Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 11th February 1983
Gripper and his henchmen (with the exception of Denny) are once again tracked down by Randir, Woody and their friends and a massive fight ensues. Even before it starts you get the sense – because it’s shot on film – that this is going to be a notable set-piece sequence and so it turns out to be. Bodies are flung about the cloakroom with wild abandon – into lockers and against coatstands and it takes the combined efforts of Mr Keating, Mr Hopwood and Mr Baxter to bring some sort of order to proceedings.
Yes, Mr Baxter makes a brief appearance. This is quite notable because it’s now episode twelve and his last (also brief) appearance was in episode two. I’m not sure why he’s hardly featured in this series to date, but I’ve certainly been suffering from Baxter withdrawal symptoms.
Mr Keating’s at his imperious best – telling them that everyone in the room will be expelled. Claire and Stewpot escape any punishment though, they were in the cloakroom but were only innocent bystanders.
What’s interesting is the way that the punishment changes once everyone reaches Mrs McClusky’s office. It’s never stated on-screen, but presumably it must be her decision not to expel them – instead they’re all served with a two-week suspension. It would have been nice to have a little bit of dialogue between her and Mr Keating, with each arguing their corner.
Although Mrs McClusky has now been presented with clear evidence that Gripper’s been carrying out a wave of racially motivated bullying she doesn’t decide to single him out for any special punishment. This is odd. She’s visited by Woody’s mother who’s upset that her son will be missing two weeks of school. As she says, he’s never been in any sort of trouble before – and surely the fact that a number of children with previously unblemished records decided to hit back at Gripper would suggest that they were goaded into action?
Anne Kristen is once again on fine form as Miss Clark. She steps in to prevent Gripper and Georgie from bullying Janet and her friend and later is appalled to find Stewpot and Claire locked in an embrace in the book cupboard. “We were only necking” mutters Stewpot, but it cuts no ice with Miss Clark who tells them that this is a school, not the back row of the Roxy! I really wish they’d made her a regular character.
Another lovely performance comes from Gillian Hanna as Miss Gossage. Miss Gossage is a teacher who’s best described as “not all there”. She seem to spend most of the lesson time asleep and then (according to Suzanne) always slopes off before the bell goes. As we see her dazedly walking down the corridor, humming Some Enchanted Evening, it’s plain that she’s the last person you’d pick to diffuse a racially motivated fight (Miss Clark, on the other hand, would no doubt steam right in). Luckily for Miss Gossage, she spies Mr Hopwood and is able to pass this job onto him.
The publication of the underground magazine goes down like a lead balloon with Mrs McClusky. Her dismissal of Flexi-Time is reasonable, as the practical problems are great, but it’s her comment on bullying which is very telling. “I have specifically vetoed this sort of criticism of the staff and their handling of the racial situation.” So she knows there’s a problem, and that probably more could have been done, but rather than address any failings head on she decides that the suppression of negative comments is the best course of action.
Her decision to suspend Claire and Stewpot for their embrace is a clear sign that she’s rattled. But she also wants to track down the ringleaders responsible for the magazine. And she’s convinced that they must have had help from the staff ….