‘Silk’: Series 1 episode guide

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BBC One’s new legal drama Silk follows the lives, loves and hard cases facing barristers on the front line of criminal law.

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Written by Bafta award-winning writer Peter Moffat (Criminal Justice), the six-part series stars Rupert Penry-Jones (Spooks) as Clive Reader, Maxine Peake (Shameless) as Martha Costello, Neil Stuke as Billy Lamb, Tom Hughes as Nick Slade and Natalie Dormer (The Tudors) as Niamh Cranitch.


Episode 1
Tuesday 22nd February 2011, 9pm

Fresh from a successful defence in a murder trial, barrister Martha Costello is immediately thrown two last-minute cases by the chambers’ senior clerk, Billy. The cases are being heard the following morning and Martha stays up all night preparing.

Next morning she is joined by Nick, her new pupil (trainee) barrister, to whom she’s showing the ropes. They hurry off to meet the defendants: Rush (an aggravated burglary) and Mercedes (a drug mule). Rush is a quietly menacing man who questions whether Martha is up to the job, while Mercedes is pregnant and evidently the victim of a cruel drug-running ring. Martha hasn’t had a chance to prepare thoroughly and the judge passes a heavy sentence on Mercedes.

With no time to lament her shortcomings, Martha moves on to the Rush case. Nick is convinced he is guilty, while Martha argues that only the jury should decide his fate. The victim is Dodd, a sprightly elderly war hero. Martha’s cross-questioning wins only sympathy for him, especially when he reveals a precious medal for heroism was one of the items stolen. Later, at a party in her chambers for legal clients, the solicitor for Rush, the defendant, berates her for her apparent incompetence.

However, the next day in court Martha proves that the police had led their witness to identify Rush as the burglar and had also tampered with the crime scene by removing evidence; she wins the case. Rush is a free man and Martha has furthered her cause in the race for Silk – to become a QC. But as she’s leaving chambers a package is left for her, rocking her sense that justice wins out in the end.


Episode 2
Tuesday 1st March 2011, 9pm

Famous for her opposition to the way the Justice system treats rape victims, Martha is handed a case to represent a man accused of raping his ex-girlfriend. Billy is adamant she needs to do it to prove to the Silk panel that she can do her job no matter how morally repugnant she finds the case. With Clive prosecuting for the ex-girlfriend, Martha feels that she will have her work cut out to prove her client innocent.

However, as the case continues, Martha’s prejudices are challenged by her pupil and the case itself as she realises that only the victim and the defendant know what actually transpired. Martha realises that only the jury can make the decision as to whether her client is guilty or innocent.

Meanwhile, Niamh gets her first day in court – a bail application for Martha’s old client, Gary Rush. Due to a court mix-up, Gary has someone else’s charge sheet and it gives the impression that this is Gary’s first offence. Niamh is unsure of what to do and phones Nick for advice from Martha. Niamh keeps quiet about Gary’s criminal past and he is given bail.

Both Martha and Niamh have personal troubles as Niamh makes the mistake of sleeping with Clive, her pupil master, while Martha discovers she’s pregnant and decides to book an abortion.


Episode 3
Tuesday 8th March 2011, 9pm

Martha defends Mark Draper, a vulnerable teenager accused of cottaging in a men’s toilet in a popular park along with two other men. Noah and Clive each defend the other two men.

On the day of the trial, Noah is taken ill and Nick is forced to take his place at the last minute. He is embarrassed when he doesn’t know a point of law. When Martha cross-examines the police officer who was surveying the toilets, she discovers that Mark lied to her about never having been there before.

A furious Martha tells Mark that she cannot continue representing him. However, when Michael, Mark’s solicitor, spots one of the defendants talking conspiratorially with the police officer in the toilets at court, Martha re-examines that defendant’s record. There are many arrests for cottaging but no convictions. Furthermore, the arresting officer is the one in court today. Martha reveals that the defendant is, in fact, part of a honey trap and that the police officer illegally used entrapment in order to make these latest arrests. The judge dismisses the case.

Later, Niamh and Nick defend two dog owners for possessing dangerous animals. This is the first case they’ve handled and Clive is watching them. While Niamh looks like a natural, Nick struggles to make a proper argument. However, when Nick discovers a crucial piece of information, that his dog is pregnant, he is able argue that she cannot be put down. In contrast, Niamh is unable to save her dog.


Episode 4
Tuesday 15th March 2011, 9pm

Martha has been forced to defend Rachna Ali, an Asian policewoman accused of racism. However, at the same time, Mark Draper, the vulnerable teenager that she defended in episode three, has been arrested for murder. Martha wants to take the case but Billy insists Clive does it.

Despite admitting to making the racist comment, Rachna refuses to plead guilty. Suspicious that Rachna isn’t telling her something, Martha insists the police officer to whom Rachna made the comment, PC Johnson, is called to testify. Under pressure from Martha, PC Johnson reveals that he wasn’t offended by Rachna’s comment. The misconduct board find Rachna guilty but decide not to fire her; instead, they let her off with a caution.

Kate tries to garner support to get rid of Billy by getting Clive onside. Smelling a rat, Billy calls on another senior clerk, Keith, from another set of chambers to try to tempt Clive away. Later that night, Keith approaches Clive and offers him a superior position at his chambers. Seriously tempted, Clive goes to make sure Niamh is onboard as his pupil to leave with him. However, on returning, Clive discovers Billy waiting for him. He has been set up. Terrified that Billy could destroy his career, Clive agrees to spy on Kate and John and pass on information to Billy.


Episode 5
Tuesday 22nd March 2011, 9pm

Martha is given a high-profile prosecution case against Tony Paddick, a school teacher accused of the attempted murder of a pupil, as Peter Moffat’s slick, fast-paced legal drama continues. Martha complains about taking a prosecution case, but Billy persuades her it will be good for her Silk interview. Anyway, it should be an easy win as Noah Zeigler, a low-level barrister from their chambers, is defending.

After reading the brief, Martha thinks that attempted murder is the wrong charge and wants to reduce it to grievous bodily harm (GBH). However, she finds herself at loggerheads with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), who won’t agree to the change. As the case continues, Martha is able to make Tony Paddick look guilty but she is furious as she sees Noah missing countless opportunities for a good defence. Desperate not to win without a fight, Martha gives Noah a big hint on how to defend the case, but he fails to deliver a killer blow. Subtly, Martha has to do it for him and the jury return a not guilty verdict for attempted murder. However, they do find him guilty of GBH. The CPS are furious and lodge a formal complaint.

At the same time, Martha and Clive have their Silk interviews. Martha discovers she is being interviewed by one of the country’s highest-ranking female judges, while Clive finds himself in front of his pupil, Niamh’s, father, a retired judge.


Episode 6
Tuesday 29th March 2011, 9pm

Martha is preparing for the biggest case of her career – defending Mark Draper, accused of murdering a high court judge. Clive is defending Mark’s girlfriend, Emma Slater, also accused of the murder. After visiting the scene of the crime, Mark tells Martha the judge attacked him with a golf club and it was self-defence, but Martha tells him there isn’t any evidence to support this.

She instructs an expert, Bill Cutler, to look at the golf club. He finds blood on it even though it wasn’t found at the scene of the crime. As the case continues, the judge’s wife, Helen, gives evidence that suggests Mark is guilty and Emma was an innocent bystander. However, when Martha cross-examines her, Helen is forced to admit that she removed the golf club from the crime scene to protect her husband. Bill reveals that Mark couldn’t have stabbed the judge because of the angle of the wound and Martha realises it was Emma who killed the judge. Mark was protecting her; she is pregnant with his child.

With the return of Alan Cowdrey, head of chambers, it is time to discuss the fate of the pupils. They decide to put it to a “moot” and then a chamber’s vote. Meanwhile, solicitor Brian Frogett tells Billy he wants Martha for the Gary Rush case, which Billy agrees to in exchange for extra work from Cant Froggett Solicitors. Billy tries to pressure Martha into giving Alan the murder case so that she can take on Gary Rush, but she refuses.

Frustrated, Billy resorts to bribing the List Officer, managing it so that Martha could do both cases, one after the other. When Kate discovers this, she tries to tell Alan but he refuses to listen. Frustrated, Kate turns to Clive and suggests a breakaway set of chambers, with Clive as its new head – as long as he gets silk. However, Clive immediately tells Billy of the plan, emphasising that he doesn’t intend to leave.


> Order the DVD on Amazon.