The security staff at Holby City Hospital need to be sacked. A radical statement, I know. But I’m afraid there’s nothing else for it. Because, for the last couple of years, they’ve failed to weed out all the psychopaths who’ve made it through the doors. And let’s face it, there’s been a whole chamber of horrors on those wards of late.
We’ve had John Gaskell murdering his fellow medics, abusive Isaac Mayfield resurfacing to play more mind games with poor Dom, and now manipulative Evan Crowhurst stalking his ex-partner Chloe. Take a look at the employment records and you’ll probably find that Charles Manson did a stint there as a porter back in the mid-1960s. He’d have felt right at home.
The proliferation of evildoers hasn’t gone unnoticed. Only the other week, when Chloe revealed the torment to which she’d been subjected, Dom was seen commenting: “This is all starting to sound very familiar.” Yes, Dom. That’s because you were handed the same plotline earlier in the year.
But the problem with screen villains is that they’re always tasked with upping the ante. The sequel needs to be gorier than its progenitor. In the relatively bloodless original Halloween movie (there is a Holby connection, bear with me), Michael Myers’s knifings were few and far between. By the time, Halloween II came along, he was dunking his victims in scalding hot-tub water so that their skin bubbled and blistered.
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In the world of Holby City, we’re now seeing something similar. It’s not at ‘boiling hot-tub’ stage yet, but there’s a real sense of genuine tension being ditched in favour of the short-term shlocky thrill. Take tonight’s showdown for Chloe and Evan, which plundered many famous home invasion thrillers for inspiration.
Scenes shown on BBC One – in an 8pm timeslot, let me just add – saw Chloe isolate herself from Evan at a place where nobody knew her, as Julia Roberts did in Sleeping with the Enemy. We then got a confrontation involving a kitchen knife and a whistling kettle that echoed the climactic set-piece from Fatal Attraction. Chloe proceeded to run up the stairs when she should have been racing out the back door (yes, there’s that link to Halloween) before the whole nightmare ended in her rape and Evan’s stabbing.
At some point in the dim and distant past, I’m sure Holby was a show about the day-to-day struggles of the NHS. Maybe I’m mistaken…
Now, of course, I’m no fool. And I understand that programmes evolve to suit the times. Coronation Street, for instance, was conceived as TV’s answer to the wave of kitchen-sink realism sweeping through theatre in the late 1950s. But the Corrie of today has to balance its backstreet grit with sensationalist cliffhangers that can lure back viewers in an increasingly competitive media landscape. Sometimes, though, it strays too far and viewers cry foul – Pat Phelan’s blood-splattered killing spree being a recent case in point.
Holby City is currently indulging in similar histrionics, to the point where the cheap melodrama is noticeably outstripping the medical dilemmas. There doesn’t always have to be a sinister antagonist for our regular characters. Not every male newcomer needs to be a sociopath. And now that we've been reduced to ticking off horror movie clichés on a pre-watershed show, perhaps it’s time that Holby itself had a radical health check?