Angels – Casualty (10th November 1975)

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The new intake are approaching the end of their initial twelve week training period – which means they’ll soon be free to roam the wards and face real patients. This, suggests Miss Windrup, will come as a shock to some and their lack of life experience will turn out to be a problem. It’s certainly true that when we first drop in on them today, many are larking about like schoolkids.

But although the training room is the scene of high jinks, there are a few quiet corners. In one, Pat and Maureen are debating the future. Pat is chomping at the bit to get onto the wards whilst Maureen is more cautious. Both have expressed these viewpoints previously, so the training regime doesn’t appear to have changed their initial positions at all. Pat regards most of their training as pointless and simply wants to get stuck in whilst Maureen is keen to check and recheck every step of the way. Incidentally, Miss Windrup has a new nickname (Windy). Fairly obvious really, but it makes a change from Windbag.

Casualty gives us an insight into areas of the hospital we haven’t seen before. The Casualty department for one – although the familar face of Sita makes it a welcoming environment (I’m not sure why, but there’s something mildly amusing about the way she cheerfully speaks to a chap on crutches).

Another first is the fact that we ride out with an ambulance. A film sequence on the high street (featuring an RTA) gives us the opportunity to see the ambulance men at work. It’s notable that when they’re dealing with the patient they don’t speak at all. Also, one of them isn’t at all interested in conversing with the well spoken lady who witnessed the accident and phoned for the ambulance. The clear inference is that how the accident happened isn’t of interest to them (that’s a police matter) wheras dealing with the result of the crash is.

A few familar faces pop up in the Casualty department, such as Angela Crow as Miss Pritchett. She provides a breathing space between the more serious cases (she’s got a dicky ankle) whilst Christopher Coll’s brusque, questioning doctor is a perfect example of the way a doctor in that environment works (where an immediate diagnosis is the order of the day).

Another spot of light relief is provided by Mr Dooley (Allan McClelland). A drunken Irishman who fell into the fire and burnt his backside, he arrives at St Angela’s smeared with an ointment for burns which his landlady had kept since the Blitz ….

The episode intercuts between the realities of the Casualty department with the training room, where the stakes are obviously much lower. The sight of Pat enthusiastically bandaging up Maureen has a comic feel, add this to Miss Windrup’s school-marmish attitude (she reacts in horror at Pat’s stylish shoes) and it’s easy to see why some of the intake find it hard to take things too seriously.

The RTA victim, Mr Morton (Michael Burrell), eventually comes around. Physically he doesn’t appear to be too bad, but the fact he takes angina tablets is a concern. The doctors want to keep an eye on him for a while but he’s far from keen (he has a business to look after). Up to this point Casualty has flitted between several patients who provide a little dash of colour but little else, before the episode settles on Mr Morton. His case feels much more substantial, especially since there’s a mystery at the heart of it (just why did he crash his car?)

The ever-cheerful Sita (the only one of the ward students to feature in this episode) attempts to convince him that a stay in hospital is something of a treat. “You’ll have your meals served for you, hot drinks, televison, everything”. Sounds enticing!

Mr Morton’s decision to ignore the advice of the doctors and go home is the late dramatic highlight of the episode, especially since he collapses with a cardiac arrest as soon as he leaves.

Several later scenes with him in the resus room are played in complete silence. These are striking and help to effectively close an episode that, whilst not the strongest from the first run, still contains a fair few points of interest.

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