Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 3rd February 1989
So Danny Kendall joins the list of the Grange Hill fallen.
Antoni Karamanopolis was the first pupil to bite the dust, all the way back in 1980. His sad demise (falling from a great height after a dare went wrong) barely raised a ripple of interest or sorrow amongst his classmates. Poor Antoni. But at least his death did serve a moral story purpose – hammering home the risks about accepting foolish dares.
You can’t say the same about Jeremy Irvine’s swimming pool demise in 1984 though, which seemed to have been written as pure sensationalism. The adult soaps do it all the time (a death is good for ratings) although it’s difficult to imagine GH received much of a boost.
What’s even odder is that originally Jonah was the one supposed to die (actor Lee Sparke declined to return when he learnt that Jonah’s time was up). Killing off a regular for no good reason is difficult to fathom – especially as the partnership of Jonah and Zammo worked so well (Jonah’s replacement – Kevin – never clicked in quite the same way).
Five years on and Danny Kendall was the third pupil to perish. This is something of a watershed moment as he was the first long-running character (present since 1986) to depart feet first. Although given that Danny would have left school shortly, it’s possible he was something of a sacrificial pawn. Although his death casts a shadow over the whole school, it’s Mr Bronson who especially suffers.
This was Michael Sheard’s fifth and final year with the series. Whilst I don’t know for sure, it seems likely that this storyline – Danny’s death, Mr Bronson’s fall and eventual rather surprising rebirth – was created in order to give Sheard something especially meaty to get his teeth into. It makes sense – Michael Sheard was an excellent actor, so you may as well make full use of him.
By now, most people seem to be aware of the sad news – although Mauler and Ted are still in the dark. That’s a little hard to swallow, considering that they were hot on the heels of Ziggy, Robbie and Gonch at the end of the previous episode. Are we supposed to assume they just slunk away? A little tighter script-editing was probably called for here.
Life goes on though, as does the rumbling saga of Susi and the clothes from her mother’s catalogue (alas). Along with Clarke’s missing bike, it’s vying as the least involving plotline of the year.
A brief assembly sees Mrs McClusky confirm the news about Danny. Miss Booth is in tears whilst Mr Bronson remains stony-faced. Afterwards he attempts to regain order the only way he knows how – by bellowing at the pupils not to hang around the corridor – but it’s the wrong move at the wrong time. The way Miss Booth silently walks past him after his outburst makes this clear – as does the way he falteringly attempts but fails to speak to her.
Most of the fifth formers are in a reflective mood. All apart from Trev, who decides that he’s won the sweepstake (he put on a bet for next year which, he reasons, is as close to never as possible).
Mr Bronson doesn’t react well to the news of a memorial service for Danny. “I do not think that a delinquent pupil should be given the same treatment as that reserved for sound and cooperative members of the school community”. That doesn’t go down well with Mrs McClusky …
Later she’s able to tell Mr Bronson that Danny died of natural causes and therefore no further investigation will occur. Once again, there’s a real tinge of icy distaste on her part (it’s a nicely played scene from both of them).
Having schemed for a while in order to get close to Mandy (although all his plans tended to end in disaster), a plainly distressed Gonch now finds she’s the perfect shoulder to cry on. Mandy makes a nice bit of toast too (albeit slightly burnt) and has a good suggestion – use the sweepstake money to buy a memorial tree for Danny.
The tree planting scene was a tricky one to pull off as it could easily have teetered over the edge into maudlin sentimentality. This doesn’t happen and the final shot of the episode – a slow crane pullback of the planting – is effective. Especially since the credits are allowed to run silently apart from some ambient noise (the toiling of what I assume to be a church bell).
18 thoughts on “Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Ten”
This episode is one of the only truly great episodes of the period from 1988-1992.
Of course, the Bronson storyline also ramps up here, and it’s one of the best storylines of this period as well.
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Mmm, I’d pretty much agree with that – although I’d include 1987 in the series’ fallow period. Luckily things would pick up dramatically from 1993 onwards for a good few years.
I enjoyed series 10, or most of it, most likely as I didn’t find the donkey stuff too annoying.
There’s a similarity between the way they killed off Grange Hill pupils and the way they killed off Doctor Who assistants.
The death of Adric must have made more impact than the deaths of Katarina and Sara Kingdom. Katarina had only joined the series in the previous serial, and Sara Kingdom was only in Daleks Masterplan. (In fact some people wonder why she’s counted as a regular when she was only in one serial.) But Adric had been in Doctor Who for a year so his death was more of a shock.
Antoni Karamanopolis’ death was very swiftly passed over, and he was only a fairly minor character. (On a previous post I pointed out that the teachers were more interested in punishing the other boy than Antoni’s death.)
When Jeremy Irvine drowned in the swimming pool the following episode showed the pupils coming to terms with his death, and the incident was mentioned in later episodes. But the character had appeared as a guest character in one episode of the previous series, when he was at another school, and had only been a regular for the one series.
Danny Kendall had been in Grange Hill for three years, so his death made more impact.
At this point, I’m wracking my brains trying to remember who the next student death is. Am I forgetting someone incredibly obvious, or is there really no-one else until Judy Jefferies in about a decade’s time? (Justine’s boyfriend cops it but he’s at another school so he doesn’t count.)
Offhand I can’t think of anyone until Judi Jeffries’ death in 1999.
I looked over a list of students from the period, and even though I was going “Who?” a lot, I don’t think any of them met premature ends. A bit strange that you have three student deaths in the first 12 series, and then apparently only one in the next 12! (And I think one more in the seven after that? That we know of…)
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Do you still get much of sense of the individual writer’s voice by this stage of Grange Hill? In the early eighties series (which tended to concentrate on freestanding individual stories in each episode) you can generally tell who’s writing each one, but to me that seemed to dissipate with the rather bitty continuous narratives from about 1985 onwards.
(I’m wondering whether to just watch the Margaret Simpson episodes from this period…)
No, I have to say that everything’s pretty much of a muchness now – possibly by this point the writers were receiving much more detailed storylines to work from (compared to the early eighties) with the result that there’s less chance for them to make their mark.
Certainly by the late eighties storylines are stretched over multiple episodes (often far too long). The nadir of this is Harriet the Donkey of course, but the desperately dull saga of Clarke’s bike is causing me some pain in this series.
So…that plaque. Danny Kendall repeated a year, right? He was a year older than the rest of the class? So, shouldn’t he have turned 16 before starting fifth form, not during it?
(I’m still probably looking at this era in a bit of a rose-tinted manner, although I do kind of regard this series as the end of the “classic” era for many reasons. Still, we’ve got Chrissy’s big storyline coming up in the next two seasons which is pretty much the 90s equivalent of Mr Llewellyn giving in to a student protest: It was about time someone tried to ban Grange Hill again!)
For me, I tend to find that the classic era ended in 1984 .(or at least the first classic era) ….
Ronald Smedley’s time as producer, Christmas 1985 to 1989, is not one I’m terribly fond of (even allowing for the several strong storylines during the 1986 series).
So I’m looking forward to making my way through the nineties and seeing the series begin to pick up some momentum again.
Further flaws with the plaque. Given Danny disappeared before being found how can the date of death be certain? 22nd January 1989 was a Sunday and not a school day, so the day of his passing is definitely not the day he was discovered by Ziggy and co? Had he already been found and left there?!
Sequencing this with broadcast dates, Danny died in between transmission of episodes 6 and 7 and so before he disappeared on screen to us. Grange Hill obviously exists in a parallel world where we witness the events a few weeks after. You can tell I am the sort of person who wonders why weekends never seem to feature in Eastenders!
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I don’t know how true to forensic science this is but it’s certainly a standard fictional trope that the time of death of a recent corpse can be estimated. There are also cases of a date of death being determined if only to provide a clear single point of focus for memorial (and possibly also a legal fiction where necessary). However I suspect that the props department did not forward check the calendar. This wouldn’t be the first time in television that the day of the week is wrong.
Oh, yeah, the other thing I meant to mention: There is an unfortunate chinese whispers version of this storyline that has left a lot of people convinced Danny committed suicide. Michael Sheard once tried to put the record straight on one of those Channel 4 talking heads Top 100 Whatever shows, only to get cut off in favour of inane comments from one-hit wonders, D-list comedians and children’s TV presenters who watched the episodes when they were five.
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Danny’s memorial plaque creates some massive continuity errors. He was held back a year in Series 10 because of his illness, therefore he should have technically graduated with his original year group (Freddie/Laura/Louise) in 1988. However, Danny’s date of birth puts him in the right age category for Gonch’s year who would have been born in 1972/73.
What Grange Hill tried to do was present itself in a ‘real time’ format by stating Danny died around the time the episodes were transmitted on BBC1. It is clear from watching the majority of Series 12, that it was filmed during the summer/autumn of 1988. The episodes featuring Danny’s final scenes were not cold or dark enough for January!!!!
Continuity checking in the show isn’t always great. There’s an earlier episode of this series where Ziggy talks about not going to an area even though his mother had a job there in the first year – but Ziggy was explicitly shown as new to the school in the second year. I guess if anyone in production noticed the dates at the time then they just assumed the viewers wouldn’t notice it and start doing the sums.
(Oh and he wouldn’t have technically graduated because British pupils don’t graduate from school. They just finish with any qualifications being from external boards and bodies.)
I liked Danny’s plaque having “SOMETIME pupil of this school” written on it, nice touch of humour and I’m sure the boy himself would have appreciated it.
Quite a strong episode that shows the impact a death can have in so many different ways but also how life goes on, especially for pupils in other years who never really knew Danny.