While we wait for new Casualty episodes to be produced so we can get back to our regular Saturday night fix of drama, death, disease and destruction, it was lucky that the BBC had an unseen episode from earlier in the series tucked away.
‘Code Orange,’ originally meant to be shown in April, showed the ED staff dealing with an unfolding chemical attack incident.
Because it featured staff in scary-looking PPE and frequent use of the term ‘lockdown,’ it might have seemed insensitively alarmist back in April, but we’ve grown wearily used to all that now so the episode could finally be seen.
The storyline had more in common with the Salisbury Novichok poisonings that it did with Covid-19, featuring a woman who was the victim of a deliberate chemical poisoning.
The nerve agent spread through contact, so when the empty bottle was left on a woman called Julia (Kate Anthony)’s garden wall and she took it in to give it a rinse before popping it in the recycling, she also received a nasty dose. Her neighbour who came in to help – who also happened to be Marty’s dad Graham (Philip Wright) – was also contaminated.
It was Fenisha (Olivia D’Lima) who realised that Julia’s symptoms were strangely like those of an unconscious woman and her son who’d been found in a field earlier, and the ED staff quickly worked out they were possibly dealing with a terrorist attack. ‘We’re initiating the procedure for a Code Orange,’ said Connie (Amanda Mealing). ‘We’re going on lockdown!’
The practical difficulties of working in full PPE were shown. Jade (Gabriella Leon), who’s deaf, couldn’t hear what was happening at all and had difficulty lip reading as people kept turning away from her. Dylan (William Beck) struggled to cope in the confined suit.
This was one of the things that grounded the episode in reality and made it all the more scary. But, like the real NHS heroes they represent, our Casualty staff were calm, professional and capable. As David (Jason Durr) said, ‘We do what we always do – keep calm and carry on.’
Of course Casualty isn’t Casualty without its ongoing staff dramas, and because this episode was shown out of sequence we finally got to see the moment when Ethan (George Rainsford) found out that Fenisha was pregnant and he was the father.
There have been several twists since then, of course. Fenisha is currently still pregnant but Ethan thinks she had a termination. We also saw Marty (Shaheen Jafargholi) and his father reconnecting, with Graham’s neighbour Julia reassuring Marty that Graham really did love him – despite Graham not reacting at all well when Marty told him he’d had to have an HIV test.
Eventually the perpetrator of the chemical attack was revealed to be a distraught father, wanting revenge on the owner of a pesticide company whose product had killed his daughter. The pesticide woman’s son was upset and told Connie that humans kept finding new ways to kill each other.
‘We will always find new ways to save each other,’ she replied – a comment that under the current real-life circumstances sounded the kind of optimistic and reassuring note. we could all do with.
Sue Haasler is the author of five novels and the official BBC Holby City book, which you can read about here.
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