The news that Pat Butcher is set to return to EastEnders as a vision during Peggy Mitchell’s final moments has sent the world of soap in a spin. But this, of course, isn’t the first time that a familiar face has made a comeback. Ghosts, memory loss, dreams – our favourite shows have had all the bases covered down the years. So let’s count down the six best callbacks from beyond the grave…
1. Den Watts (EastEnders)
Shot by a gun hidden in a bunch of daffs in 1989, Dirty Den had long been presumed deceased. Imagine daughter Sharon’s surprise, then, when he was brought back alive and well to Walford in 2003. Unfortunately, this miraculous resurrection was short-lived and Den left E20 for good two years later, this time most definitely dead.
2. Harold Bishop (Neighbours)
It was one of the most haunting Neighbours scenes of all time: Madge standing on a cliff edge holding husband Harold’s thick-framed specs. We watched, we grieved. Yet five years later, the Bish was back, having been swept out to sea and picked up by a trawler. Suffering from amnesia, he was now going by the name of Ted and working for the Salvation Army.
3. Bobby Ewing (Dallas)
Ratings tanked following the departure of Patrick Duffy from Dallas in 1985. Unfortunately, his character had been killed off, so a return for Bobby seemed unlikely. Until, that is, Pam woke to find her husband in the shower and realised that she’d dreamed both his demise and – in enviable detail it has to be said – the entire last season of the show.
4. Vera Duckworth (Coronation Street)
Jack Duckworth’s death in his armchair at No 9 was made especially poignant by his vision of late wife Vera, which Corrie icon Liz Dawn returned to film. On his decision to break with the Street’s normally naturalistic style, producer Phil Collinson said: “It’s something I’ve heard a lot. People saying, ‘When my mother was dying she saw my father. Yes, it’s Coronation Street and yes it reflects real life, but we’re storytellers.”
5. Kathy Beale (EastEnders)
The 30th anniversary of EastEnders was meant to be all about the killer of Lucy Beale being unmasked. But the guilt of pint-sized psychopath Bobby Beale was overshadowed by the surprise reappearance of his gran Kathy, who stepped out of a taxi looking not a day older than she did in 1985. For sheer audacity and behind-the-scenes secrecy, Kathy’s comeback takes some beating.
6. Val Pollard (Emmerdale)
Following her death in the aftermath of 2014’s helicopter crash, Val ended up having more comebacks than Frank Sinatra. First of all, she appeared as a ghost before grieving husband Eric to tell him that she was really dead, then came her glorious farewell DVD in which she listed her final wishes, in interminable detail.