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This latest release of the smash British cold case mystery series is touch and go....
BBC / 683 Minutes / 2008 / Unrated / Street Date: January 15, 2013
At the forefront of Waking the Dead's intrigue is its very presentation. Eschewing the American default week-by-week airing, the episodes on this Waking the Dead: The Complete Season Seven TV-on-DVD box set were broadcast as two-part movie events, with a pair of episodes airing during two consecutive nights. This primetime proximity theoretically allows for a Law & Order type of establishment, with the opening half setting up the mystery at hand and the second half shaking everything down.
Our team at the center of the show is led by one Detective Superintendent Peter Boyd (Trevor Eve), whose collection of crackerjack forensic experts have one specific duty: taking on cold cases to try to not only breathe fresh air into them, but finally - after often many decades - getting their man. The adventures at hand on this Season Seven set take our gaggle of detective whizzes to cases involving grotesque ritual murder (Sins), deeply-rooted military cover-ups (Duty and Honor), and even a fascinatingly detailed (and hideous) investigation of genocide during the Yugoslavian conflict of the 1990s (Pieta).
But consistency is not this TV-on-DVD edition's grandest virtue. We get long segments that work like gangbusters, but the series reverts to cheesy, CSI-lite exposition more often than it should. Crime dramas as a form of television are given a pass in this department much of the time, but great mysteries of the genre can usually withstand a couple obvious sequences within their narratives. In Waking the Dead, we get some truly excellent head-scratchers, but over the course of each double-episode, you'll be completely pulled out of the action at least a handful of times, and that's a big no-no for any crime drama worth its weight in boob tube gold.