Written by Alan Janes. Tx 20th February 1979
School trips offer a chance to see both the pupils and teachers in a different environment, so it’s no surprise that Grange Hill would return to the school trip plot-line again and again over the years – since it always provided the writers with numerous dramatic possibilities.
One notable person missing from the trip is Tucker – which is a shame because there’s no doubt he’d have found numerous ways to liven things up. We do have Doyle though – who also likes to be the centre of attention. His first scene is lovely, as we see him marched to the coach by his mother who’s determined to put him on it, despite his protests. He manages to break free from her, leaving her running after the coach brandishing his forgotten wellington boots!
He later antognises Penny and Susi – which is an early sign of the feud that he’d enjoy with Penny during series three (especially when he becomes a school rep, much to Penny’s irritation). Penny’s at her most studious here – she’s puzzled as to why Susi decided to go on the trip since she doesn’t seem to have a great deal of interest in archeology. Susi’s reply is telling – her mother told her to.
Although Susi’s mother hasn’t featured greatly so far, everything we’ve seen of her suggests that she’s keen to dominate her daughter but also can’t resist belittling her achievements. She doesn’t believe Susi is particularly bright – even though Susi is that the top of most of her classes, Mrs McMahon is convinced that that’s more to do with the relative lack of ability from the other pupils than Susi’s own intelligence.
Doyle, Alan, Andrew and Justin decide to break free from Mr Sutcliffe’s party to explore the forest. Since they’ve been expressly forbidden from going off by themselves, you know this is going to end in trouble. Later, they spy Penny and Susi who have also wandered into the forest. Doyle makes various animal noises which frightens the girls, causing them to run even deeper into the forest, where they find themselves hopelessly lost.
I wonder if this episode was originally scripted with Tucker, rather than Doyle, in mind. Everything that Doyle does (placing a fake plastic spider on Penny, for example) could have also been done by Tucker and it’s unusual to see Alan team up with Doyle. Possibly it was decided to change things around in order to move Doyle more into the centre of the action or maybe Todd Carty wasn’t available for the filming dates.
Whatever the reason, the episode ends with Penny and Susi lost, but the real danger they face only becomes clear at the start of episode sixteen.