Written by Phil Redmond. Tx 30th December 1980
There’s a bleak feel to this opening episode. A wave of vandalism over the holidays has meant the school is looking even more dilapidated than usual. The money isn’t available to make all the repairs straightaway, so some windows remain boarded up – creating an oppressive atmosphere.
This is one of the immediate problems to be faced by the new head, Mrs McClusky (Gwyneth Powell) and the new caretaker, Mr Thomson (Timothy Bateson).
The McClusky years start here. Due to her longevity, Gwyneth Powell would become by far Grange Hill’s most recognisable head-teacher. Is it too fanciful to say there’s more than a touch of Mrs Thatcher about her? Certainly both women would remain dominant in their respective empires during the remainder of the 1980’s ….
Mr Thomson didn’t last as long, but I think he’s probably my favourite caretaker. Pompous and pernickety, he’s played to absolute comic perfection by Timothy Bateson who is always such a joy to watch.
It eventually becomes clear that the vandalism is being carried out by Booga Benson (David Lynch), an unstable fifth-former. The fact that he’s older than Tucker and co means that our heroes can’t tackle him direct – which is an interesting development. Previously Tucker has tangled with the likes of Doyle, but as they were of a similar age it was an equal clash. Booga is another matter altogether and every time he runs into Tucker he gains the upper hand.
It’s remarkable that Booga only appears in a few episodes, since he casts a long shadow over the series (maybe featuring in spin-off novels such as Grange Hill For Sale by Robert Leeson helped to create the impression he was a more regular character) .
But he certainly makes the most of his handful of episodes and is by far the nastiest person we’ve seen in the series to date – anytime he’s on screen there’s an uncomfortable sense that he’s barely managing to keep his instability in check . Although he’ll be eclipsed later on by Gripper (who makes his début in series four, although only as a background character with little to do) it’s an excellent performance by Lynch
Elsewhere, Cathy and Trisha (along with Gerry and Ruth) form a group, with the aim of performing with Mr Sutcliffe at the forthcoming school dance. But as we’ll see, Trisha’s heart isn’t in it.