Scene Stealers: Traces

Scene Stealers: Traces

December 9, 2019


Amelia Bullmore, writer of UKTV drama Traces, picks out a sequence of short scenes from the forensic crime thriller in which three people come together to solve a murder case. It is produced by Red Production Company for UKTV’s Alibi and distributed by BBC Studios.

1a (click to enlarge)

Traces is a six-part crime thriller set in the world of forensic science. In episode one, Emma (Molly Windsor, pictured above) takes a job as a lab technician in Dundee. She’s curious to return to the place she was born, and where her mother was killed when Emma was seven. By the time this scene happens, in episode two, Emma has reconnected with old friends, heard a disturbing suggestion about her mother’s death and agreed to talk to the police (this is the important phone call she mentions).

We know what Emma’s bringing to this scene because we’ve seen it – a big night out that led to sex with a man she can barely remember and the loss of her bag. Desperate to find it, she races back to the club, strung out and furious with herself… (see script extracts 1a and 1b).

1b (click to enlarge)

We don’t yet know what’s haunting Daniel or why he’s looking for signs, as this is the first time the character appears. Anyway, moments later… (see script extracts 2a and 2b).

When they shot this scene (in Bolton, pretending to be Dundee), a small crowd gathered and photos appeared in the newspapers of Martin Compston (as Daniel) and Molly Windsor filming “what seemed to be an intense scene.” The people watching wouldn’t have been able to hear the words, only see the action and gestures. I like that they didn’t know they were watching a love scene. The characters themselves don’t know they’re in a love scene.

2a (click to enlarge)

It’s as old as the hills to have lovers spar on first meeting, but Molly and Martin played it beautifully; spiky and funny. When Emma and Daniel meet in this scene, they’re not yet aware of a connection between them. Once they discover it, it will accelerate and intensify their love affair.

As well as getting the lovers together, this scene sets up important things for the whole series. We learn Daniel’s full name and what he does. We see for ourselves exactly how they meet and we will have to reconsider this later. Was it a coincidence or was it contrived? It becomes hard to know who to trust.

2b (click to enlarge)

The finished scene, directed by Rebecca Gatward, looks great. Emma’s corn plait (sleek when she was clubbing) is now a fuzzy mess and the tufts catch the sunlight. She looks like a bad-tempered, pretty dinosaur. The way she shoves the card in the bin is gloriously rude. I particularly like the shot of Daniel when Emma says ‘I love you.’ He is almost underlit but the hopeful gleam in his eye is unmistakable.

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