Case History opens with Jo and Ruth making their way to work in something of a freewheeling style. It comes complete with an encounter on the bus with an old woman who presents them both with an orange and then praises the work they do! This early scene reaffirms their tight bond (it’s almost them against the rest of the world) and the lighthearted attitude to life that they share.
There’s some familar faces lurking on the men’s ward today. Mr Collins (Lewis Fiander) is a bitter man – angry at his illness and all those around him. Even Jo – who can charm most people – isn’t immune to the sharp edge of his tongue. The irrepressible Mr Slingsby (Richard Davies) also causes Collins some irritation, but it’s all water off a duck’s back for the voluble Welshman.
You know what you’re going to get with Davies. Slingsby is a loudmouthed joker, eager to share the delights of the page three lady with his fellow patients (and also Jo, who delightfully tells him that she’s just as well equipped as the paper lady is!). He also loves to discuss the gory details of his illness with the others. They’re not so keen ….
They clearly move Jo around the hospital on a regular basis. First she was on a male ward, then a female ward and now she’s back on a male ward. And for the first time Ruth is on the same ward as her. Given the rapport which has been established between them, this makes sense.
I’m afraid to say that my knowledge of Lewis Fiander doesn’t really extend beyond his idiosyncratic turn in the Doctor Who story Nightmare of Eden. Collins is a very different sort of character (he doesn’t have a silly accent, for a start). With Jo having selected him as one of her case studies, she makes an effort to get to know him, although his extreme reticence and hostility doesn’t make this easy.
The arrival of Mr Cooper (James Grout) is a major event. A great shame this was just a one-off appearance as he’s excellent as a traditional force of nature consultant. Breezing from bed to bed, dispensing the odd encouraging word, Grout is in his element. But he can also switch to serious in a heartbeat – witness the murmered conversation he has with Dr Khan (Tariq Unis) after they’ve seen Slingsby. It’s plain that (despite his cheerful front) Slingsby is far from well.
Collins’ bleak mood is seen again when he tells Mr Cooper that he’d be better off dead. Jo and Slingsby (both listening in) are given silent reaction shots. He’s still the topic of conversation when Jo and Ruth head off to the park for lunch. This is a nice little scene – it gets us away from the claustrophobic feel of the hospital and also allows the two girls to indulge in a spot of good natured bickering (Jo’s latest boyfriend and Ruth’s bunions are amongst the hot topics).
Coronation Street and Z Cars were the two series where writer Leslie Duxbury mainly plied his trade. His first Angels script is a decent character piece, with Collins’ fraying state of mind the centrepoint. Jo’s desire to find out why he’s so unhappy is also a major theme – for her, sending the patients home happy is just as important as sending them home cured.
Sister Easby takes the opposite view. Getting too involved with the patients is always a bad move since it’ll eventually wear your soul down. Much better, she tells Jo, to keep your distance. Once again we see the emotional Jo reduced to tears, although in this episode it’s only a brief sob which occurs in the privacy of the locker room.
And despite her previous words, it’s eventually Sister Easby who gets to the bottom of Collins’ angst. Across the episode Fiander is gifted some verbose speeches which he handles very well. And although this means that Case History is a little florid in places, it’s still a very engaging watch.