1 In a coffin
Death is the favoured method of
retiring a popular soap character. In 51 years of Coronation Street, 139 souls
have passed on, Emmerdale has lost 92 people in 40 years, while EastEnders has
bumped off an alarming 93 characters in just under 27 years. There’s no coming
back from the grave – unless you’re Dirty Den, who returned in 2003, only to be
killed again 18 months later.
Some, such as Corrie’s Jack and Vera Duckworth,
were killed off at the actors’ request, while others have been dispatched, it’s
said, because the actors were a nightmare to work with.
Soapland has had its
share of heart attacks, from Corrie’s Martha Longhurst to EastEnders’ Roy
Evans, while cancer led to Pat Butcher’s recent death in Walford. But more
spectacular, ratings-grabbing exits are now common – for example in burning
buildings, like Emmerdale’s Viv Hope, or accidents, like Molly Dobbs and Ashley
Peacock in Corrie’s tram crash. And let’s not get started on Soapland’s road
2 In a cab
As inevitable as death, taxis are
called for highprofile characters whose departures warrant more than lugging a
suitcase to the Tube or the bus stop. EastEnders’ resident cabbie Charlie
Slater was forever ferrying neighbours to the airport in his black cab. And
Corrie’s Liz McDonald, like Bet Gilroy, left the Rovers for the last time in
the back of a cab.
3 To chokey
Prison is useful as it’s not
necessarily permanent. If it suits both actor and producer, the character can
return: the “door” remains open even if the cell is locked. Tracy Barlow,
jailed for murdering Charlie Stubbs, is a case in point, conveniently being
acquitted at a retrial. Short prison sentences are also useful if an actor
needs time off. To cover Patsy Palmer’s recent maternity leave, Bianca was
imprisoned for assault.
4 In a hurry
The most dissatisfying of all
exits – think of Coronation Street’s Claire Peacock going on the run to, er,
France, after clobbering Tracy. Some hasty goodbyes are born of necessity:
deaths of actors require quick-thinking. When Corrie’s Maggie Jones passed
away, news of Blanche Hunt’s death off-screen was written into later scripts.
The consequences of Betty Driver’s death last autumn are yet to be addressed.
5 On a plane
Anywhere that lies outside a five-mile radius of home counts as foreign in Soapland, so Scotland, Manchester and Spain have been favourite destinations for those leaving EastEnders.
Soap refugees also flit to the Americas (EastEnders’ Sharon Rickman and Michelle Fowler to Florida, Grant Mitchell to Rio) while others, such as Emmerdale’s Kim and Zoe Tate, head for destinations unknown. Bar the very occasional postcard, few are ever heard from again.
6 Happy ever after
Hardly ever happens.