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Casualty series three
cast: Derek Thompson, Brenda Fricker, Cathy Shipton, Bernard Gallagher, and Christopher Rozycki

creators: Jeremy Brock, and Paul Unwin

485 minutes (12) 1988
2Entertain DVD Regions 2 + 4 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
SPOILER ALERT!
It's strange that Welcome To Casualty is the opening episode title of the third season, but in a way it's appropriate. With the benefit of hindsight, you can see the series repositioning itself from a limited story arc (originally intended to last just two series) to becoming the long-form drama series that, as I write this (September 2006), has just celebrated its 20th anniversary. This third season might not have happened at all: the Conservative government of the day apparently put pressure on the BBC not to renew the show, which had ruffled feathers in its portrayal of the NHS. But return it did, at ten episodes the shortest run of any season. (The first two series had 15 episodes each; the fourth would have 12 and the fifth 13, while the sixth would return to 15. It was only with series seven, in 1992-3, that the series returned to Saturday nights and a significantly expanded episode count.)

The original cast was down to five now: Charge Nurse Charlie (Derek Thompson), SEN Megan (Brenda Fricker), Staff Nurse Duffy (Cathy Shipton), consultant Ewart (Bernard Gallagher), and porter Kuba (Christopher Rozycki). Two of these would not return for series four. Receptionist Susie had gone, to be replaced by Sadie Tomkins (ex-Play School presenter Carol Leader). Meanwhile, there are two new student nurses, Alison McGrellis (Julie Graham) and Kiran Joghill (Shaheen Khan) and an SHO, David Rowe (Paul Lacoux). Administrator Elizabeth Straker had left for the 'States, and with it went her relationship with Ewart Plimmer. Having recovered from the heart attack he suffered at the end of the second series, Ewart immediately clashes with the new administrator, Valerie Sinclair (Susan Franklyn), particularly over a decision to close the observation ward. This results in one of the best episodes Casualty ever produced, Burn Out, written by co-creator Jeremy Brock. Megan, worn down by her husband being away (Nigel Anthony, who played Ted, did not return for this series but the character is trying to set up his own business in Cheltenham), the lack of respect shown to her as a 'greenie' (State Enrolled Nurse) particularly by people she trained herself, and rudeness from patients, breaks down. Ewart comforts her... then, looking round the obs ward he has just helped save, suffers a second heart attack, this time a fatal one. As he was only the second regular character to die (a tactic that Casualty and its sister show Holby City would later overuse), this is a genuine jolt.

Series three suffers a little for hitting such a climax halfway through - the final episode is low key compared to that of other series - and the continuity of the original broadcasts were affected by events out of the makers' control (see below). A bleaker tone is creeping in, and a sense of 'guess the accident' (another to-be-overused tactic) is introduced, with some darker storylines that don't end happily. This is emphasised by a tendency towards sudden or open endings to episodes, enhanced by the use of freeze-frames. (There's a particularly startling example at the end of A Wing And A Prayer.) Guest actors include Pauline Quirke, a very young Sadie Frost, former Doctor Who companion Caroline John and future Casualty/ Holby City regulars George Irving and Clive Mantle.

The ten episodes are presented on three discs, four on the first, three each on the other two. They are: Welcome To Casualty, Desperate Odds, Drake's Drum, Absolution, Burn Out, A Quiet Night, A Wing And A Prayer, Living Memories, Inferno, and Caring. This is the order as was originally intended. However, on the original run, A Wing And A Prayer was not shown, and the later episodes brought forward a week, due to the death of Roy Kinnear, who features in it. This does cause a few continuity problems, such as the subplot of the break-in to Kiran's nurse's quarters. The episode was finally shown in August 1989, just before the start of series four. Some repeat runs on UK Gold have preserved this incorrect sequence, but this DVD has it correct.

As before, the episodes are shown in their original 4:3 ratio with mono soundtracks. The extras are, again, commentaries on two episodes: creators Jeremy Brock and Paul Unwin on Burn Out, and Derek Thompson and medical advisor (and model for the character of Charlie) Peter Salt on Inferno.
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