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You’ve heard of the saying ‘going out in a blaze of glory’. Well, on 8th September the new series of Casualty comes in on one. It’s been a while since a series opener excited me over the thought of possibilities to come in the new series but this one resuscitated my hopes. A lot of time and money was obviously spent on this pair of spectacular, nerve tingling and almost chilling episodes.

 

The series opens in a two-part special and uses flashback techniques similar to those which we saw at Christmas when nurse Ellen was killed and paramedic Josh was attacked. It doesn’t split the story into different character episodes, but there are some flashback sequences and overlaps which give a sense of the same story from two points of view, just at the same time rather than seperately.

Although most characters appear in both parts – noted absentees being Harry, Greg and Alice – the first episode belongs to new doctor Toby De Silva and the second to everyone’s favourite Casualty nurse, Charlie Fairhead. We see how a major incident unfolds differently in the eyes of both characters and it’s only in the second episode that we realise this is the case. Although the stories are the same the episodes are very much different. The first introduces new staff and the major incident storyline, the second follows Charlie enduring a personal crisis of confidence and delivers the aftermath of the major incident.

Casualty also comes back to our screens on a new definition film – so the appearance of the show now matches sister shows Holby City and HolbyBlue rather than having it’s previous real time look.

Episode one opens with some nice shots of Holby that take you back to the good old days when Casualty got out and about more with its characters. We see familiar sites such as the river and the Holby Docks where the rigs are, many a famous scene having been shot there. New face Toby De Silva is making his way to work and when he arrives he meets the other new starter – Ruth Winters – who couldn’t be more unlike him. Already we’ve seen Toby as a friendly, soft and perhaps clumsy person whereas Ruth is instantly blunt, snappy and very much up her self. Credit where it’s due, we soon learn that she’s very good at her job despite her complete lack of interpersonal skills. Now, haven’t we seen that somewhere before? Charlie’s disgruntled, he’s tired and grumpy, not at all himself. He briefly shows them round before disappearing off home and leaving the new starters with Maggie and Guppy.

Toby’s day goes from bad to worse the moment he starts treating his first patient and earns himself the nickname ‘Dracula’ which will become clear in the end. Quick to get him out of the ED, Maggie sends him out with Dixie. Toby sees the queue of people he’d seen earlier that morning only just getting on their coach. They drive metres away before an explosion rocks the street. Something on the bus went off and the shop beside gets blown through in the carnage.

I’ll refrain from saying any more on the state of the explosion and how Toby’s day goes from bad to worse, other than to warn viewers that my honest opinion was this first episode should come with a serious health warning – do not eat whilst the episode is in progress, it will be a waste of time. I don’t remember the last time I was physically stunned by a special effect, but one that kept me gripped until the end too.

The second episode takes the focus to Charlie’s day. And might I say – not before time. Aptly celebrating 35 years of dedicated service to nursing, Charlie is far from in the mood. He even manages to have a go at Nathan who has been AWOL from the major incident, ignoring all the ED’s plights for senior help so that he could stay by his baby daughter’s bedside.

Charlie thinks he’s lost his confidence and his compassion for the job and so takes it out on patients and staff alike. After being called back in to work by Tess he lets her run the show and keeps himself busy with little jobs. The department is in chaos and with no clinical lead things are getting worse by the minute. Charlie ignores the crisis unfolding around him. Maggie asks “Where’s our Charlie gone?”

Eventually help arrives in the form of familiar face Connie Beauchamp and she’s swift to take control of the department. It was wonderful to see her work a scene with Maggie. The two women give a heart-warming performance particularly when they fight to save a victim of the bomb explosion. Susan and Amanda give a powerful yet warming vision of how women in charge can come into their own.

Charlie’s day gets worse before it gets better and with bodies piling up and the aftermath of the explosion unfolding, a further problem arises. But Charlie, the ever cool, calm and collected – confirms to us why he’s such a strong character and damn good at his job.

By the end of the episode, Toby gives us a final laugh. I won’t say what, but a character which I thought was a little annoying turned into a very loveable – if clumsy, guy. Even Charlie finds a smile for him.

In all, I’d give these episodes an A*. I do have to say it’s a little odd that I’ve found all this week’s press releases have been focusing on Georgia Taylor joining as Ruth, when really her character isn’t a main feature. Matthew Needham is an excellent find and Derek Thompson was wonderfully flawless as ever. The sunshine to their character’s darkened day was by far shining through the lovely Susan Cookson who portays Maggie beautifully. A fantastic job was done by everyone for this new series but if I was handing out an award, those three would take home the prize.

Not sure I expect a lot of blood for the rest of the series though. Can’t see there being much paint and syrup left in the stores.

Well done Casualty!!

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