Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 6th January 1987
As is usual with an opening episode, there are various arrivals and departures to be dealt with. Freddie Mainwaring (Simon Vaughan) is an on-screen newcomer who quickly makes an impression. He’s a supremely confident forth-former who thinks nothing of chatting up the sixth form girls. He has his eye on Jackie but she seems less than impressed. Julie is casting an interested glance his way though ….
As we’ve seen with other characters before, Freddie’s someone who’s been at Grange Hill for a while, he’s just never made it onto the screen. So Freddie fancies Jackie who doesn’t seem interested in Zammo at present. Jackie doesn’t fancy Freddie but Julie does (although Freddie is unaware of this) although he’s currently going out with Julia. Meanwhile Banksie continues to fancy Jackie and, surprisingly, they’re together at present. Got that? Good.
Mr Baxter’s departure is explained to the audience in a slightly clumsy way. Ziggy seems unaware that he’s left, leaving Robbie with the task of explaining that during the last assembly of term it was announced he would be departing Grange Hill to run a sports centre. Since Ziggy was present, how has he forgotten this? Was he asleep? Possibly it would have been better if we’d been told that Ziggy wasn’t present when the original announcement was made, that way it wouldn’t have seemed such a gratuitous info-dump.
There’s a mixture of uniforms – both old and new – on show. This is a realistic touch as it wouldn’t be credible, money-wise, if every parent had instantly shelled out for the new kit. We’re told that everyone has until half-term to buy the new uniforms.
With Mr Baxter gone, Mr Bronson is the logical choice to fill the vacant position of deputy head. Although with Miss Partridge as Head of Studies it’s plain right from the start that they approach the concept of teaching from very different positions. For Mr Bronson it’s all about rigidity and discipline whilst Miss Partridge is more concerned about creating an atmosphere where the students can develop as individuals. No doubt sparks will fly!
Mr Bronson is a three R’s man, ridiculing the laissez-faire attitudes of the past, where, he contends, basic concepts such as reading and writing were ignored. Miss Partridge has a less rosy view of old-school (sorry) teaching methods. Some things, like canes, are best consigned to history along with “learning pointless facts for useless tests which bear absolutely no relation to the world outside”.
The new sixth-form premises, a converted junior school, doesn’t meet with much approval – especially since most of the facilities are still pint-sized. Banksie delights in wondering how Roland will manage on the very small toilets ….
We don’t see Zammo until we’ve become reacquainted with the other sixth-formers. Given the fact that they don’t mention him it’s possible to surmise that he’s still going to be absent from school. Therefore his sudden appearance in the common room comes as a jolt (which no doubt was intended). The needle between him and Banksie (a running theme of S8 but virtually absent from S9) is restated here, but the new, clean, mellow Zammo isn’t interested in rising to his bait.
Gonch’s temporary absence (we’re told he’ll be away for a couple of months) has created a temporary power void which Trevor and Imelda are both keen to fill. Had Gonch been a bully this would have been a little easier to understand (it’s hard to imagine either Trevor or Imelda indulging in any of Gonch’s money-making schemes). Imelda has a score to settle with virtually everyone (she has a hitlist, with Ziggy’s name on top).
So whilst Imelda’s unchanged from last year (possibly a little worse) it seems that Trevor’s undergone something of a transformation. Up until now he’s been a fairly half-hearted bully at best (and virtually human at other times) but in this episode he’s rather unpleasant. This is only a temporary blip though as he’ll revert back to his more unthreatening persona over time. But for now he’s in bully-mode – and calls a truce with Imelda (this is confirmed by the way he leaves his former friend Vince in her delicate clutches)
Mr Scott (Aran Bell) has a baptism of fire as E3’s new form tutor. We’ve seen teachers struggle before (Mr McGuffy, Mr Knowles) but usually it’s only been a temporary blip – within an episode or two they’ve managed to gain the respect of their pupils. Mr Scott will have no such luck, as his struggle to maintain order plays out across the majority of series ten. From his first appearance you can tell that he’s going to have a major job on his hands and Bell is good at showing Mr Scott’s anxiety (the way he clutches the timetable as well as his hesitancy and slight air of helplessness). The wolfish grin that Imelda casts in his direction makes it plain that she’s going to delight in making his life a misery ….
Imelda still has the loyal Sharon to rely on (although not for much longer, as this rather undeveloped character will exit after the next episode) but where is Helen? Georgina was the first of Imelda’s gang to leave and Helen is now the next. At times last year it seemed that she wanted to break free but lacked the courage to do so. Now she’s finally decided to do so.
It’s time for Harriet the donkey to rear her head again. Mr Griffiths decides to hide the donkey on site as he can’t bear the thought that otherwise she might have to pay a visit to the glue factory. Ziggy and Helen quickly become his loyal helpers (clearly Mr Griffiths has forgotten that he spent most of last year pursuing Ziggy for various misdemeanours – both real and imaginary).
Ziggy and Helen have a slightly rocky road before they see eye to eye – but eventually they bond over their mutual love of Liverpool FC. Ziggy’s passion for his hometown team makes sense, but why is Londoner Helen a supporter? Today, of course, nobody would bat an eyelid at this, but once upon a time it was considered bad form not to support your local team. Although Ziggy seems more concerned that, being a girl, Helen obviously can’t know the first thing about the beautiful game.