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Diagnosis is more drama as TV favourite Casualty marks milestone

Published 25/06/2016

Doctor’s orders: Derek Thompson has been one of the show’s long-running stars
Doctor’s orders: Derek Thompson has been one of the show’s long-running stars
Chelsea Halfpenny and Crystal Yu

Three decades on and television's busiest A&E department is still going strong. As the BBC's medical drama Casualty celebrates its 1,000th episode tonight, Keeley Bolger looks back at its 30 years.

It was the year Halley's Comet made an appearance, Diego Maradona dashed England's hopes with that 'Hand of God' goal in the World Cup and, for TV audiences, 1986 was the first time medical drama Casualty was shown on BBC One.

Yes, on September 6, 1986, the doors to Holby City Hospital's emergency department were pushed open for the first time, with an episode concerning an influx of patients all suffering from similar burn wounds.

Today, 1,000 episodes on, Casualty is still punctuating Saturday evenings, proving that there's no end to medical drama TV potential - and that viewers still can't get enough of the hope, heartache and occasional gore.

As the flagship series prepares to celebrate 30 years on screen, here are 30 fun facts about the show.

1. So many familiar faces have passed through those hospital doors. The first episode, entitled 'Gas', featured Brenda Fricker, who played soothing Megan Roach, Cathy Shipton, who played determined Lisa 'Duffy' Duffin, and Derek Thompson, who still plays nurse Charlie Fairhead.

2. Charlie is based on Peter Salt, a real-life charge nurse at Bristol Royal Infirmary. Salt still serves as a clinical nurse adviser on the series.

3. Dramas don't just happen to the patients. In his time, Charlie has been shot in the chest, hit by an ambulance on his wedding day, suffered a heart attack, assisted his friend Megan in her suicide and was widowed when his wife Baz died in a car crash.

4. Thankfully, there have been good times too - both on and off-screen - for Thompson, who met his actress wife, Dee Sadler, when she had a guest appearance in the series in the late-Eighties.

5. Duffy is returning for a cameo in the 1,000th episode, and will be making a permanent return this August. Shipton made two cameos last year.

6. All the medical scenes were originally filmed in BBC's Television Centre on a Wednesday, the same day Top Of The Pops was filmed.

7. Two years in, filming moved to Bristol, where the action was shot in a bland city-based warehouse.

8. Since 2009, Casualty has been shot in Cardiff, in the Roath Lock Studios, where Torchwood and Doctor Who are also made.

9. Also in 2009, the show scooped the Guinness World Record for being the longest-running prime-time medical drama.

10. Casualty has even travelled back in time on occasion, with a special episode set in 1906.

11. It has a successful spin-off too - Holby City, which has been running since 1999.

12. And then there's Holby Blue - Holby City's own spin-off police drama. But this one didn't fare quite as well and bowed out after a year on screen.

13. The make-up department uses 15 different types of fake blood, including ones for clotting, fresh scabs, dark scabs, congealed blood, and blood for the eyes.

14. On average, the team get through two pints of fake blood per episode.

15. Pus is created by mixing hair conditioner with yellow colouring.

16. To make brain matter, the make-up department blend cotton wool, gel and fake blood.

17. To create the sound of heads bashing together, the sound team drop cabbages on concrete.

18. The team record themselves snapping sticks of celery to conjure up the sound of breaking bones.

19. Fronted by Rebecca Wheatley, who played receptionist Amy until 2001, the cast released a cover of Robert Knight's Everlasting Love in 1998. They first sang it in an episode earlier that year to celebrate Charlie and Baz's wedding.

20. UK garage duo Oxide & Neutrino remixed the theme tune in their 2000 single Bound 4 Da Reload - and it paid off, with the song earning them the top spot in the charts.

21. The series is well-known for being a training ground for future stars. Among the famous faces to have made early appearances on Casualty over the years are Kate Winslet, Pete Postlethwaite, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Martin Freeman and Minnie Driver.

22. Freeman played a robber who was stabbed; Driver a car-crash victim; Winslet the girlfriend of an abusive partner; Bloom a builder, and the late Postlethwaite was a patient who was pushed around the hospital in a wheelchair by porter Jimmy, played by Robson Green, who stayed in his role for three years.

23. Rice pudding, apricots, apple juice, fruit salad and packet soup are used to make fake vomit

24. Edible blood can come in different flavours, including blueberry and chocolate chip.

25. Original cast member Fricker played Macaulay Culkin's unlikely confidante the 'Pigeon Lady' in 1992 movie Home Alone 2.

26. The devastating train crash storyline from 2003 was voted by fans as their favourite-ever plot at the time of the show's 25th anniversary. Some nine million had tuned in to watch.

27. Runners-up in the poll were Ruth Winters' suicide attempt and Megan's return to the ward.

28. On the flip side, an experimental 2015 episode called 'Holby Sin City', which used different filming techniques and voice-overs to allow viewers to hear what the characters were thinking, received a backlash with fans dubbing it the series' worst-ever.

29. On average, five million viewers still tune in to watch Casualty every week.

30. A 2011 auction of Casualty memorabilia, including scrubs worn by Charlie, fetched £2,300 for Bristol Children's Hospital.

Casualty's 1,000th episode, BBC One, tonight, 9.25pm

Belfast Telegraph

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