(Picture: BBC)

What a beautiful, heart-breaking, heart-stopping episode tonights Holby City was. It centred around Sacha Levy, a man who is the essence of warm, fuzzy friendliness, a man who cares about everybody. A man, it turns out, who has been in quiet agony for over a year.

We knew that Sacha suffered from depression. There was the period when he had liposuction and a hair-dye job to try to look younger, and then when he started shop-lifting to try to ease his pain. He seemed to have dealt with it – he got help, he was back to his old self. But in this episode, through flashbacks, we revisited a lot of events from the past year and saw them from a different angle, and saw that hes been in pain and hiding it all the while. As he helped Jac to get over her gun-shot wound, as he supported Essie through her grief about Raf and Ric through his spell in prison, nobody was supporting Sacha and he was feeling more and more isolated and useless.

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This was a densel -packed, detailed script which cleverly wove the poignant flashback scenes in with a present-day crisis for Sacha, in which the death of a patient made him seriously consider jumping from the roof of the hospital.

(Picture BBC)

The patient was Connor Barrat, a young man with multiple serious health issues. He and Sacha had formed a bond – He was the right patient at the right time, Sacha said, a person who needed him when nobody else seemed to. Connor was brave and funny and understanding, and Sacha opened up to him about how terrified hed felt operating on Jac after the shooting, how he loved Essie. It was Connor who helped Sacha learn French when he wanted to talk to hospital cleaner Patricia. Connor had been there throughout all of these trials, and Sacha promised he would make him better. Then he died during surgery.

Some of the most poignant scenes were of Sacha praying by Connors bedside after hed died, not wanting him to be alone. Connors friend and fellow patient Tyler took over reading the psalm when Sacha had to leave (both Hiran Abeysekera as Tyler and Luke Higgins as Connor played their roles beautifully and did so much to make this episode as moving as it was).

For the viewer, tension mounted as we saw Sacha saying goodbye to the people dearest to him, because we knew how desperate he was feeling but they didnt. There was even a little joke as he said goodbye to Jac, still very ill and barely awake. Am I dying? she said. Sacha said she wasnt. So whats with the goodbyes? Even partially conscious, Jac is more perceptive than most. When Sacha went to see Essie she was distracted by some work she was doing for Gaskell, but Sachas face as he hugged her was so sad.

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Then he went to the roof, and stepped over the pitifully low barrier to stand on the very edge. Ric Griffin, whod argued with Sacha on the roof earlier, was now desperately looking for him in the car park. Finally he looked up, and there was an amazing overhead shot as we looked down on Sacha teetering on the edge of the roof and saw Ric on the ground, rushing back into the building.

This was all incredibly tense and sad as Sacha told Ric he couldnt go on and Ric tried to convince him that there was hope and help. Bob Barrett and Hugh Quarshie were brilliant in this scene, completely immersed in their characters and in the moment. Eventually Ric persuaded Sacha to take his hand and we all got to breathe again.

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There was some optimism at the end in the form of Tyler, who still believed in Sacha and wanted him to take him on as a patient. I just want to know theres someone on my side, he said, and eventually Sacha agreed, because if you need someone on your side, Sacha is that someone. Tyler also brought a gift from Connor – a flowery shirt even more lurid than Sachas usual models. He told Sacha how much hed helped Connor.

(Picture: BBC)

So there was hope and positivity, and Sacha is going to take a few weeks off to care for himself before he comes back to caring for other people. Weve seen characters like Hanssen and Jac who contain their feelings with sheer willpower until they break. With Sacha hes so busy caring for others that he puts his needs last in the queue, not wanting to add to anyone elses hurt by admitting hurt of his own. It was a powerful hour of television and an incredible piece of work from Bob Barrett, and hopefully it will underline that its always best to seek out help before things get too much.

Sue Haasler is the author of the official Holby City book, which you can read about here. She also writes novels and theres more about her latest here.


MORE: Holby City review with spoilers: Gaskell plays God

MORE: Holby City review: Tension as Jacs condition gets worse

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