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Sunday, 6 February 2011

Casualty - Guest Review By Ian B!

Casualty. It's a soap. Digital Spy has it in its Soaps section. So it must be. But it doesn't feel like a soap. Last Saturday's episode felt like a very good "Play For Today" that the BBC used to make. Carrying on with the soap analogy, it was a bit like that Eastenders episode where Dot Cotton has a half hour long soliloquy or something.

Ruth, the focus of the episode, is a very good doctor. Not the best bedside manner, granted, but she's very good technically. In the last series, she attempted to hang herself. She survived, and after recovering, carried on working a a doctor. As time went on she married a surgeon who turned out to be be gay. After he left her she soldiered on and impressed management, started throwing her weight about, and pissed off colleagues.

But last week, for reasons best known to herself, she decided to take a teenage girl patient into a side room at the hospital, locked the door, and tried to drill into the girl's skull. Not something she'd normally do, but as mentioned above, she's not had a good time lately. Fortunately for the girl, Ruth was sectioned before she could do any unintentional damage.

Now Casualty, being a soap (apparently), normally serves up a its fair share of blood, gore and vomit. Well, it's a medical show. The viewers expect it. They'd complain to OFCOM otherwise. But it's also very good at the human angle of things. It's something it does very well. But tonight it did something I don't remember it doing before.

So, the episode starts with Ruth in the psychiatric assessment centre, having just been sectioned. She's confused, pissed off, and not at all happy. The next day she meets Matthew Kelly trying to delve into her psyche .“Tonight, Matthew, I'm going to be sane.” Actually, he's very good at playing her psychiatrist.

Slowly, he gets her to tell him about a patient she treated. One who apparently invented symptoms, took drugs and rat poison, in an attempt to get noticed by Ruth, her doctor. As the counselling goes on Ruth tries to remember more details about the case in question.

Meanwhile, she meets a young pianist who had slashed his wrists. She'd been outside with him for  a cigarette, after he'd asked a member of staff for a light, as they're not allowed lighters or matches, you see. But as the cigarette goes out, the pianist produces a lighter he shouldn't have. She'd previously been given a warning not to get involved with him, but after seeing him “air playing” an imaginary piano in his room, decides to take him to the centre's chapel where there's a real piano.

It turns out he's rather good at the piano thing, and plays some Beethoven. Ruth looks on, and then (obviously!) they have sex on the floor. They're discovered, and afterwards the pianist goes to a room, gathers lots of paper together, wraps himself in a duvet, and sets himself alight with the lighter he's not supposed to have.

The next day Ruth is with her psychiatrist again, and he explains that the pianist, despite being brilliant, couldn't perform in front of an audience. Apart from that one time in front of Ruth. He then asks her to continue to tell him about the case she mentioned earlier. It turns out that the patient who had taken rat poison, and had faked symptoms, in an attempt to get noticed, was all in Ruth's head. It was her!

I realise I've been a bit flippant with some of this review, but seriously it really was an outstanding hour of drama. The direction and writing was excellent. Georgia Taylor, who used to play Toyah Battersby in Coronation Street, was really outstanding. In fact, her acting all along, from the hanging episode (which deserves a whole review in itself) to present has been superb.

You expect Casualty to be its normal self, which is great telly in itself, but then it hits you between the eyes, as it did tonight. It entirely focussed on Ruth and her story, with only a very brief scene back at the hospital. It was quite a brave episode, given it has pretty high ratings. Hopefully the viewing public at large will agree with me, and we'll see more wonderful, special episodes like this.

By Ian Bishop