Training begins in earnest. Angels doesn’t shy away from the routine and mundane aspects of nursing (we’re treated to a demonstration of bed-making) but rather than being dull, these scenes help to create a sense of reality.
Whilst the new intake are learning the ropes under the tutelage of Miss Heather Windrup (Faith Brook), there’s more time to get to know the more experienced student nurses. Jo had already featured strongly in the previous episode, but today we meet her best friend and confidant, Ruth Fullman (Lesley Dunlop), for the first time. Both are also friendly with Sita Patel (Karan David), who is less well defined than either Jo or Ruth (her main character trait here is that she rarely uses speech contractions).
Their interlocking friendship excludes (either consciously or unconsciously) another student nurse – Shirley Brent (Clare Clifford). We saw Shirley briefly in the last episode, but today she really begins to emerge as a character in her own right. Due to sickness, Shirley has temporally taken over the duties of a staff nurse – something which the ebullient Jo is less than happy about.
The conflict between Jo and Shirley is easily the most engaging part of the episode. Jo might paint Shirley as humourless and petty, but it’s plain that she’s more than a little overwhelmed at suddenly being thrust into this position of authority. What she needs is support from her colleagues, but in Jo’s case there’s only a mild sense of hostility.
It’s good to be presented with a situation where neither Jo or Shirley are wholly right or wrong. The main flashpoint – they clash over whether a small child should be allowed onto the ward to visit their grandfather (Shirley says no, Jo says yes) – is especially instructive since it enables Shirley to be gently lectured by Miss Windrup. Jo may have overridden Shirley’s authority, but the net result is that the patient was cheered up (so it’s an instance where disregarding the rules and the chain of command had a positive impact). But how do you know when to break the rules? This is a sticky question …
It may not surprise you to learn that Miss Windrup is referred to as “Windbag” out of her earshot!
Pat and Maureen head out to see the sights of London. Once again, Maureen is reluctant to do anything that might be construed as fun, but Pat is eventually able to persuade her and both have an enjoyable day. There’s a sting in the tail though, as Maureen returns to find an ominous message has been left for her – she needs to ring home urgently.
A low-level of anxiety is created after she learns that her mother, still pining for her, is in a bad way. Will Maureen have to put her nursing plans on hold and return home to Ireland? No is the answer to that as no sooner is this thread established than we’re told that Maureen’s mother has now pulled herself together. This slightly anti-climatic storyline is a bit odd, but it’s the only misstep in a strong epiaode.
Jo’s faint pangs of remorse after her clash with Shirley then leads her to attempt to apologise. But when it comes to the crunch she simply can’t – leaving Shirley to walk off with her dinner to a table all by herself whilst Jo, Ruth and Sita continue to sit together. Unspoken though it is, Shirley’s isolation from the others is made quite plain.
One thought on “Angels – Initiation (8th September 1975)”
I suppose that the message from Maureen’s mother serves the narrative purpose of showing the potentially disruptive hold that her family holds over her – she’s starting to find her feet and then they have to spoil things – rather than generate much dramatic suspense.
Reading about the interwoven first and second year storylines in this review reminds me of what a good series this is about being a student, as well as about medicine. The first term feeling of being adrift, having to find friends and the rituals of induction, and then facing greater responsibilities in the second year… Its not something that was ever really done much in a long-term British drama to my knowledge – the closest fit that I can think of is Karen Grant’s first year at Liverpool University in Brookside.
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