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"Too Old for This Shift" is the 1005th episode of Casualty and the premiere of the 31st series. It was preceded by "Sticks and Stones" and followed by "Fall on Me". The episode was directed by Steve Hughes and written by Matthew Barry and Andy Bayliss.

The episode is the 30th anniversary special episode, and runs as a feature length episode with a length of 1 hour and 40 minutes, double that of a standard episode. It also sees the permanent return of Lisa "Duffy" Duffin, portrayed by Cathy Shipton, who hadn't been part of the main cast since series 17. This episode, along with "Sticks and Stones", takes place on 27 August.

There was a big lead up to the episode and lots of promotional material was produced in the form of adverts, trailers and stills. It gained a positive response from the audience when it aired, and the production crew said that it would make viewers both laugh and cry.

Synopsis

Connie and Grace's video recording congratulating Charlie is seen, as they both praise him for his 30 years of service to the hospital.

Events pick up almost immediately after the previous episode. At the site of the crash, Connie has been thrown from the car and lies unconscious on the ground. Steph has got out of her car and looks down on the disaster from the treeline, but she soon gets back in her car and drives off, and decides not to call for an ambulance. Back in reception, the staff discuss Charlie's party and Max informs them of his purchase of a life-size ice sculpture of Charlie, and demands that Dylan and Jacob pay him their share of the money. Charlie comes in and they try to cover their tracks by pretending that Robyn has a rash and they're discussing the treatment, which disgusts agency nurse Amira Zafar. As Charlie's showing Amira around the department, she makes it clear she doesn't care, and even ignores Jacob when she receives a phonecall. Jacob later tells Charlie of his plans to propose to Connie, and Charlie wishes him luck.

The first person to congratulate Charlie via video is staff nurse Jay Faldren who left the department almost five years before. He congratulates him and admits that although they didn't have the best start, they made up and he respects Charlie. As Charlie is wandering through the ED, David almost ruins the surprise as he asks if "it's formal" in reference to the party, but he later backtracks. Paramedic Comfort Jones is the next to congratulate Charlie by video, and said that whenever she arrived back at the ED, she knew she was home and that he was always home for her.

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Steph after being hit by the car.

On her way driving away from the scene, Steph stops her car and tries to call for an ambulance, realising the danger that Connie and Grace are in. However, she's unable to get a reception on her phone and as she steps out further she's hit by an oncoming vehicle and knocked unconscious. Back in the ED, Ethan accidentally leads Charlie into a cubicle where Josh Griffiths is waiting, and when he asks why he's there he tells him that it's a surprise and he can't tell. They later reminisce on their earlier years and Charlie's first day at the hospital.

Connie wakes up with severe lacerations, and immediately worries about Grace. She is able to relocate her shoulder, and begins to shout for Grace. Back up on the road, Iain and Jez arrive on the scene and begin to resuscitate Steph who has since stopped breathing. In the ED, angry patient Sally Hodge is admitted following a fall in her flat. Charlie suspects she has a fractured hip, and asks Amira to go and fetch him a bed pan.

Back at the scene of the crash, Connie notices the car smoking and begins to crawl towards the car shouting to Grace to get out. It catches fire and she becomes hysterical and begins screaming whilst getting closer to the car. Her shock soon turns to horror when the car explodes, and she breaks down in tears screaming, in the presumption that Grace has perished. Back in the ED, Sally Hodge continues to give the staff a tough time, and when Lily gives her an abdominal exam, they decide that she needs more tests done. Charlie sees Amira and she tells him that she couldn't find the bed pan, whilst carelessly listening to her music. He gets angry with her and tells her off. Tess Bateman's video message is shown, and she congratulates him and tells him what a good friend he has been to her.

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Jacob, Iain and Jez examine the damage to Steph's car.

Noel is busy preparing the banner for the party in reception, but Max soon notices that he's missed a letter. Max later attempts to flirt with Amira, and Noel asks him if she reminds him of anyone, hinting of her resemblance to Zoe. Jacob leaves a message for Connie on her phone asking where she is. Shortly after, Steph arrives in the ED after having been successfully resuscitated at the scene. Jacob notices her there and upon investigating further finds out from Iain and Jez that it looked like her car had been clipped as her window was broken and there were marks down the side. Jacob tells Iain and Jez that he's going out with them to investigate, as he fears for Connie after she's unable to contact her again.

Fletch comes down to the ED for Charlie's celebrations and him and Cal share a friendly reunion. Charlie and Lily continue treating Sally and they conclude that she probably has a urinary tract infection. Jacob arrives at the scene with the paramedics and he notices the marks down Steph's car. He gets Iain and Jez to keep driving, and they come upon the tyre marks on the bend in the road. They run down to investigate to discover the scene of the crash. Jacob runs over to Connie, but she's distraught at the thought of having lost Grace.

Back at the ED, the scan finds that Sally has a lithopaedion, whereby her dead fetus calcified on the outside, and the abortion that she had when she was a teenager didn't fully work. Elle receives a phonecall informing her of Connie's accident, and she asks Dylan if he'd be able to assist at the scene. She immedtialy phones Hanssen to inform him of the incident. Duffy is next to congratulate Charlie by video, and she reminds him of the time they've spent together, and wishes him the best for another 30 years. Back at the scene, Dylan arrives to help Connie and Jez finds that Grace isn't in the car, and him and Iain begin to search for her. Before long, they discover that she too has been thrown from the car, and she tells them that she's finding it difficult to breathe. Iain requests an air ambulance and shouts to the others that they've found Grace.

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Dylan arrives and tends to Connie's injuries.

An air ambulance is dispatched, and at the scene Dylan tells Connie that they need to get her into hospital. She refuses to go so they sedate her and Jacob accompanies her in the ambulance. The ice statue of Charlie arrives, and Noel and Louise discover that it's not life size, but in fact the size of a small figurine. Things only get worse when Max brings in the cake which has also gone wrong. At their home, Holby resident Charlotte Swift finds a birthday gift in their porch for her son Kai, from his dad Steve. She hides it in an under-stairs cupboard in an attempt to prevent him from finding it.

Sally admits to Charlie that her abortion didn't go to plan as she tried to perform the abortion herself due to the fact it was frowned upon when she was younger. Sally later inadvertently reveals that there's a surprise party planned for Charlie. Charlotte meets with Kai's dad Steve and they argue, with her telling him not to bother with his son. Meanwhile, Kai discovers his gift and opens it to discover that it's a drone.

Dylan examines Grace and concludes that she has a pneumothorax and a possible flail chest. Back at The Hope & Anchor they prepare for Charlie's arrival but are disappointed when they mistake another member of staff for him. However, they're successful in the end after he promised to Louise to act surprised. Fletch joins them in the pub, as well as various other members of staff. Back at the scene, Iain assures Grace that he'll go with her in the helicopter back to the hospital, and he has the idea for Grace to leave a message for Connie after she asks to speak to her. Grace leaves in the helicopter with Iain and air ambulance paramedic Harry.

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Max presenting the anniversary party.

Back at the pub, Noel and Max commentate the celebrations and a slideshow is shown of Charlie's years at Holby. Ethan attempts to flirt with Alicia but it doesn't go to plan and Cal encourages Ethan to show his more vulnerable side. Lily arrives and begins to update Charlie on Sally's condition, but he's busy enjoying the celebrations and Josh is amused at her bad timing. Lenny Lyons' message is shown in the video, and he tells Charlie that he deserves a drink. Alice Chantrey appears next on the screen, and tells Charlie what a good friend and mentor he was and that he made her the nurse she is today. Cal's video is next, and he says that Charlie has always been there for him. Dylan's attempted message is shown, although it appears that he was unaware of the purpose of being filmed and told them to stop filming.

Meanwhile just across the road, Connie arrives at the ED and Elle takes charge in her treatment. Hanssen interrupts the party and tells Charlie about Connie's accident, and he heads across to the ED. He's followed over by the rest of the staff who are shocked to see Connie there as a patient. Elle asks everyone to leave as it's too crowded and once outside resus Amira attempts to apologise to Charlie. However, he is anxious about Connie's condition and angrily asks her to leave.

Back at the pub, Abs' video is shown and he tells Charlie that he's the best, and to keep in touch. Duffy arrives in the pub just after and finds only Josh there. She asks why it's so empty, and he tells her to take a seat so she can explain. Jacob and Elle try to explain how important it is for Connie to have a CT scan, but she refuses to until she sees Grace. Alicia goes outside and Ethan follows her, and she inquires about how Grace will be.

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Alicia falls to the ground as the helicopter crashes.

Cal also goes outside and sees the helicopter that Grace is in coming in to land. However, a drone strikes it back blades and the pilot loses control as it heads down for the ED. It crashes down in the car park and hits an ambulance as well as the shelter outside the entrance. The scaffolding collapses down onto Ethan and Alicia, and Cal narrowly avoids being hit by a piece of flying metal. The impact causes the entrance to the ED to become blocked and severely damaged, and a power cut is experienced throughout the department. A shocked Kai drops the remote from his drone, stunned at what he's caused despite it being an accident. Josh immediately goes out to help, and comes across Iain who's managed to escape from the crashed helicopter with a leg injury.

David's video is shown, and he sums Charlie up in one word as calm. Connie is shocked when the power begins to cut off and the screams outside, and Elle and Jacob are just as confused. Jacob goes outside in search of Grace and realises that the helicopter which she was in has crashed. A support beam falls down and blocks entrance, but Jacob is able to lift it so they can get to Grace. Elle informs Connie that the helicopter which Grace was in crashed but they were able to get a pulse from Grace. Alicia and Ethan are trapped under the scaffolding, and Alicia fears for him after he appears to be unresponsive.

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Jez and Dylan approaching the crash.

Jacob joins Grace in the helicopter outside the ED to make sure she's okay, and they express the need to get her out as soon as possible. Josh discovers that the air ambulance paramedic Harry has died upon impact. Hanssen oversees the chaos outside and tells Charlie that they'll need to close the department immediately and divert all cases. Hanssen's video message is shown, and he reads out a letter Charlie sent to him when he first joined the hospital. Alicia is able to get Ethan to come around but he tells her that he can't get to her as he's injured his leg. Grace is still in the helicopter being seen to by Dylan, and Josh gives him some advice from outside.

Duffy lends a hand following the crash and updates Noel on the situation. Amira takes the opportunity to leave the ED but notices Kai against a wall with breathing difficulties after he went to the ED after having seen the crash. Grace is set free and taken into the ED where Connie sees her being wheeled along on a trolley. Although Elle and David instruct her to let them finish treating her head injury, she insists on seeing Grace and they help her go to see her.

Amira brings Kai into the ED and argues with Louise over whether he should be there as the ED is officially closed. The fire crews assist at the scene of the crash outside the ED, and Lily tends to Iain's injuries, telling him he needs a head scan. Alicia reaches Ethan and tells him that she'll need to have a look at his leg injury. Jac Naylor comes down to the department to help Grace, and interrupts Connie whilst she's speaking to her. Connie tells them to get her some gloves and a gown, as she wants to help Grace herself but they assure her that she's in no fit state to assist. As Elle is taking her out, Connie collapses against a wall and Jacob helps take her away.

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Mike Barratt in his video message to Charlie.

Mike Barratt's video message to Charlie is shown and he tells Charlie to let his career go whilst he's still mentally stable, and convinces him that the hospital will continue without them. Hanssen confronts Charlie who's helping the wounded in the pub, and tells him to take care of the press outside. However, he's displeased and tells Hanssen that his skills are needed elsewhere. Amira treats Kai, and he soon admits to her that he caused the helicopter crash.

Meanwhile, Alicia tries to treat Ethan's leg but he instead tells her about how when he was younger Cal teased him for playing doctor with his stuffed toys. He reveals the origin of his nickname "Nibbles", that he used to spell things phonetically when he was younger and a spelling error occurred. However, he's left embarrassed when he realises that she didn't know that Cal called him Nibbles. She's able to free him and shortly after thinks of a plan. Back in the ED Dylan discovers that Connie has free fluid in her abdomen and Charlie suspects that she's torn her liver.

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Cal climbs under the scaffolding to reach Ethan and Alicia.

Jac, Elle and Duffy continue Grace's treatment and Jac performs a chest drain to help with her massive pneumothorax. Back outside, Alicia and Ethan grab a long pole and smash the window of the ambulance which is also buried under the scaffolding. They're able to use it to turn the siren on, therefore alerting Jez, Iain and Cal that they're in there. Cal goes under the scaffolding to reach them but upon discovering that Ethan just had a dislocated patella, he realises that their injuries aren't serious at all.

Connie is taken up to theatre and Jac tells Jacob to stay with Grace as she needs him. In reception he has an emotional chat to Charlie and tells him that it isn't fair. Kai walks in, having overheard the conversation, and apologises to Jacob. Amira informs Elle that she's found a radiologist and that they can scan her now. Just as they're preparing to move Grace, David interrupts Elle and tells her about the events in reception. When Kai tells Jacob what happened, he pins him up against the wall in anger. David attempts to intervene but Jacob pushes him away and it's only when Charlie shouts at Jacob he listens and lets Kai go.

Seeking revenge, Jacob storms up the stairs in search of Steph. Charlie tries to stop him and eventually Jacob starts to use a threatening tone with him. However, Duffy and Josh are soon to side with Charlie and block Jacob's way up the stairs, as he claims it won't solve anything. Big Mac's video message is played and he says that Charlie is an essential part of the NHS. Duffy and Josh accompany Charlie to resus where they find it empty, although she assumes that they must have finished the scan by now.

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Jacob crying on Elle in the staff room.

Elle finds Jacob upset on the floor of the staff room, and tells her that he could have stopped Steph and blamed himself. Elle tells him not to blame himself and he breaks down in tears fearing that he could lose it all. At the CT scanner, Grace starts fitting and Amira urgently calls for someone from the ED. Duffy, Josh and Charlie arrives and Duffy suspects that Grace has sustained a head injury. Cal, Ethan and Alicia arrive in the ED to find it empty, but are soon disrupted when Grace is rushed through back into resus. They realise that she's not maintaining her own airway anymore. Elle manages to get a tube in to help her breath and her sats begin to improve.

Lily informs Iain that his scans show no significant head injury, and they're soon interrupted by Jez, Max and Josh who tell them that Grace has pulled through. The staff all gather in reception and Duffy and Josh encourage Charlie to address them. He tells them that they're going to stay until they know all of their team are out of the woods but that they're all entitled to go home. They all offer to stay and Robyn and Max offer to bring the leftover food and drink over from the pub for the night.

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Hanssen presents Elle with Grace's scan results.

Steve and Charlotte arrive to see Kai and Amira informs them that the police will want to speak to him. She also says that they'll be informed on what happens to Grace. Duffy, Josh, Elle and Charlie discuss the damage at the entrance to the ED but they're soon interrupted by Hanssen who presents them with Grace's scan results, showing a subdural haematoma. When Elle inquires about her chances, he informs them that it's not looking good. Charlie finds Jacob in Connie's office and shows him the scan results. He also says that when Connie wakes up it's his face that she needs to see, and also for him to tell her that Grace may not be alright.

Ethan and Alicia see Cal outside the ED whilst they're carrying over food from the pub. Ethan tells Cal that he took his advice and showed Alicia his vulnerable side but that it backfired. However, Cal proves him wrong when he sees Alicia looking at him in a flirtatious way. Jacob and Charlie go up together to visit Connie and Jacob breaks the news to her. As he goes to hold her hand, she pulls it away. The final video message is from Debbie Phillips, the mother of someone who Charlie helped in the past.

Charlie finds Louise and Amira and tells them to come into the staff room to finally celebrate with him. Duffy and Josh stand by Charlie's side and tell him that the department works well because everyone works together as a unit. They wish him a happy anniversary as the final scene shows the wrecked exterior of the ED as the sun sets.

Production

The episode was produced by Lucy Raffety. In an interview in late 2015, series producer Erika Hossington revealed that they'd begun planning for the 30th anniversary episode back in 2013 when she first joined the show. In early 2016, more details were slowly revealed including the episode's title and when the episode was planned. The script was first received towards the end of January and preparations began for the filming of the episode in the following months. A brand new opening title sequence was introduced in this episode, as well as a new credits sequence.

When the script was first received in January 2016, the 30th anniversary was split into two episodes titled "The Heaven's Lieutenant" and "Too Old for This Shift". At a later date nearer the time of filming, the episodes had switched titles, and eventually they were merged to make one long movie style episode.

The events of the episode had an impact in the Holby City episode "Protect and Serve" which aired on 30 August. The events of the episode took place from 28 August to 2 September in the week following the helicopter crash. It featured guest appearances from Casualty characters Connie Beauchamp, Iain Dean, Jez Andrews and Steph Sims.

Filming

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Amanda Mealing on set during the filming process.

Filming of the 30th anniversary feature length episode took place over 5 weeks in April and May 2016. Filming took place on location near Tintern in southern Wales where the car accident was filmed for the 30th series' finale. Additionally, scenes were filmed over the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, where the first ever scene of the first episode took place as Charlie drove across it. The large stunts of the episode relied on CGI, as revealed in an interview with Oliver Kent and Erika Hossington. However, it was also noted that as much as possible was done without it.

Amanda Mealing was among the cast members who spent many hours on-location during the filming of the episode. In an interview with the Radio Times, Mealing revealed that it took an hour to do the makeup for every shoot, and the fake blood was very sticky. She described the on-location filming as emotionally draining. Charles Venn had also previously revealed how Jacob has an integral role in the episode, and revealed in a separate interview that the events of the episode would put a strain on the relationship. Venn also spent a large portion of time filming on-location.

Director Steve Hughes stated he couldn't believe that the show was going to attempt a stunt so big, talking about the helicopter crash. The stunt itself was shot over two days using various stunts, visual effects and rigging teams as opposed to shooting the stunt scene using computer-generated imagery. Although computer-generated imagery was used to add to the practical effects, the team decided to shoot the stunt practically so that the sequence felt more realistic, and to stick to how Casualty had been filmed in the past. Hughes said the team shot about sixteen stunts over two days of filming alone.

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Filming for the helicopter crash stunt.

Following the episode filming taking place, the first trailer was filmed, set at The Hope & Anchor opposite the ED. Behind the scenes images were released by the BBC of the filming process. The trailer featured appearances from several main cast members as well as Holby City's Fletch.

Release

After the 1000th episode aired towards the end of June, further details were released about the 30th anniversary episode. It was announced that Holby City's Jac Naylor, Henrik Hanssen and Adrian "Fletch" Fletcher would all play a central part in the episode. Additionally, Oliver Kent revealed that several old faces would return for the episode. Over the following months, several former cast members were revealed to be guest starring in the episode.

Following the airing of the series 30 finale "Sticks and Stones", a trailer for "Too Old for This Shift" was released which was a 40 second clip showing the chaos unravelling at Charlie's party at The Hope & Anchor. Although the trailer contained very little dialogue, various things can be seen and heard in the clip including a cloud of red and yellow smoke, what appears to be the images from a brain scan and the sound of a helicopter in the background. The only lines are at the end which shows Connie and Grace wishing Charlie well for his celebrations on their video recording.

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A behind the scenes photo of Cathy Shipton and Charles Venn during the filming of the trailer.

At the beginning of August less than a week after the series finale, a special screening of the 30th anniversary took place at the BBC Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff Bay. Among the viewers were cast and crew members and reporters. During the screening, there was a live performance of the special soundtrack to be used in the episode, recorded by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

In mid August, another trailer was released by the BBC and was only eight seconds in length. It featured several short bursts of action shots from the episode including the paramedics arriving at the crash scene and news of the disaster getting back to the ED. An additional clip from the episode had been released just days earlier as part of a video of Charlie's best moments over the years. The following day, a 30 second trailer for the episode was released; the standard length of regular episode previews. It showed more detail on the crash scene, the helicopter disaster and the scaffolding collapse and other disasters at the ED.

On 16 August, the full cast list of the episode was revealed, therefore confirming the remainder of the returning cast. Additionally, it revealed that all the current main cast would star in the episode, something which is only known to happen occasionally. On 20 August, a new 30 second trailer was released showing the crash site once again, along with Jacob's voice whilst he tried to contact Connie on her phone. From 22 August each day, the BBC posted a clip of around 10 seconds in countdown to the episode, featuring short bursts of action from the episode.

On 26 August, several clips were released of various cast members summarising the episode in three words. On 27 August twenty minutes before the episode aired the BBC set up a live streaming video on Casualty's Facebook page with Oliver Kent, Erika Hossington, Amanda Henderson and George Rainsford where they were answering various questions from viewers which could be left in the comments section as it was being shown. This was the final promotion done for the episode before it aired.

Reception

The episode received an overnight rating of 5.10 million viewers, a 26% share of the total audience. The episode received strong praise from fans, some of whom demanded the show won an award. Radio Times reported that viewers were left stunned by the episode, whilst Digital Spy stated that fans were left in shock and awe over the episode. The Daily Mirror reporter Sharon Marshall praised the episode, branding it as a "pitch-perfect episode mixing gore, heartache, drama and nostalgia". Marshall added that the episode "showcased what Casualty does best - beautiful writing and a stellar cast who grab your heartstrings," before concluding her review by praising the episode as being able to make the show "look as fresh and exciting as the day it was born." However, the show also received criticism, with the episode being branded insensitive by the Midlands Air Ambulance Charity.

Although during interviews it had been hinted that there'd be a high death count in the episode, only one named character died in it; Harry Price, an air ambulance paramedic. It was also his first and only appearance. 

Gallery

Main article: Too Old for This Shift/Gallery.

The week before the episode aired, the promotional stills were released. Among these were images of the crashed car, Charlie being reunited with Duffy and Josh and the Holby City characters who guest appeared in the episode. Five new character promotional stills were released on 30 July exclusively for the episode along with the trailer.

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