The opening episode of series two, Round The Clock reintroduces us to all the S1 regulars quickly and effectively. Within the first few minutes we see Pat and Maureen preparing for another working day (with Maureen also looking forward to a party in the evening), the effervescent Jo freewheeling down the corridor, poor Shirley enjoying a solitary lunchtime drink and Sita dishing out a dollop of sympathy to Mrs Andrews (Norma Andrews).
As the episode progresses, various threads are developed although two – Sita/Mrs Andrews and Shirley – dominate. From her first scene, there’s a tense brittleness to Mrs Andrews, which is understandable after we learn that her young son, Ian (Stefan Gates), has been rushed to hospital with suspected meningitis. Red-eyed and frantic with worry, she demands to have all the facts as quickly as possible. But Sita prefers to be quite non-committal with her comments.
The unfortunate upshot is that Ian initially seems to be making a recovery, but this is only a temporary respite as he then takes a turn for the worse. One of the interesting aspects of Round The Clock is observing which Angels have changed from series one. Sita certainly seems to be a little different from the passive character she was then – when confronted about her behaviour, she remains fairly unrepentant (although her colleagues, such as Pat, are quick to pass unfavourable judgement out of her earshot).
It’s an interesting talking point – was Sita protecting Mrs Andrews by not telling her everything or simply making her agony (when she finally learnt the truth about Ian’s condition) even more painful? There’s no definite answer to this, and Adele Rose’s script – to its credit – doesn’t plump for either side. Indeed, later on Mrs Andrews decides that Sita wasn’t at fault anyway, so this dramatic flashpoint is resolved in a low-key manner.
Mrs Andrews’ scenes in the children’s ward are quite haunting. Although we see the odd jolly child (with nothing worse than a broken leg) there’s something quite melancholy about this area, despite the bright posters and collection of toys. This plotline has no closure – although we’re told that most children make a full recovery, there’s the possibility that Ian may not.
Elsewhere, Shirley is working on a busy female ward. Some of the patients, such as Mrs McCartney (Peggy Aitchison) are simply there for a spot of colour (she likes to scoff chocolates and call everyone “ducks”). Mrs Fitch (June Brown) is also quite peripheral, but the way she clashes with Shirley is used to highlight the fact that Staff Nurse Brent isn’t her normal, efficient self.
Brown plays to type as a complaining sort (complete with her trademark droning voice) whilst it’s amusing that Mr Fitch (Alec Linstead) also has a similar tone. Being attacked by them on both sides means it’s not surprising that Shirley eventually loses her patience. Mild though her outburst is, this moment of crisis allows Sister Young to step in and have a heart to heart with her.
If Sita has changed since series one, then at this point it doesn’t appear there’s been any progress with Shirley. In the pub she was as isolated as ever, sitting by herself whilst the rest of the world seemed to having a much better time. She confesses to Sister Young that she still has no social life and no friends (although she does at least share a table in the canteen with Jo and Sita without the other two recoiling, so there’s been some progress there).
Shirley’s despair seeps out of the screen yet again, but there is a positive outcome, professionally at least, as she’s encouraged to take a geriatrics course. This would seem to be something that most nurses (such as Jo) would avoid, but Shirley is very keen. We’ll see this theme developed later in the season.
Jo isn’t given a great deal of screentime in this opening episode. Mainly she’s present to serve as a cool counsel for the unusually hot-headed Sita. As for Pat and Maureen, Maureen’s suddenly become something of a party animal (closing the episode jiving with a George Best lookalike in the pub) whilst the previously flighty Pat has gained a dollop of common sense.
I liked the scene with Pat and an unnamed student nurse in the canteen. The young nurse confided that she was on the verge of quitting, so Pat – who nearly did the same thing last year – gave her a pep talk. Amusingly, the young nurse wasn’t at all convinced by Pat’s impassioned speech! That’s a nice touch, which shows that the series wasn’t always content to take the obvious or neat route.