(Series 31, ep. 1) For four long weeks we’ve had to wait to find out whether Connie and Grace were going to survive their car plunging down a ravine. Nail-biting tension! But it turned out that that was just a starter tragedy, before the main course of full-on mayhem ensued.
It was the 30th anniversary of the day Charlie Fairhead first walked into Holby ED, with a bit more hair and a Bristol accent, but otherwise basically the same wise, sensible and Special person he is today. Charlie’s first day was also the first episode of Casualty, so this was a double celebration, and the episode had to be even more spectacular than the magnificent cake Noel had organised.
Expect the next year in Casualty to be filled with people stubbing their toes, having quiet strokes at home and other low-budget incidents, because surely the whole stunts and effects budget got blown in this one episode. The centre-piece incident was a spectacular helicopter crash. As soon as we saw the air ambulance take off with precious Grace and Iain on board, and saw an emo boy unwrapping his birthday present of a drone, a collision was inevitable – but it happened right above the hospital. It was like a war zone, and it was really effectively done and completely realistic, particularly the bewilderment of the people still inside the hospital, who had no idea what had happened.
At key moments in the episode there was background music, which added to the cinematic feel of it. Just after the crash, as we saw Iain stepping out of the wreckage, there was almost total silence, even among the mayhem.
Connie Beauchamp, alive but seriously injured, staggered around the hospital with various staff members trailing behind her trying to keep pressure pads applied to an arterial bleed on her head, but Connie has a will of steel and she needed to know Grace was safe.
The other central figure was, of course, Charlie. Colleagues past and present lined up to sing his praises – some in real life, others via video. It was very nice to see Lovely Staff Nurse Faldren, Comfort, Josh, Duffy, Tess, Lennie, Alice, Abs, Big Mac and Mike Barratt. Fletch and Henrik Hanssen popped in for the party but stayed to help with the mayhem, and Jac Naylor was called in to help Grace.
When an inspirational speech was needed, Charlie was there: “Try and find your focus,” he said, which was quite amusing for a man who’s spent 30 years making a trademark out of staring somewhere in the middle distance. He gave Jacob a talking-to when he needed one, gave a lippy agency nurse (Poppy Jhakra) a second chance, and even had time to bestow some of his special Charlie kindness on a tetchy woman who was speaking with an Irish accent but was unmistakably Pat from EastEnders (Pam St Clement).
It does all make me worry for what might happen when Charlie hits his 40th anniversary, though. To be on the safe side, I think they should have a whip-round and send him on a mini-break to somewhere far, far away.