Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Eighteen

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Written by Barry Purchese.  Tx 22nd April 1985

The opening night of the school musical – Brighton Rock – is nearly here, but discord is still rife.  The lack of decent sets remains an issue, although Zammo is more concerned about the absence of any bikes, bitterly reflecting that they’re going to be the only Mods and Rockers who ever had to walk to Brighton.

Something certainly seems to be lacking and help comes from a most unexpected quarter – namely Mr Bronson.  After a year terrorising most of the pupils (and some of the staff!) he demonstrates his more approachable side after he corrals Vince into extracting sound effects from the film Death Race 2000.  Mr Bronson hopes that this will help to spice things up, although Mr Smart is less convinced.

Those with long memories will remember Gonch’s wheeze of copying tapes from the video shop owned by Vince’s dad (that explains how Mr Bronson discovered the tape of Death Race 2000 on the media resources machine).  Michael Sheard is on fine form as Mr Bronson informs Gonch that his old eyes get a little tired towards the end of term, but they’ll be undimmed at the start of the next.

It’s a pity that this new, briefly human, Mr Bronson doesn’t achieve rapprochement with Zammo.  After spending the year riling the boy, this part of the plot just fades away (next year Mr Bronson will have a new unfortunate – Ant Jones – to victimise and his contact with Zammo will be minimal).

Mr Baxter, standing in for the ever-absent headmaster, and Mrs McClusky are sandwiched either side of the Mayor, who regards the unfolding first night entertainment with a long suffering air.  Everybody seems convinced that something’s missing in the performance, although quite what is hard to say.

Banksie, after smashing up the sets, makes amends by persuading his brother Phil and some of his mates to bring their bikes into the auditorium.  When Mrs McClusky hears of this she’s not at all sure it’s a good idea (understandably) but Mr Bronson once again is on the side of the pupils.  Is this because he’s remembering his own salad days?  He seems to confess as much to Mr Smart at one point, although imagining Mr Bronson as either a Mod or a Rocker is something of a stretch ….

The bikes make an appearance, although since all they do is drive onto the stage and park up, you have to wonder whether it was worth all that effort.  The play comes to a decent conclusion thanks not to the bikes but because the final song is suitably stirring.  It claims that strife between warring groups can be settled if only everyone could learn to love one another.  It’s a nice, albeit hopelessly optimistic, sentiment and ties in neatly to the running theme of Grange Hill vs Brookdale vs Rodney Bennett.  Zammo and Jackie of course have been attempting to bridge this gap all year, although with limited success.

Whilst the 1985 Christmas Special touches on several topics (Roland’s lost love, the struggle between Cally’s real and adoptive mothers) developed during series eight, it was made as part of the production block for series nine, so series eight ends here.

Various characters – Jimmy Flynn, Julian Fairbrother, Annette Firman, Mandy Firth – all bow out with no ceremony.  Annette is at least mentioned at the start of the next series, the others join the list of the Grange Hill forgotten – pupils who simply disappear and are never referred to again.

Ben Rea’s sole year as producer introduced a host of characters who would have long term futures with the series and although at times the plotlines seemed not to be terribly well developed (frequently dropped or picked up again with little ceremony) it’s still an agreeable run of episodes.

Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Seventeen


Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 17th April 1985

Hollo has a brainwave about how to assemble a new set for the school play at short notice – raid the rubbish dump for suitable material.  Along with Miss Booth and the rest of E1 they head down to the dump to pick up numerous likely objects.  The fact that everything’s bound to be rusty and filthy doesn’t seem to concern Miss Booth, but I guess that needs must.

The new set doesn’t go down well with all the performers and Fay’s sporting commitments means that she’s not able to make a vital rehearsal.  This is all too much for Miss Washington who goes into something of a tizzy.  Miss Washington is sporting an interesting dress – something she’s worn before, but with a plain black dress over the top of it.

Roland’s back from his French misadventure and naturally enough doesn’t really want to talk about it.  Unluckily for him, Janet’s present to fill in all of the embarrassing details.  Now that Fabienne’s departed, so has Roland’s striped jacket and beret, although this particular storyline will be referenced again in the 1985 Christmas Special.

Jackie and Banksie are still serving their suspension.  Time is clearly hanging heavily on their hands, as we see them aimlessly wheel around on a roundabout in a deserted children’s playground.   There’s rather a nice bleakness to this scene – although it’s a sunny day, the inner-city feel of the location matches Banksie’s dialogue.  He tells Jackie they’d better get used to doing nothing, after all that’s what they’ll be doing after they leave school.

This nihilistic attitude has been aired by others before, with numerous pupils wondering why (like Jackie) they should be fretting about exams when there’s no jobs to go to after they leave school.  It’s not been touched upon for a while, so this moment helps to anchor the series in the mid eighties, when unemployment was still high.

Mr Smart continues to entertain (his transformation from the cold, unbending teacher of previous years is now complete).  Make no mistake, he’s not a man to cross, but his newly found sense of humour has certainly fleshed his character out.  Here he once again crosses swords with Gonch, who had popped into his office to retrieve Mr Bronson’s wig.  Simon Heywood doesn’t milk the comedy, but his incredulous reaction that the tattered hairpiece is Mr Bronson’s (at one point he gingerly pushes it across the desk with a pencil) is nicely done.  As is the moment when he hands Mr Bronson a small parcel containing his lost property.

With Mr Smart due to write to Gonch’s parents to tell them exactly how badly behaved he’s been all year (slightly odd that he hasn’t done so before) Gonch starts to fret about how well, or not, he’s going to do in the upcoming exams.  So naturally enough he decides to cheat ….

Even for Gonch, this is a particularly hairbrained scheme.  We’re told that Vince is a bit of a swot (not the first time this year that a character trait has been dropped on us out of the blue) and has prepared tapes which will help him in the exams.  Gonch “borrows” one such tape for a French exam, but Ronnie decides to swop it (for The Meteors – presumably it was 1985’s Monkey Breath) and everything goes downhill from there.  It’s quite interesting to see Trevor, introduced in episode one as something of a hard-man, tell Gonch that he’s mad to try and cheat in the exam.  For whatever reason it wasn’t decided to follow through and make Trevor the class bully – the introduction of Imelda will help to fill that gap.

The identities of the set smashers hasn’t been one of the series’ most taxing mysteries and N4 take their own brand out vengeance out on Banksie and his shadow, Loop.

Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Sixteen

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Written by Margaret Simpson.  Tx 15th April 1985

It’s time to bid a fond farewell to the French exchange students.  But Roland doesn’t seem to be too upset that he’s going to be parted from Fabienne, which no doubt has something to do with the fact that he’s decided to stow away with them on the return trip to France ….

Like the pelican crossing protests in the previous episode, this is another story beat that comes to us cold.  We’ve seen that Roland and Fabienne have been close, but since the ground for his misadventure hasn’t been laid at all, it comes across as a rather half-hearted escapade.  But it does give us our only chance this year to see Mike Savage as Mr Browning who, as ever, gives us his best hangdog expression when he learns the news, courtesy of the ever-zealous Janet (poor Mr Browning has had more than his fair share of strife with Roland over the years).

The cross-channel ferry crossing was done on the cheap – a quick bit of stock footage and then a cut to what is supposed to be a rough crossing (plenty of camera moves and overlaid mist).  Not terribly convincing, but then for such a short sequence it’s hardly surprising that they had to quickly cobble something together.

For those keeping up with the Zammo/Jackie relationship, it’s off again.  We never actually see Jackie (or Banksie) in this episode, but Julian breaks the bad news to Zammo that they’ve been seen together.  I have to admit that this eternal triangle is starting to wear a little thin with me, thankfully series nine shakes things up, as  Zammo spends the year otherwise engaged ….

Ronnie cleans Mr Bronson’s wig after Gonch asks her nicely.  Poor Mr Bronson has had to resort to wearing his emergency hair-piece, which causes a certain amount of merriment (even Mrs McClusky isn’t immune).  The question still remains about how they can return it though.

One of the longest running threads of series eight is finally brought to a conclusion as the identity of the thieves is discovered – Emma Stebson, her brother Gripper and Denny Rees.  Okay, let’s just stop for a moment and consider this – Gripper and Denny (both of whom would be recognisable to many of the pupils and staff) have apparently been wandering around the school corridors during the daytime for weeks on end, carrying out armfuls of swag.  Really?

It’s even more remarkable that we don’t even see them – we just hear their voices on Gonch’s Walkman.  At last his staffroom bugging came up trumps, it’s just a pity (for him) that Mrs McClusky, Mr McCartney and Mr Smart learn about it.  Mrs McClusky asks him, dangerously sweetly, if listening to the staff’s tittle tattle is very interesting.  Whenever Mrs McClusky is particularly pleasant you know there’s danger.  I also like the way that Mr Smart launches into full judicial mode when interrogating Gonch – grasping his lapels like he was at the Old Bailey.

With the robberies wrapped up, that just leaves the school play to sort out.  Everything seems to be going swimmingly, until it’s discovered that all the sets have been slashed.  Was this the work of Gripper or did someone else with a grudge against the school do the deed?

Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Fifteen


Written by John Godber.  Tx 10th April 1985

Following her sons accident, Mrs Wallace (Zienia Merton), leads a spirited demonstration outside the school, calling for a pelican crossing.

This demo comes rather out of the blue, since we’ve seen no preparations previously.  But on the plus side it’s good to see Zienia Merton (probably best known for Space 1999) as a crusading parent.  What’s really interesting about these early scenes is that some of the other teachers – Miss Booth and Miss Washington – have already decided that Mrs McClusky is bound to react unfavourably.

It’s therefore ironic that Mrs McClusky is shown to be fully in favour of the aims of the demonstration.  She also calmly points out that blocking the road will do little good and instead will only serve to alienate both the police and motorists.  Mrs Wallace, in the white heat of anger, eventually comes around, but it’s much more surprising that Miss Booth or Miss Washington take so long to grasp this obvious point.

This episode is probably the best so far during series eight for Gwyneth Powell.  Mrs McClusky tangles entertainingly with Mr Bronson (always a delight when those two lock horns) and she also faces off against the builders.  They’ve returned to start work in earnest but have to shamefacedly admit that the reason they’re so far behind is because they’ve been nipping off to help the old folk with their house repairs.

Once again, there’s an inversion of our expectations – everything seems to be set up for Mrs McClusky to react in anger to this news, but instead she cues up Mr Bronson to splutter indignantly before swiftly cutting him off to sweetly praise them for their community spirit.  Lovely!

John Godber was a very infrequent contributor to the series (this was the third of his five scripts).  A pity, because there’s some sharp character work here (especially amongst the staff).  Another enjoyable moment comes when Mr Smart and Mr Baxter discuss Mr Smart’s forthcoming Hardy exhibition.  Mr Smart clearly assumes that Mr Baxter is unaware of Thomas Hardy, although Mr Baxter firmly makes the point that this isn’t so.  Mr Baxter’s disgusted expression is a delight (and continuity wise it ties back to series six, where we learnt that he has a great love of English literature).

There’s a nice literary joke when the builders confess to Mr Smart that everything’s taken so long because a good deal of the wood in the school is rotten and has to be replaced.  He wanders off, muttering that there’s “something rotten in the state of Denmark”, much to the builder’s bemusement (who later conclude he must have had a bad holiday there!).  I don’t know how many of the target audience would have got this Shakespearian joke, so maybe it was one for the parents watching.

The other running thread of the episode concerns Hollo’s new blazer and shoes.  This doesn’t really work, mainly because his blazer doesn’t look different from anybody else’s and we never see his shoes.  But it does allow Robbie to indulge in that time-honoured school gag (pinching Hollo’s clothes from the changing rooms, leaving the poor boy trouserless).

Hollo and Gonch have also done some pinching though, taking Mr Bronson’s wig (the teacher was enjoying a swim and had left it by the side of the pool).  It’s our first opportunity to see Mr Bronson sans wig (“he’s bald!” exclaims Hollo) and it leads into another great comic scene as the two boys, playing about with the hairpiece in the changing rooms, suddenly hear Mr Bronson approaching and have to swiftly hide the offending toupee.  Alas, Gonch shoves it in the rubbish bin, where it gets rather dusty!

So as the episode ends, Mr Bronson has lost his wig and Hollo is deficient in the trouser department.  Not the most dramatic of cliffhangers true, but an effective way to close one of the stronger episodes from series eight.

Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Fourteen


Written by Barry Purchese.  Tx 3rd April 1985

There’s something a little odd going at the start of this episode.  Fay is agonising over how to tell Julian that she no longer wants to go out with him, but since they’ve never had that sort of relationship this doesn’t make any sense.  Julian’s got other things on his mind though – his beloved dog, Bumper, is nearing the end of his life, but Julian remains in denial, convinced that he’s going to get better.

Banksie’s latest plan for some quality time with Jackie involves taking his brother’s stock car for a spin, with Jean-Paul and Sarah tagging along.  Banksie might tell the others that his brother, Phil (John Blundell) is totally fine with this, but it doesn’t take a genius to work out that when Phil does make an appearance he’s going to be less than impressed.

Blundell (who had previously appeared in both the tv version and film of Scum) is menacing as Phil, probably because he doesn’t get angry.  His self-control, mildly telling his younger brother that it might be a good idea to flag down the car (Jean-Paul driving, Sarah sitting beside him) sooner rather than later, carries with it a certain chill as we can sense the inherent threat of violence behind his calm words.  This is put into action when he starts to give Banksie a few slaps and Jackie backs away in fear.

The next day Banksie turns up to school with a battered face, courtesy of his brother.  As with the familial beatings issued to pupils during the first few series, this isn’t dwelled upon – except in an obliquely approving way.  Since Banksie was in the wrong he deserved such a beating (which is certainly Zammo’s conclusion).

As for Jean-Paul and Sarah, he might have been a good driver but his luck finally runs out and he turns the car over (a nicely mounted stunt).  He walks away without a scratch but Sarah is hospitalised with a broken arm and facial bruising.  Sarah’s last moment in the episode – which also turned out to be Joanne Bell’s final scene in Grange Hill – is a powerful one, as she silently turns her ravaged face away from Jean-Paul who, finally shocked into a semblance of responsibility (or possibly he’s simply worried about the reception he’ll receive back home from his strict parents) visits her in hospital.

With Mr Humphries mysteriously absent once again, it falls to Mrs McClusky to host the parents meeting with Mr Wright, Mrs Wilks and Mrs Banks.  Mrs Banks was obviously played by a non-speaking extra though, so has nothing to say!  Mrs Wilks is much more voluble, although Mrs McClusky isn’t inclined to agree with her view that Sarah was totally innocent, so Jackie, Banksie and Sarah are all suspended indefinitely.

With Mrs McClusky now effectively back as the head, it does make you wonder why they decided to demote her to deputy if they weren’t going to follow through with any decent storylines on this topic.  It wasn’t the first and won’t be the last time that the head is an off-screen character, but at least here it’s not long until the matter is resolved.

With Banksie and Jackie suspended, that leaves an opening in the school play and Fay and Julian are drafted in at short notice.  It means they’ll have to work closely together, but now that the exciting, but reckless, Jean-Paul has returned to France, Fay regards the steady and reliable Julian more warmly.

Although since Julian doesn’t return in 1986, we’re not too far away from Fay’s next – and most catastrophic – choice of boyfriend …..

Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Thirteen


Written by Frances Galleymore.  Tx 1st April 1985

Possibly inspired by Mr Baxter’s previous complaints that the others keep on finishing off the coffee without replacing it, the staff room is now the proud recipient of an imposing new vending machine.  Mr Smart and Miss Washington aren’t impressed though, she comments that it just makes a terrible groaning noise and doesn’t deliver, leading him to respond that it sounds like the school in general.  Mrs McClusky, of course, just happens to wander into the staff room at that precise moment ….

Caroline Gruber has another opportunity to demonstrate Miss Washington’s doe-eyed appeal after Mrs McClusky expresses her opinion that some of the first years (especially the ones in Miss Washington’s charge) are pushing the school uniform rules to the limit.  It’s plain that Mrs McClusky believes that the younger teacher isn’t setting them a good example, but politeness – and Mrs McClusky is sweetness personified during this scene – dictates that she doesn’t openly come out and say so.

There’s some later nice staff-room interplay (Mr Bronson complaining about the level of smoke and continuing to bemoan the fact that others have taken his seat) but the episode revolves around two main areas – Eric’s accident and the babysitting misadventures at the McCartneys.

Those with fairly long memories might recall that Eric, previously revealed to be partially deaf, featured in an earlier series eight episode.  The poor boy is now the recipient of Janet’s interest (who seems to have finally decided that Roland – constantly speaking French – is now totally absorbed with Fabienne) but she wasn’t there at the moment when Eric stepped out into the road and was knocked over.

I’m not sure whether Eric’s deafness is supposed to be a factor here – but this doesn’t make much sense if so, surely he’d have looked left and right to check the road was clear before crossing?  Possibly he was simply chosen because whilst not a main cast member (whose absence would be problematic) he was still someone with a higher profile than a non-speaking extra – and therefore his accident would carry a little more impact.

If that was the case, they could have used Diane.  Although she has a couple of lines in this episode, they only highlight just how underused she’s been throughout series eight (whereas during 83/84 she’d featured quite prominently).  It seemed that once her spots faded away so did any thoughts about developing her character, so she’ll not return in 1986.

One point of interest is the way that Mrs McClusky appears on the scene mere seconds after the accident.  How did she get from the school to the road outside so quickly?  Was she waiting in the playground for such an accident to happen?!

Real-life school politics of the mid eighties do get a brief mention when the fourth-formers are left to their own devices, thanks to a cover strike.  British schools were hit by waves of industrial action during this period, as teachers regularly worked to rule and refused to cover their colleague’s lessons.  Phil Redmond would have no doubt made capital out of this, but here it’s very much an incidental point – at this point in the show’s history, staff-room squabbles are more over coffee and chairs than politics ….

There’s an air of deceit running through this episode.  Fay agrees to babysit for Mr and Mrs McCartney and Julian offers to walk her home.  Fay, still not keen on the worthy-but-dull Julian, tells him that the babysitting’s been cancelled, so that Jean-Paul can go instead.  And with Annette and Stewpot also there, everything’s set for a cosy evening.  Which of course doesn’t go to plan.

If Fay lies to Julian, then Stewpot continues to lie to Annette.  Just as Claire’s been somewhat reduced in character during series eight, then poor Stewpot has also received the rough end of the scripting stick.  By continually stringing both Claire and Annette along – lacking the courage to choose between them – he’s portrayed as buffoonish at best and an insensitive idiot at worst.  Even here, he can’t bring himself to tell Annette that it’s over, but since he’s clearly not enjoying himself, why not?

Jean-Paul burns a hole in the McCartney’s carpet with his cigarette, providing us with yet another example of his flawed character.  His plan – chuck a scatter cushion over the offending mark and walk slowly away – also highlights that he never stops to think about the consequences of his actions.  This moment was no doubt one of several created in order to prepare the ground for episode fourteen.

Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Twelve


Written by Frances Galleymore.  Tx 27th March 1985

So Claire and Stewpot’s on-off-on-off, etc relationship now seems to be on again.  I’m somewhat sorry that we didn’t see the scene where she agreed to have him back, as that would have been fun to watch.  Has anything changed?  Well Stewpot’s still making excuses when Claire attempts to arrange an evening out (this time he claims he has to help his father decorate the bathroom) so maybe not.  Surely he can’t still be juggling two girls, and both of them incredibly stroppy as well ….

I do feel a little sorry for Paula Ann Bland during this run of episodes, as Claire doesn’t really have anything to do except express disapproval at Stewpot, so she spends her time as a rather shrewish character with little light or shade.

But this does give us a lovely scene as Annette crashes into Stewpot, Claire and Precious and blithely arranges a date with him.  Claire’s response?  “Stewpot, you’d better not have chosen that tarty little fourth-year with the raggedy hair before me. ‘Cause if you have and you do see her on Friday night then you won’t be seeing me again.”  This gives Mark Burdis another chance to give us his best hangdog expression (something he’s had to do an awful lot this year).

The on-off-on-off relationship between Zammo and Jackie is now once more lurching into the off position, thanks to Zammo’s jealous and controlling nature.  Banksie invites Jackie to join him, Loop, Fay and Jean-Paul on a visit to the old Brookdale school.  She wasn’t sure, but after Zammo told her not to, it’s not hard to imagine the outcome ….

They decide to bunk off, which means that Fay spends the time in a highly stressed manner.  She may not quite be the goody-goody now she’s hooked up with the louche Jean-Paul, but she still knows right from wrong.

It’s odd that none of them seem to consider the possibility that there may still be a caretaker on site (if there wasn’t, why would there be a television set and a kettle?).  Of course there is (played by the wonderful Derek Deadman) which means there’s a short comic chase.  “Blast! Flipping kids!”


Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Eleven


Written by Rosemary Mason. Tx 25th March 1985 

Mr Smart explains to E1 about the new timetables and homework arrangements.  Natasha (Patsy Palmer) has possibly her first line in the series, which sees her succinctly sum everything up.  “Bit of a fag, innit?”

It’s a system that seems to be deliberately confusing, so it’s possibly not surprising that Mr Smart mistakenly heads off for the upper school, convinced that’s where he should be.  It’s just a slight problem that it was Miss Washington who persuaded him to do so and when Mr McCartney points out that she was mistaken (mere seconds after Mr Smart has exited the staff room in a hurry) neither decide to rush out and stop him.  So you can’t really blame him for being a little miffed with Miss Washington later ….

There’s a fairly rare glimpse of the upper school corridors, which look incredibly dirty and run down.  But Mr Smart doesn’t haunt them for long as Mrs McClusky soon sends him back down to the lower school.  We haven’t had the old “two classes of pupils try to fit in one room” routine for a little while, so it was clearly overdue an airing.

This gives us a rare opportunity to see virtually all of E1 and N4 together at the same time (normally they tend to have their own episodes with minimal crossovers).  E1 might already be present in the room, but Banksie doesn’t believe that possession is nine tenths of the law.  Instead, he contends that since they’re older, they must prevail.  He makes this point forcibly to Miss Washington, which only serves to highlight the flaws in his character.

The stand-up row between Miss Washington and Mr Smart is good fun, as is Gonch’s plan to bug the staff room.  He’s convinced this will enable them to identify the thieves once and for all (presumably he doesn’t consider that they might be able to rob in silence).  Once again, security at Grange Hill is shown to be lax in the extreme as the staff room door isn’t locked, enabling Gonch to able to enter and secure a Walkman (hired off Vince for the princely sum of fifty pence per week) under the coffee table.  With the tape switched to record, what can possibly go wrong?  Mr Baxter making his way to the staff room is a bit of a problem, but Hollo, on guard duty, is able to distract him quite neatly.

The first fruits of their bugging is another episode highlight.  Gonch mentions “Grange Hill Watergate”, although quite how many children would have picked up on this reference is debatable.  One for the older members of the family watching I guess.  They manage to hear Mr Smart asking Miss Washington if she’d like to go out with him for a meal (he’s clearly recovered his equanimity), although this tender moment is cut short after Mr Baxter barges in and complains that once again they’ve finished off all the coffee!

Given that the longest cassette tape available would have been a C120, the most they could hope to record would be just an hour, so it’s not surprising that this is the only useful(?) part of the recording.  Clearly if they’re going to catch the thieves red-handed they’re going to have to be very, very lucky ….

Relationships, both real and fictional are key to this episode.  Annette and Fay are both shown to have less than ideal boyfriends, although it’s interesting to see that they react in different ways to being left on the sidelines (something which is mirrored later during rehearsals for the school play).  Annette is quite happy to hang around, watching Stewpot play football (to his obvious irritation) whilst Fay (once Jean-Paul joins in with the same game) is much less tolerant and heads off home alone.

Elsewhere in the episode, Mr Baxter pops up to remind Fay, and the audience, that her previously impressive sporting career is suffering.  And is Jean-Paul worth it?  He has inevitable Gallic charm, but apart from that he’s portrayed as rather feckless.  And all the time Julian stands on the sidelines, pining.  Mmm, maybe all will come right in the end.

The school play, centered around conflict between the mods and rockers in the 1960’s, takes shape.  Given what we’ve already seen, it can’t be a coincidence that both Mr Smart and some of the pupils aren’t terribly impressed that the plot is rather male-dominant (reducing the females to little more than appendages, standing on the sidelines).   Jackie, pencilled in to play the object of both Zammo and Banksie’s affection (perfect casting!) admits that having two boys fighting over her leaves her cold.

Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Ten


Gonch and Hollo’s newest rubbish-dump acquisition is a plastic mannequin which they dress in school uniform and take to school.  Unfortunately they drop him in the middle of an oncoming car when struggling to cross the busy road outside the school gates.

Since we can see a Lollipop leaning against the wall, it rather begs the question as to why there isn’t a Lollipop man or woman on duty.  It’s mentioned that the teachers are currently assigned to road duty, with Mr  Bronson taking his turn today.  Alas, we don’t see him wielding the Lollipop, which is a shame.

Fay is increasingly infatuated with the laid-back Jean-Paul, much to Julian’s irritation.  All of Fay’s previously held principles (such as a horror of cosmetics being tested on animals) seem to be slipping way, demonstrated best when she much prefers Jean-Paul’s present – perfume – to Julian’s – a rabbit.

Zammo and Jackie’s on-off-on-off relationship now seems to be back on, which leads to further tensions with Banksie.  The school production of West Side Story comes to a crashing halt when they learn that copyright problems mean that they won’t be able to continue.  A pity they didn’t check beforehand really …

No matter, the show must go on, even if it’s a different show from the one they’d originally planned.

Mr Smart continues his quest to tempt Miss Washington out for an evening of squash, but once again he’s foiled – this time because she’s too busy with the school play.  Poor Mr Smart, he seems to have plenty of luck, all of it bad.

Gonch and Hollo liberate Henry, although taking it to Mr Baxter’s lesson probably wasn’t the wisest move. Michael Cronin, as ever, is on fine-form as Mr Baxter comes face to face with Henry.

Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Nine


Written by Barry Purchese.  Tx 18th March 1985

Gonch’s latest money-making scheme is a video club, run during the lunchtimes with tapes “borrowed” from the shop where Vince’s dad works.  We briefly get a glimpse of the film they’re watching and it’s noticeable that the picture quality is authentically bad (loads of interference) which was often par for the course with tapes from video rental shops.  Although the picture here is so bad I would have been inclined to ask for my money back ….

There’s several snags with this arrangement – Vince can’t borrow the tapes for more than a day without his dad becoming suspicious and the lunch break is too short for the entire film to be seen, meaning they constantly have to fast-forward to the end, missing out most of the best bits.  Never mind though, as the ever-resourceful Gonch has yet another idea – use the media studies room to copy their own tapes, which they can then sell!

Given the wave of thefts still sweeping the school, it really stretches credibility to breaking point to learn that the key to the media studies room is kept on the doorframe.  Since there’s televisions and video-recorders aplenty inside you’d have assumed that a little extra security would have been taken in order to keep the equipment safe.  It’s easy to see why this was done in plot-terms though – Gonch and the others need to gain access to the room and can’t have been seen to steal the key – but it still feels a tad contrived.

The builders discover that Gonch and Hollo liberated some of their building supplies in order to help Mr Light.  Remarkably, they don’t seem terribly put out by this and are happy to do the repairs on Mr Light’s house for virtually nothing, although Gonch does promise to supply them with some good films on VHS.

Zammo, Mandy and Sarah observe a first-year girl being forced into a car against her will.  The girl is Calley and the woman is Angela, her real mother.  At first glance, this appears to be the latest instalment in Calley’s tale, but the focus quickly switches to the three fourth formers.  We never really find out exactly what happened at the car – it’s plain that Calley didn’t want to go with Angela and (presumably) her husband, but she later denies this.  Angela only has a few lines of dialogue, which means that this sequence is much more about providing an excuse for Zammo, Mandy and Sarah to be inside the school at lunchtime.  And this is the last we see of Angela, meaning that this plot-line rather splutters to a stop in a less than dramatic fashion.

Zammo, Mandy and Sarah run into Mr Bronson, who immediately decides they’re responsible for the theft of yet another of Mr Smart’s squash racquets.  All three, along with Mr Bronson and Mr Smart, head off to see Mrs McClusky, which leads into an interesting scene.  Zammo is voluble in his defence, stating that Mr Bronson has had it in for him since the day they met.  Mrs McClusky swiftly closes him down and asks the three of them to wait outside.  After they leave, it’s plain that she is far from convinced of their guilt, which somewhat wounds Mr Bronson.  That Mrs McClusky repeats Zammo’s doubts only after he’s left is something we’ve seen before – in front of pupils or parents she’ll always keep a united front with the staff, but behind closed doors it’s sometimes very different.

Having said all that, as Calley was nowhere to be seen when Zammo, Mandy, Sarah and Mr Bronson went to look for her, Mrs Clusky states that they’ll all still be in serious trouble unless she comes forward to collaborate their story.  How this can be I’m not quite sure, since there’s no evidence at all to link them to this, or any other, theft.  It helps to ramp up the tension – will Calley step forward to clear their name? – but it’s another moment which doesn’t quite work.

Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Eight


Written by Barry Purchese.  Tx 13th March 1985

Episode eight opens in an unconventional way, as we see Robbie stepping away from the boy’s urinal!  It’s not unusual to feature scenes in the toilets, but offhand I can’t think of many times when we actually see people doing the business, as it were

The scene introduces us to Gonch’s groping grab as well as moving forward his truanting plans (Hollo provides him with a stack of dental appointment cards – all they have to do is fill them out and they’ve a perfect excuse for being off school premises).

But what really interests me is how shabby and dilapidated the toilets are.  There’s a whacking great piece of graffiti (“wham” – presumably somebody was a fan) which helps to make it look like the sort of place you really wouldn’t linger in.  This isn’t reflected in the dialogue though, it’s simply taken as quite natural that it’s run down.  We also saw this in the previous episode – one of the classrooms looked in quite a state, with nasty stains on the wall.

But if the children don’t appear concerned about the appearance of the school, it appears that others do, as two builders (played by Ben Thomas and Frank Jarvis) turn up to try and repair some of the damage.  Jarvis in particular had an impressive list of credits – turning up in a score of popular television series (The Saint, Z Cars, Adam Adamant Lives!, Manhunt, Budgie, Softly Softly:Task Force, Callan, The Brothers, Dixon of Dock Green, Warshp, Target, The Professionals, etc).  He also appeared in three different Doctor Who stories, although given that his final two were Underworld and The Power of Kroll, you can’t help but feel he rather drew the short straw ….

Ronnie’s hair has once again changed to “unconventional”, but this is a minor matter to begin with as Calley, having spent the night with her real mother, is in something of a state.  Ronnie asks Miss Washington to speak to her, and just before the teacher leaves the classroom she asks her form to mark themselves in the register.  This is an incredibly odd request (presumably a sign of Miss Washington’s inexperience) leading to an inevitably boisterous free-for-all.

Who should be passing at precisely this time?  Why Mrs McClusky of course and she’s far from pleased.  “I think this is the first time in all my experience I have ever heard of a teacher asking any class to mark themselves in.”  And when Ronnie reappears, Mrs McClusky is staggered at her unconventional appearance.  As previously touched upon, GH characters often tended to display echoes of those who had gone before them and Ronnie here has more than a touch of Trisha Yates about her.  Both frequently railed against the conformity of school uniform, so Mrs McClusky’s comments could equally have easily been directed at Trisha.

Gonch and Hollo plan to “liberate” some of the school’s building materials to help Mr Light, whilst Miss Washington’s purse goes missing from the staffroom (surely Gonch’s groping grab couldn’t have been responsible?).  And Patsy Palmer, an unspeaking extra, continues to steal a number of scenes as she prominently places herself in the frame …

Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Seven


Written by Margaret Simpson.  Tx 11th March 1985

The French exchange students arrive.  Mr Bronson is no doubt hoping for a rewarding cultural cross-pollination whilst I suspect that Fay and Julie are thinking about quite another form of pollination ….

Both seem impressed with the French boys, although it has to be said that most of the exchange students (both male and female) seem to be narcissistically self-obsessed.  This may be a little unfair though, as their limited English obviously hampers them (expect various “comic” moments of misunderstanding) and it’s true that the Grange Hill types give them a welcome which varies enormously.

Amusingly, they’re treated very much little cattle as they get off the coach (“what’s your one like, I don’t think much of mine”) with Zammo being the worst offender.  For some reason he’s very much taken against his one – a perfectly inoffensive chap – and proceeds to give him a hard time.  No doubt this is because he’s still smarting over his on-off-on-off relationship with Jackie, but it’s still a rarity to see him behave in such a boorish manner.

A party at Julian’s finds everybody (to the strains of George Michael’s Careless Whisper, the perfect mid eighties smooch record) pairing off – even Roland, who’s rather taken with Fabienne (Jessica Harrison).  Given that Roland is pretty anonymous during the rest of series eight, this is a nice piece of character development, especially given his long-running issues with making friends and forming relationships.

The other main thrust of the episode is the revelation that Calley is adopted and her real mother, Angela (Jean Heard), has returned to the area and is keen to establish contact with her daughter for the fist time.  It’s a challenging role for Simone Hyams and her lack of acting experience is possibly exposed when the camera focuses on a close-up of e, overhearing her parents talking.  We should be seeing horror, pain and confusion on her face, but instead Hyams can only manage mild inconvenience.

This is only a minor niggle though, since when she’s given dialogue she’s on much firmer ground.  Her adoptive mother (played by Deidre Costello) tells her that they didn’t tell her when she was little because they thought she wouldn’t understand – Calley’s plaintive rejoinder that she’s “not been little for ages” is very nicely played and remains a memorable moment.

Ian Redford makes the first of a handful of appearances as Mr Legge – in this one he spies the absconding Gonch and Hollo and steers them reluctantly to their home economics class.  Mr Legge is clearly something of a trendy teacher (sporting a lapel badge) and his easy-going nature, albeit also with a core of steel, comes across well here.  He’s another of those short-lived characters who could easily have become a regular.

The cooking lesson also gives us another example that Ronnie is rather an iconoclast and a rebel (she breaks an egg over Trevor’s head).  This part of the episode is also of interest thanks to the question of Ronnie’s hair.  It’s in something of a Toyah style (as acknowledged) but shortly afterwards it turns back into a more normal style.  I’m not sure exactly how she could have done this, so I’ll surmise it was done in order to match a later film sequence which featured her normal hairstyle.

We close on a cliffhanger – it’s late in the evening but Calley hasn’t returned home.  Earlier, we’d seen her go off with Angela for a cup of tea, but where is she now?

Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Six


Written by John Godber.  Tx 6th March 1985

Sion Tudor Owen makes the first of two appearances as English teacher Mr Dean.  The actors name might be a bit of giveaway, as it turns out that Mr Dean is Welsh, very Welsh.  He’s one of those teachers who attempts to adopt a chummy attitude with the pupils (as they dash off for their next lesson he tells them to be “careful out there” – clearly he was a fan of American police dramas).

Zammo tells Mr Bronson to keep his hair on.  Oh dear.  Zammo wasn’t referring to Mr Bronson’s still-unconfirmed hairpiece, but it irritates the touchy teacher.  Michael Sheard continues to entertain ….

The Zammo/Jackie/Banksie triangle is still simmering away.  Zammo can’t take Jackie to the UB40 concert as he’s working in the chipshop, leaving Banksie free to escort her to the gig.  And the other love triangle – Stewpot/Claire/Annette – is reaching critical mass as Stewpot is taking Annette but starts to panic when Claire decides she wants to go as well.  There’s a memorable encounter in the hallway between Claire and Annette.  Claire tells Annette that if she was any thicker she’d clot!

Love continues to be in the air as Fay and Julian arrange a date at the concert (clearly UB40 have the power to bring numerous couples together).  I do like the way that Stewpot greets Annette with a friendly kiss on the top of her head, given the difference in their heights it makes sense – he would have had to crouch down awkwardly to kiss her on the lips!

The fun stops when Claire turns up and Annette proudly tells him that Stewpot’s her man now.  Claire offers him to the chance to leave with her, but he declines.  Later, Precious tells her not to worry as there’s plenty more fish in the sea – we then cut to the fish shop as Kevin serves up a piece of cod.  Well it amused me anyway.

Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Five


Written by Margaret Simpson.  Tx 4th March 1985

One of the drawbacks about switching focus between the first and fourth years is that you sometimes have to wait a little while for continuing storylines to develop.  So although we left (shock horror) Stewpot and Annette locked in an embrace at the end of the second episode, it’s only at the start of this instalment that the plot kicks forward.

Stewpot, still sporting something of a hangdog expression, has to confess to Annette that he’s yet to tell Claire that it’s all over.  Stroppy Annette is far from pleased about this of course.  Mind you, Claire is equally as stroppy so goodness knows how he’s going to choose between them – but his habit of lying to each of everybody is obviously going to catch him out pretty soon.

And Stewpot’s appearance, in school uniform, raises the interesting topic of uniform policy during series eight.  Leaving aside for the moment why a sixth-former like Stewpot would be wearing school uniform (I can’t recall this happening at GH at any other time) we’re told early on that uniform is optional from the fourth form onwards.  That some ex-Brookdale and Rodney Bennett pupils turn up at the start of term in their old uniforms is explained by the fact that they’re still clinging onto the memories and loyalties of their former schools.  This doesn’t explain why so many of the old Grange Hill types in the fourth year are still wearing uniform though ….

There’s also something of a glaring continuity error between the studio and film sequences (fairly understandable since they were probably shot months apart).  Inside the school Stewpot is wearing a blazer, jumper and no tie, but when he ventures outside he’s lost the jumper but gained a tie.  It makes him look very odd, especially when Annette, two years his junior, is a vision beside him in orange.

The arrival of Mr Bronson sees something of a realignment of Mr Smart’s character.  With Mr Bronson taking on the mantle of the hard (and occasionally fair) teacher, Mr Smart has become more conciliatory – although this may be simply due to the fact he enjoys baiting Mr Bronson.  There’s a great example in this episode as Mr Smart nips into the last parking place in the school, leaving a highly aggrieved Mr Bronson with no other option than to park on the street.  Watch how quickly Mr Bronson speeds off through the playground after he fails to persuade Mr Smart to give way – it’s lucky he didn’t knock anyone over.

Zammo continues to rail against the Brookies, whilst Banksie and Jackie get slightly closer.  The constant fighting between the rival (and now non-existent) schools irritates Jackie no end, but all becomes clear – in story terms – when Miss Washington and Mr McCartney (Tony Armatrading) announce they plan to stage West Side Story.  Casting Zammo and Banksie as the rival gang leaders with Jackie as the object of their rival affections is a perfect example of life and art imitating each other.

Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Four


Written by David Angus.  Tx 27th February 1985

Calley’s latest wheeze is hypnosis, she certainly has a varied portfolio of interests.  Meanwhile, the Grange Hill Bridge-Builders scheme (Mrs McClusky’s plan to help the local, aged community) and preparations for the school musical continue apace.

There are more thefts, including Ronnie’s Walkman (taken from the staffroom) and we also see Gripper’s sister, Emma (Bonita Jones), for the first time.  Is there a connection between the two?  Emma could have been developed as a regular – it’s been a while since GH has had a female bully – but instead she only makes a couple of appearances, meaning we have to wait until next year and the arrival of Imelda before the series gains such a character again.

Ronnie’s convinced that Gonch pinched her Walkman and Calley uses her hypnotic powers to try and confirm if this is so.  But all it proves is that Gonch is a good actor as he manages to convince them all for a few moments that she really did hypnotise him.

The subject of Mr Bronson’s hair is touched upon.  Previously it was believed that it was dyed (inevitably leading to the question about what it died of) but now everyone seems to know it’s a wig – or at least Precious does, especially after she collides with him.  Mind you the way he anxiously checks it after the knock is a dead giveaway ….

Hollo plans to use the Bridge-Builders scheme to give his neighbour, Mr Light (James Ottoway) a helping hand.  Of course, Hollo hasn’t bothered to ask him first, which makes things a little awkward at first.  But after an unpromising beginning, Mr Light doesn’t quite turn out to be the stern curmudgeon we initially take him for (something of a cliché, true).

Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Three


Written by David Angus.  Tx 25th February 1985

After unsuccessfully pursuing Miss Gordon for all of S7, Mr Smart’s on much firmer ground with Miss Washington – they’ve already fixed up a date at the squash court and it’s only episode three.  He’s a quick mover!  This episode also sees the first stirrings of Gonch’s skills as a salesman.  He and Hollo have various things to sell, scavenged from the rubbish tip – and I do like the way he describes that they’ve come from a “tip-top” supplier ….

The ever patient CDT teacher Mr McKenzie (Nicholas Donnelly) appears for the first time.  Donnelly would put in long service at Grange Hill, appearing for the next eight series and he’s perfect as the unflappable teacher (he seemed to specialise in such characters as he had an even longer-running but similar role in Dixon of Dock Green).

Calley is entertaining the others with some palm reading but Jane (Joann Kenny) is convinced it’s all a con.  It’s plain that Calley is simply making stuff up, but we’re still invited to side with her as Jane’s plan to expose her backfires and she ends up as the one who’s ridiculed.  This seems a little unfair, as Jane isn’t really positioned as a spiteful character.

A wave of thefts are sweeping the school, including Mr Smart’s squash racquets.  It’s just one of a number of niggles which convince the teaching staff to make a direct appeal to Mrs McClusky.  Mr Bronson is less than impressed with Mr Smart’s missing racquets, he’s more concerned with the lack of car-parking spaces.  Mr Baxter, someone who’s tended to appear mostly on film during the last few seasons, is now back to being a VT character as well – he leads the deputation, but is far from impressed at the outcome, telling the others that he feels like a “right nana” after they fail to reach a consensus.

The bickering continues into the staff room and descends into a male/female debate, only terminated when Mr Baxter blows his whistle, which shuts Mr Bronson up!  This is good stuff and it’s nice to focus a little more on the staff, something which we’ll see more of in later years.

And I have to spare a word for a scene-stealing extras right at the start, who have a brief conversation about fish fingers.

grange hill s08e03-2.jpg

Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode Two


Written by David Angus.  Tx 20th February 1985

Annette’s got a new boyfriend.  She’s coy about his identity though, only giving the other girls one piece of information – his name begins with “S”.  First name or last name, they ask?  She won’t say, but it’s the name he’s best known by.

The hunt for Mr S occupies the imagination of Fay, Julie and Diane.  They reel off a list of (never seen) potential victims, but later are briefly convinced it’s Mr Smart!  This only comes about due to a major piece of plot contrivance – Annette and Mr Smart have a chat about Mr Smart’s prowess as a squash player, whilst the others (out of sight down the corridor) misconstrue their conversation.  Although given that Mr Smart and Annette aren’t exactly shouting and the girls were a fair distance away, it stretches credibility just a little that they could actually hear them.  Oh well, it passes a few minutes and Fay’s shocked reaction is retrospectively ironic when you consider what happens a year later.

Mr S’s identity is revealed at the end of the episode.  This could have been spun out for a few episodes more, but no matter – we now know that Stewpot prefers the charms of Annette over Claire (although strictly speaking he’s enjoying them both, as it were, at present).  Mark Burdis’ end of episode expression is a classic, sheepish best describes it.  Given the effort Stewpot spent trying to re-establish his relationship with Claire, it seems bizarre he’d risk it all for a liaison with Annette (who’s no less annoying this series than she’s been previously).  But love is blind I guess.

In the nineties, Grange Hill would introduce several disabled pupils who weren’t characterised by their disability – that was simply a part of who they are.  Eric Wallace (James Hickling) is the reverse, his few appearances in S8 all revolve around the fact that he’s partially deaf.  To begin with, nobody seems aware of this and the fact that he sometimes appears to ignore people is put down to general ignorance.

It rather stretches credibility that he would have kept his deafness a secret (surely his parents would have mentioned it to the staff?) but it does enable us to have a nice moment with Mr Bronson.  When the exasperated Mr Bronson, annoyed that Eric turned to the wrong page in the textbook, asks him ironically if he’s deaf, Eric says that yes, he partially is.  That silences Mr Bronson quite effectively …..

Tensions between Jackie and Zammo continue to simmer away.  Zammo and Mr Bronson still aren’t hitting it off, whilst Zammo is torn between being one the boys and spending time with his girlfriend (expanding the theme from last year).  There’s also signs that Fay and Julian might be interested in each other – when it’s revealed that Julian is opposed to animal experimentation, Fay tells him that she is too.  “Good for you” he says.  It’s a slightly clunky exchange, but then Douglas Chamberlain’s overtly earnest delivery is probably part of the reason why.

Grange Hill. Series Eight – Episode One

grange hill s08e01.jpg

Written by Barry Purchese.  Tx 18th February 1985

The opening episode of series eight sees a mass influx of new characters, possibly a “new broom” policy instigated by producer Ben Rea (who had just taken over from Kenny McBain).  This is the first time that a fresh crop of first years had been seen since 1982, so they were a little overdue, but – thanks to the closure of Rodney Bennett and Brookdale – we also see the fourth form strengthened with an influx of refugees from those two schools (many still clinging to old, tribal loyalties) whilst several long-running teachers also make their debut.

Most of the pupils from N1 are familiar archetypes – Calley Donnington (Simone Hyams) and Ronnie Birtles (Tina Mahon) aren’t too dissimilar from Trisha/Cathy or Fay/Annette whilst Gonch Gardner (John Holmes) and Hollo Holloway (Bradley Shepherd) could be another Pogo/Stewpot partnership, especially Gonch who’ll develop, just like Pogo, into the ultimate free marketer.  And the role of the class bully, formally filled by the likes of Doyle, is taken here by the initially imposing Trevor Cleaver (John Drummond).  But Barry Purchese also shakes things up a little.  Calley, from her first scene, is just a little odd and offbeat, carrying to school something mysterious in a box which she plans to return to the pet shop later.

Few of N1 seem to have known each other prior to the first day, so friendships (Calley/Ronnie and Gonch/Hollo) are swiftly forged.  But after Hollo, riding his brother’s bike, knocks into Gonch and the passing Mr Smart seems (rather unfairly) to put all the blame onto Gonch’s shoulders, friendship seems unlikely.  Despite being pint-sized, Hollo is itching for a scrap and plans to settle this score with Gonch after school (but their enmity is short-lived as they soon form an efficient double-act).

Trevor’s bullying is swiftly undercut.  He may impress the squeaky-voiced Robbie Wright (John Alford) but it doesn’t take long before Trevor is cut down to size.  For the remainder of his time on the show he’ll remain an occasionally aggressive character, but more often than not he’s played for laughs – Trevor’s certainly no Gripper that’s for sure.

As for the sixth form, there’s now only three old pupils remaining – Stewpot, Claire and Precious.  We briefly see Stewpot and Claire in passing, but rather like the fifth-formers back in 1982 they don’t really have storylines of their own any more – instead they exist to interact with the younger pupils.

Visually the series looks a little different, thanks to using two different schools.  The old Grange Hill site now houses the form rooms for the fourth, fifth and sixth forms whilst the former Rodney Bennett school is the home for the first, second and third years.  Since Brookdale has been “left to rot” it rather begs the question as to how three schools worth of pupils can now be crammed into just two schools – especially since the classes in Grange Hill always seemed to be full ….

An old story staple reappears here – two teachers squabbling over one classroom.  It’s an interesting wrinkle that we’d previously seen Mr Smart and Mr Knowles at loggerheads (with Mr Smart the aggressor) whereas here Mr Bronson is the one who’s happy to exercise his full range of arrogance whilst Mr Smart is placed in a subservient role.

Another interesting visual touch is seen in the opening few seconds as we see a board which states that Mrs McClusky has been demoted to deputy head, Mr Humphries is now the headmaster.  There was potential for decent character conflict between the two, but alas Mr Humphries rather ends up like Mr Lllewellyn – a character who’s always just out of shot or in an important meeting and can’t be disturbed.

Jackie’s in the same class as Zammo, which makes them happy, but she’s less impressed to see some of her former Brookdale classmates, especially the loutish Banksie (Tim Polley).  For a touch of contrast there’s also the well-spoken ex-Rodney Bennett type Julian Fairbrother (Douglas Chamberlain) who tells the others about their new form-tutor, the intimidating Mr Bronson (Michael Sheard).

Several new teachers are introduced here, but it’s clear that Mr Bronson (“you, boy!”) is the one with the most potential for conflict and drama.  Upon entering the class he looks for someone to browbeat and the unlucky recipient is Zammo.  This is the start of a repeated pattern, we’ll see that he enjoys victimising people over an extended period of time (unlucky later subjects include Ant Jones and Danny Kendall).  Sheard’s wonderful from his first scene and he’s able to brighten many an episode over the next five years.

The long-running Miss Booth (Karen Ford) also appears for the first time, but Miss Washington (Caroline Gruber) was a one series character only, a pity since Gruber is really rather lovely ….

There’s a lot to pack in with just twenty four minutes to play with, but series eight hits the ground running.