1986 | United Kingdom

This review covers the period 1986 up to 2000 only.

Hugely successful BBC series concerning the night shift at the fictional Holby City Hospital. Devised by Jeremy Brock and Paul Unwin as a British alternative to the US series St. Elsewhere, Casualty has never shied away from down-to-earth, real life subjects such as child abuse or AIDS, incurring the wrath of politicians and, in particular, the Conservative government of the mid-1980's, when it attacked the policies of hospital closures and NHS cuts.

Over it's long run the series has attracted a number of leading actors including Oscar winner Brenda Fricker, who in the early years played senior nurse Megan Roach. Both Kate Winslet and Helen Bexendale have been patients on their way to success, whilst well known British faces such as T.P. McKenna and Norman Wisdom have received treatment in the departments cubicles. Robson Green appeared as a hospital porter before going on to be a major British TV star and 'Star Trek: The Next Generation's' Marina Sirtis guested in an episode. Only one character has remained constant throughout, charge nurse Charlie Fairhead as played by Derek Thompson, who first came to notice as an East-End villain alongside Bob Hoskins in 'The Long Good Friday'. Like most of the staff at Holby, Charlie has had to deal with life's ups and downs, including broken relationships, alcoholism, a nervous breakdown and a heart attack. As if that wasn't enough he has also been shot by one of his patients. Casualty has always gone for nail-biting drama to finish each series, this normally involves a cliffhanger concerning a member of the regular cast who have, over the years been raped, stabbed and pushed over balconies.

Throughout its long run the series has pulled no punches in its depiction of social diseases as well as medical ones and has successfully and sympathetically handled cases of a racial nature as illustrated in the season 9 story concerning Charge Nurse Martin Ashford (Patrick Robinson) who was accused of Actual Bodily Harm after injuring a knife welding racist.

Another strong point of the series is its continued addressing of major held myths and/or fears arising from the potently twin combination of medical and emotional problems by using its central characters as examples. Both writers and actors have handled the highly emotive subject of rape with sensitivity twice during the show's history. Initially by showing the long term effects of the crime on the likable and popular Duffy, before much later expanding on the subject following a savagely brutal incident involving the character of Tina. Actress Claire Goose who played the part of Tina worked with a rape counsellor and read police case notes in order to prepare for the storyline and received much praise and commendation for her portrayal of a rape victim. Duffy held centre stage yet again, when faced with the emotionally fraught crisis arising from a scare involving the topically important issue of cervical cancer.

Undoubtedly the most consistent undercurrent of social concern which has formed the drama of the series has been the plight of over worked, underpaid hospital staff and the problems facing them, which has been reflected over the years in the turbulent on-off relationships of many of the staff, including Charlie's relationship with Baz and Max Gallagher's drug addict son who was eventually and tragically murdered by pushers after spending a successful period in rehabilitation.

The series also spawned a more conventional spin-off, Holby City, which took the drama beyond the narrow confines of the hospital's busy A&E department, to concentrate on the lives, loves and problems of the staff and patients of a surgical ward.

Consistently well produced, written and acted, Casualty forsakes the high gloss sheen and glamour of its US cousins to excitingly and effectively portray the human face of a beleaguered NHS, which only barely continues to survive through the committed hard work and sheer dedication of its true unsung heroes... its staff.

Published on December 3rd, 2018. Written by Humor for Television Heaven.