Like usual, UK fans have had to be patient when it comes to season 17 of Grey's Anatomy – with the medical drama having started airing its last episodes across the Atlantic back in November 2020.
It's finally time for the new season to arrive on our screens though, beginning with a double-header on Sky Witness tonight (Wednesday 17th April).
Ellen Pompeo returns as Meredith Grey in a series that will be defined by coronavirus – the pandemic plays a major part in the storylines, as the impact of the virus on the medical profession is explored.
Read on for everything you need to know about Grey's Anatomy season 17, including when it airs and what's going to happen.
When does Grey's Anatomy season 17 air?
In the US, the series began with two episodes on Thursday 12th November, on ABC, with future episodes following on in subsequent weeks.
And while UK fans have had to wait a little while longer, that wait is now over, with the season airing on Sky Witness – starting with a double header from 9pm on Wednesday 7th April.
Grey's Anatomy season 17 cast
As mentioned above, long-time star Ellen Pompeo returns for another season, and she's joined by a whole host of other familiar faces.
Some of those set to reprise their roles include Giacomo Gianniotti as Andrew DeLuca, alongside Jesse Williams as Jackson Avery, Kelly McCreary as Maggie Pierce, Chandra Wilson as Miranda Bailey, Caterina Scorsone as Amelia Shepherd and James Pickens Jr as Richard Webber.
Anthony Hill and Richard Flood have been promoted to series regular status as Winston Ndugu and Cormac Hayes respectively, while Kim Raver (Teddy Altman), Camilla Luddington (Jo Karev) and Kevin McKidd (Owen Hunt) will also feature once again.
Meanwhile, Charmed star Mackenzie Marsh has joined the cast, landing a recurring role as Val Ashton, who works in publishing and is described as intelligent with a fun-loving sense of humour but also lonely.
The series also includes several guest appearances from former members of the cast – including Patrick Dempsey as Derek and and TR Knight as George, while Sarah Drew will also reprise her role as April Kepner in an episode.
Grey's Anatomy season 17 trailer
Though Sky has not dropped a UK-specific trailer for the new season, you can watch this teaser for the show's US broadcast to get a taste of what's to come.
What will happen in Grey's Anatomy season 17?
One thing is for sure - despite the changes made to filming as a result of the pandemic, the stars of the show have promised this is still the same series fans know and love, with showrunner Krista Vernoff promising more "laugh-out-loud funny moments and romance".
And the virus itself is going to play a huge part in the new series, with Entertainment Weekly reporting that Meredith and her colleagues will find themselves several weeks into the pandemic.
Vernoff explained, "We’re hearing statistics in the news and we’re reading about the impact on the medical community, but it wasn’t until the writers’ room sat down with the doctor advisers we’ve always worked with and saw the change in them that it hit home for us."
In a separate interview on The Hollywood Reporter's Top Five podcast, she added that she wasn't initially convinced the pandemic should feature in the series.
"I spent the whole hiatus kicking it around, and I came into the writers' room thinking that I had made the decision that we were not going to do it," she said.
"They really convinced me that it would be irresponsible to not. To be kind of the biggest medical show and ignore the biggest medical story of the century felt irresponsible to them to the medical community.
"These doctors are traumatised. They are not trained or wired to hold the hands of dying people all day who are alone without their families."
Meanwhile, a central storyline will see Maggie and Winstone navigating a long-distance relationship – relying on the same video messaging apps that many of us in the real world have had to get used to.
Anthony Hill explained to TVLine: "They’re going through what a lot of people are going through in the world, which is trying to get to know each other and grow a relationship virtually through [their] screens with FaceTime dates and Zoom.
“And when they do interact on these devices it is the best moment of their days, to be completely honest.”
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Is Grey's Anatomy ending?
An 18th season of the long-running medical drama has not yet been confirmed, and showrunner Krista Vernoff hedged her bets when asked about the future of the show in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
"I'm planning a season and a finale that could function as either a season finale or a series finale," she explained. "I'm planning for both contingencies and it's hard and it's not ideal. It's not where I wish we were."
She added, "I've told them that I have to know before I'm making the finale what we're making. Because there are a couple of character threads that will change.
"I've got plans for both contingencies. Either there will be closure or I will build something in that allows me to have a bit of a cliffhanger and a thread for next season."
In a separate interview with Entertainment Weekly, she added, "I will say that we have been building this season from the beginning as if it's the last season.
"I don't know at this point if it is the last season, but the reason why you're like, 'Oh my gosh' every episode is because we approached it with a certain reverence of: 'Okay, if this is the last season and we're doing COVID, what are we doing?'"
And in yet another interview, this time with TVLine, Vernoff added that she remained hopeful of at least one more season, while also stressing the difficulties that she and her team had faced during series 17.
"It’s been exceedingly difficult," she said. "Like, I don’t even have words that could be hyperbolic about how difficult making this show amidst an actual pandemic has been.
"So I’ll just say we are all doing our very best, and we all hope that there will be more Grey’s Anatomy, and we hope to know soon.”
Meanwhile, in February star Kevin McKidd revealed that he hopes the show does still have a future, telling Digital Spy, "My gut tells me that this isn't our last season."
He added, "I don't know why, I don't know what it's based on. I hope it isn't, because at this point, I'm a first-generation immigrant to America. So this has become my second family – all these people in this crew and in this cast. So I'd just miss everybody if it was over.
"And I still feel as though we have relevant stories to tell. I feel as though we went through kind of a lull and a dip a few years ago. I think we're kind of on this incredible upswing. It's a testament to Krista Vernoff and all the writers.
It is understood that talks are ongoing about a potential 18th season – and we'll update this page should anything official be revealed.