Written by Phil Redmond. Tx 2nd January 1979
There’s an influx of new faces in the first few episodes of series two. This is because the number of episodes were doubled from series one (from nine to eighteen) so more characters had to be created to share the various plot-lines
Cathy Hargreaves, Susi McMahon and Penny Lewis would all become central characters, whilst others (such as Andrew Stanton and Antoni Karamanopolis) would be placed more in the background, but did step into the limelight occasionally.
Mr Baxter, Mr Sutcliffe and Mr Keating all debuted as well (and would all be major figures in the development of the series during the next few years). A new headmaster, Mr Llewellyn (Sean Arnold) also makes his first appearance here and it doesn’t take long before he’s ruffled more than a few feathers amongst the staff.
Mr Baxter (Michael Cronin) views the new headmaster with disfavour – in his eyes he’s a progressive and his approach is doomed to failure. The Baxter formula for keeping order is quite simple – let them know who’s boss and don’t take any nonsense. Cronin’s pitch-perfect from his first scene as he’s able to bring a nice degree of resigned weariness to Baxter as well as a finely honed sense of irony.
Mr Baxter (like some of the other new arrivals) has presumably been at the school for a while – it’s just that we’ve never seen them. This is something that happens quite often down the years at Grange Hill – pupils and teachers just appear and everybody acts as if they’ve been there for years. And as we work our way through the entire series we’ll see that the reverse is also true – some characters just vanish, with never a word spoken about their fate.
At least the departures in series two (Ann Wilson and Judy Preston) aren’t brushed under the carpet – and in the case of Judy she does appear in the first few episodes before transferring to Brookdale. Ann Wilson is mentioned in the first episode, but we never see her (and by episode three we’re told that she and her family have moved abroad).
It’s interesting to ponder why Judy Preston was written out – as Penny Lewis essentially inherited the character of Ann, Judy could have been moved alongside her as her best friend (instead, another new character – Susi McMahon – was created). Perhaps it was felt that Judy was nice, but too wet. Her place as Trisha’s friend is taken by Cathy Hargreaves (Lindy Brill). There’s certainly no doubt that Cathy is a more interesting character than Judy and the combination of her and Trisha seemed to click from the start.
Dramatically, this episode seems to be pitched at a higher level than most of series one. After Tucker’s high-jinks accidentally breaks a classroom window, Mr Mitchell finds himself publicly criticised by Mr Llewellyn for leaving his class unattended. The fact that Mr Llewellyn berates him in front of his class is a source of considerable annoyance to him and it’s the first sign that some of the staff are finding relationships with the new head to be rather difficult (this is something that will rumble on for the next few episodes).
The other major plot-thread of the opening episode concerns Benny, who finds himself accused of stealing fifty pence. The theft occurred during a football match between Grange Hill and Brookdale, and Benny was the last person to leave the changing room. He is in possession of a fifty pence piece, which is suspicious, but it’s not solid evidence. However, it’s enough to convince some of his team-mates, who tell Mr Baxter that they won’t play if Benny’s in the team.