They should say sorry

(Guest post by Viv Pointon)

A year has passed. Twelve months since Bernie promised to wait for Serena “for eternity”, since that amazing scene in ‘Primum Non Nocere’. So, it was fitting this week that Radio Diva addressed the controversy that has followed the December episodes when Berena was shipwrecked.

What did we learn?

That even as the Primum episodes were being broadcast, the December debacle was already in production. There are three or four months between filming and broadcasting and three or four months between the scriptwriters’ planning meeting and filming. Actually, we knew that.


That we’re unreasonable to have expected Berena to continue. We didn’t. We knew that, with Jemma unable to commit to the series long term, there would have to be a dénouement. Frankly, I didn’t expect to see Bernie ever again until she pitched up in Primum. Why film Primum at all when Berena was going to end?


That we’re unreasonable to have expected Berena to continue. We didn’t. We knew that, with Jemma unable to commit to the series long term, there would have to be a dénouement. Frankly, I didn’t expect to see Bernie ever again until she pitched up in Primum. Why film Primum at all when Berena was going to end?

That the ending was good, “grown up” is the phrase they like to use. Forgive me if I find that insulting, but then I’m only 67, what would I know about being grown up?

Well, being grown up means you’re old enough to recognise when you’ve made a mistake and mature enough to say you’re sorry.

If Simon Harper and/or Catherine Russell had been grown up enough to come out and say they were sorry we were upset, what a difference that would have made. Why only last June (2018), Catherine spoke to Holbycam and said: “You keep telling us… that we’ve kind of got it right.” But when we started telling them they’d kind of got it wrong, they told us we were wrong.
Odd thing to do that, tell the fans they’re wrong.

Georgina Turner was turned away from the gates of BBC Elstree Studios when she tried to hand in the letter that 280 of us signed. Catherine blocked and muted fans on Twitter. And they’re still pushing us back. This time via Radio Diva and Heather Peace.

I think something went wrong in production. The core idea – that two mature career women couldn’t synchronise their lives sufficiently to sustain their relationship – is not a bad one. They very nearly took us down that route in Primum and we’d have accepted that then, before the “for eternity” scene. But, for some reason, in December, they needed to close out a whole bunch of storylines in one episode – Dom and Lofty, Jason and Greta, Mo’s flying visit, and Nicky’s career building. ‘The Right Kind of Animal’ was cluttered and rushed. Poor old Berena got squeezed to the margins. Crammed along the edge of one messy episode.

Don’t blame Ed Sellek. He drew the short straw being tasked with scripting this shitfest.

Berena deserved better! After the long slow build up in 2017, six months to the first kiss (Protect and Serve), another three months to them getting together (The Kill List), Berena deserved much more time for the ending. We needed decent closure. We got just over two minutes. And the crap about bins and slippers and swings. Right at the end.

But the real crime was the baiting. We were led to believe they would marry. We were never given any hint, until right at the very end, that they would part. Even the utterly vomit-inducing infidelity with Leah was dismissed as reason to part, so the hackneyed trope was utterly pointless. Bernie was coming home! They told us so. They flagged it up via social media. The baiting was unforgivable.

For this, at the very least, they owe us an apology.

I’m still astonished at the fallout. I’m still amazed at my own heartache and that of so many fans around the world. The one big upside is that I have come to know women across four continents as a consequence of the Berena shipwreck. Each of us deals with our pain in our own way. We write (over 2000 posts on AO3 alone now), create images, source poetry, share GIFs, and blend sequences and shots from the show with heart-rending music – I have no idea how many videos there are on YouTube. And there is humour too.

Some people have stopped watching the show. Holby City’s ratings continue on their downward trend, Berena or not. If it was on a commercial channel, what’s the betting it would have been axed by now? I’ve kept watching, so far, but I’m worried about what they’re going to do next. We know Debbie Chazen (Fleur) is back for a couple of episodes. So is Heather Peace (Alex).

I wonder if they realise that whoever Serena gets off with now, it will be wrong, unbelievable. She cannot love again. Man or woman. Not after she could not imagine a life without Bernie – but then made it happen. Her relationship credibility is cactus.

I’m sad about the long-term damage done to the character of Serena. I identified with her, even through that dreadful cheating with Leah (something I’ve never done), until she dumped Bernie. Up until that point, Bernie was unreachable – impossibly attractive, ethereal, deified. In two minutes, I flipped. Suddenly I was Bernie, wrecked, heart-wrenched, devastated. I stepped out with her into the cold December air as the pub door closed behind us.

Bernie Wolfe will be remembered, lauded, for decades. She is an iconic character. Brilliantly drawn, superbly written, exquisitely performed. Every line she uttered sounds iconic. Even the most mundane phrases resonate.

And Berena will be part of lesbian TV history for ever. A landmark. One that was cruelly demolished in minutes, without planning permission.

They should say sorry.

One Reply to “They should say sorry”

  1. A simple sorry would have saved so much heartache and won them so much goodwill. It’s so ironic that despite leaving us with so much grief, this still remains such an iconic (perhaps The Iconic One) story.

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