For anyone who is interested in the campaign for better dialogue on wlw representation, but who isn’t familiar with the story of ‘Berena’, here is a brief summary:
Serena Campbell arrived at Holby City in 2012; she is the senior consultant lead on the acute admissions unit (AAU). She is divorced from Edward, with whom she has a daughter of around 20, called Elinor. By the time Bernie Wolfe arrives at the hospital in 2016, Serena, now in her early 50s, is dating Robbie, and is also building a relationship with Jason, a nephew via a now deceased sister whom she did not know about until her mother’s death.
Bernie, a surgeon working in the RAMC in Afghanistan, is brought to Holby when her vehicle is blown up by an IED. She is flown back to England with life-threatening injuries. She is married to Marcus, also a surgeon, at nearby St James’s hospital. They have two grown-up children, Cameron and Charlotte. She also has a significant other, Alex Dawson, in the RAMC.
On recovery, Bernie decides to leave the Army, cutting ties with Alex, and gets a job at Holby in order to save her marriage. She makes quite an impact at the hospital, but it becomes clear that she cannot repair her marriage – especially when Alex turns up at the hospital for a locum shift and the two women kiss. They part, but soon after, Marcus discovers his wife’s affair and their amicable divorce turns hostile.
Meanwhile, Bernie and Serena have become friends, sharing notes on divorce and families, but Serena is shocked to discover Bernie’s infidelity and their friendship falters. Life in the busy hospital goes on, however, and the two women gradually grow closer, especially after Serena and Robbie split up. Bernie and Serena have an obvious chemistry: they work well together and set up a trauma unit on AAU under Bernie’s leadership.
After six months on screen and at the end of a particularly stressful day, Bernie kisses Serena and, after a moment’s hesitation, Serena reciprocates. Initially Serena struggles with what has happened, never previously having been more than friends with a woman, but then she is disappointed when Bernie suggests they should just be friends. This doesn’t last long but, when Serena says that she is falling in love with Bernie, Bernie panics and accepts a secondment in the Ukraine.
Weeks later, Bernie returns and confesses that she too is falling in love, and she and Serena start a relationship. Alas, their happiness is short-lived. Elinor dies suddenly at the start of 2017 and Serena struggles to cope with her grief, despite Bernie’s solid, loving support. After Serena is cautioned for bullying a trainee medic in her charge, she decides she needs to get away from the hospital and travel for a while. When Bernie asks if they have a future together, Serena says she “hopes so.”
Months go by before funding issues cause the closure of the trauma unit. Bernie leaves Holby for a job in a military field hospital in Sudan, planning to spend time with Serena in the south of France en route. Their relationship flourishes off-screen and they are making plans to co-run a new trauma centre in Nairobi when Serena is called back to Holby in February 2018. She is needed as temporary CEO but soon settles back into the hospital routine, and delays moving to Nairobi.
Bernie makes a surprise visit in June 2018 and it coincides with the birth of Jason’s daughter (he has found love with Greta who is, like him, on the autism spectrum). Serena feels that she now cannot leave England for Kenya: her skills as dependable aunt are needed. She asks Bernie to wait for her and Bernie replies: “For eternity.”
In December 2018, and with Jason and Greta’s wedding imminent, Serena is frustrated with Bernie for failing to return her calls for three weeks. She is attracted to a junior doctor on AAU, Leah Falkner, and she and Leah spend a night shift together in the on-call room. In the morning, Bernie arrives without warning for the wedding.
Sensing that she and Serena are drifting apart, Bernie quits her “dream job” in Nairobi and makes plans to return to Holby so that they can finally be together. She guesses about Serena’s dalliance with the younger woman, but forgives her. Jason and Greta wed alongside the young gay couple, Dom and Lofty, on hospital grounds, with Bernie and Serena watching the ceremony.
At the reception, however, Serena tells Bernie that she couldn’t forgive herself if she made Bernie give up her job for a life of domesticity in Holby. Serena, on the other hand, cannot now leave her young family to move to Kenya. Bernie leaves just as Serena catches Greta’s bouquet.