However in the dramatic presentations it is clear what science is for: it is to help the police elucidate which American has killed which other American. It is also clear who becomes a scientist: people of eccentric appearance and manner with peculiarly arranged hair. They inhabit extremely modern, uncluttered and strangely lit laboratories, there is usually only one of them and he or she possesses an extraordinary range of scientific specialities and skills. They are sessile, but propel themselves on chairs which swivel and have small wheels, often making verbal ejaculations as they do.
They also have a Magic Results Machine. My week of investigation shows that modern science goes like this: the scientific problem comes down to something that is picked up in forceps, a torch is shone on it and it is given a Significant Look. Next, it is placed in a small plastic tube, something clear is dribbled from a pipette and catalysed with another Significant Look. The tube is taken by a small robot arm into the Magic Results Machine.
The Results take as many as sixty seconds to be produced, in which time a Policeman In Sunglasses (the PIS) demands them sooner. The Magic Results are spat from a printer and within minutes Science has allowed the PIS to take the suspected malefactor into custody. He naturally protests his innocence, but The Science produced by the Magic Results Machine Will Not Be Denied. Someone starts playing a double-bass in the room and after a Significant Pause, the Science that Will Not Be Denied causes the suspect to Tell All to the PIS.
The British version does away with the science: a constable simply beats the confession out of the suspect with a telephone directory. Quicker, it saves on the double-bass player’s fees and is truer to life.
That’s comedy gold, right there. And it gets better:
Mind you, one of those would have been useful in 1836: pick up finch skin in forceps, goggle at it significantly for a while, place a piece in small tube which disappears into Magic Results Machine and sixty seconds later it spits out the Theory of Natural Selection. Which Thos Huxley would then seize, slip into a telephone directory and rush off to use it to beat up some Bishops.