Tonight’s episode of Casualty marks the last for the show’s longest-serving cast member Derek Thompson who plays Charlie Fairhead.

The scenes airing tonight (March 16) will see Thompson bid an emotional farewell to the BBC One drama series.

Thompson has played the role for 38 years and almost 900 episodes.

Towards the start of March, Casualty viewers saw Charlie be brutally stabbed by a patient.

His final episode will incorporate a flashback to his first day at the hospital as he slips in and out of consciousness.

Thompson has said his final episodes are important ones, saying: “I think my final two episodes are some of the best episodes of my career”.

He added: “How Michelle Lipton wrote these episodes, comes across like she’s written eight plays, taken from so many points of view. I don’t think there’s another writer who could have done it.” 

Thompson’s most memorable moment during his almost four decades on the show was his first episode in 1986, he said.

“Charlie was in his little yellow Beetle coming over Bristol suspension bridge and winding through the streets of Bristol, ending up at the hospital.

“Charlie gets out of the car in his bomber jacket, hair all over the place … it was like ‘Noddy goes to hospital!’ He looks up at the building, raises a cigarette to his lips and goes ‘let’s do this!’.

“It gave you the notion that these people have a good sense of humour about themselves. It was the first time that everyone could see what was possible with the show. It’s an image that has stayed with me throughout my time on Casualty,” he said.

Viewers react to Derek Thompson’s Casualty exit

Before tonight's episode, fans were emotional as they prepared to see Derek Thompson appear as Charlie Fairhead for the last time.

One shared a picture of Charlie Fairhead lying in his hospital bed, writing: "Here we go!!! After 38 years and 900 episodes it's time to say an emotional goodbye to Casualty legend Charlie Fairhead #Casualty"

During the episode, fans shared their thoughts on X, formerly Twitter, as they saw flashbacks to Charlie's earlier days working at the hospital.

One viewer said: "this is the worst day of my life charlie simply raised me i can. not say goodbye to him #casualty".

This user replied to their tweet adding: "i’m not being dramatic when i say i’ve watched casualty since i was like 5 years old. this is like losing a family member".

Another said: "I am simply not ok, and we’re only 7 mins in #Casualty".

A third said: "I’m not emotionally stable enough for this episode #Casualty".

The actor said his favourite guest star on the much-loved TV programme was the late Bernard Cribbins.

“The wonderful Bernard Cribbins was one of my heroes,” Thompson said. “I used to love the stuff he did, especially when improvising. I remember how strong he was in the part.

“We had moments when we were standing around on set and just laughing together.”

During his time on the show, his character was run over by an ambulance on his wedding day, suffered a near-fatal cardiac arrest during a gang siege, and saw the “heart-breaking farewell” of his loving relationship with fellow nurse Duffy (Cathy Shipton).

Thompson said Duffy’s death through vascular dementia in February 2020 was the storyline he felt “most personally attached to as Charlie”.

Recommended reading:

What will Derek Thompson do after leaving Casualty?

It was recently revealed that the Belfast-born actor will be appearing in the second series of Blue Lights where he’ll guest star as retired police officer Robin Graham whose “past and conscience catch up with him” when trainee solicitor Jen Robinson (Hannah McClean) investigates an old case.

“I was thrilled and excited when I got the invitation to take part in series two,” he said.

“I was born in Belfast and was equally excited to travel over to work on the show and pleased to report, having read the scripts, that I’m sure the fans will love the second series every bit as much as the first.”