the series after the one season of episodes. Hale is supposed to have some kind of rapport with Fitzgerald’s Lockart, but there is no connection at any level on the screen between the two actors.
Compounding this is the performance of Mark Bazeley as Doctor Mike Collins, the second in command of the unit and, as hinted, a previous love interest of his boss. Zero, and I mean zero sparks fly between Bazeley and Fitzgerald which leads to the question as to whether the actress, as the common denominator, is the problem or the casting director got it spectacularly wrong with the two male leads. I tend towards the latter which is a shame, because there are more than enough positives to make The Body Farm well worth watching.
Fans of Doctor Who will immediately recognize Finlay Robertson, Larry Nightingale from the classic Blink episode. Robertson is very good with a similar goofy, off-center performance as the oddball “Oggy” who talks to the bodies on the farm and much prefers that to heading out into the field. The fourth member of the forensic group is Doctor Rosa Gilbert, played by Wunmi Mosaku as a bright, recent university graduate who is a little head strong and prone to acting somewhat impulsively especially when it comes to the victims and their families. There was potential here, particularly if Oggy and Gilbert had been further fleshed out as characters.
The six episodes are of varying quality with the stereotypical forensic guts and gore. Tim McInnerny, best known for playing Lord Percy Percy and Captain Darling in the Blackadder series and Max, the best friend of Hugh Grant’s character in Notting Hill, is one of my favorite actors and turns up in the best of the six episodes as a human rights lawyer who dies in suspicious circumstances. Pooky Quesnel, who had a scene stealing performance in an early episode of George Gently, also is in the same episode with McInnerny, which ironically was the least watched in the UK.
Fans of Waking the Dead are likely to enjoy six more episodes with one of the previous characters and if you like cold case style forensic shows then there’s more than enough here for a nice diversion.
– Wallace Poulter