Sue Johnston, Claire Goose, Holly Aird, Wil Johnson and creator Barbara Machin spill the secrets of the crime drama’s revival.
Waking the Dead was a show that went before its time. In 2011, when the final episode aired, it was still pulling in seven million viewers, proof that the audience certainly hadn’t grown tired of its groundbreaking mix of police procedure, psychology and forensics. There was – pardon the pun – still a lot of life left in it.
“I think we could have done another season,” admits Sue Johnston, who played profiler Grace. “It was still very fresh.”
Wil Johnson (Spence) feels even more strongly than that: “I reckon we could still be running now. We always felt that the show was cut off too soon. It was ahead of its time and now that the rest of the world has caught up with Waking the Dead, it actually still feels current.”
At the time, of course, Waking the Dead was one of two cash-cow crime dramas showing on BBC1, the other being Silent Witness, which continues to run to this day. So why was one dispensed with and the other recommissioned?
“I’ll never understand it,” says Johnston. “I don’t know if it was a financial thing. Who knows? But one of us had to go and they decided to keep Silent Witness. I think Silent Witness ended up taking our studio, which hurt us even more.”
Well, you can’t keep a dedicated team of crimesolvers down for long and, seven years on, Waking the Dead returns in the form of prequel drama The Unforgiven (Monday-Friday, 2.15pm, Radio 4), written by creator Barbara Machin:
“I never recovered from not being able to talk to my characters again after Waking the Dead came to an end,” she confesses. “I felt like there was a lot of unfinished business with them. And what I’ve decided to do is take things in a different direction by jumping back 15 years before the show started to find out more about the characters that I love and am obsessed with.”
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