The moment Helen stabbed Rob in The Archers was one of 2016’s defining dramatic scenes – but the former boss of the Radio 4 drama says he initially had even grander plans for the shocking climax.
Speaking at the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival, former editor of The Archers Sean O’Connor revealed that he originally planned for the episode to air on Easter Sunday – but that the BBC were afraid the confrontation would prove too controversial for “the churchgoing public”.
Explaining how the storyline had been plotted three years in advance, O’Connor said, “The writers and I discussed what would happen over the next few years. We knew where we wanted to finish and when we wanted to finish.
“We did think about doing the actual stabbing on an Easter Sunday,” he continued, “and then [Controller of BBC Radio 4] Gwyneth Williams said, ‘I don’t think we want to offend the churchgoing public, let’s not do it then.’ We did it two weeks afterwards.”
The episode instead aired on Sunday 3 April 2016, two weeks after Easter Sunday on 27 March. It became one of the most talked about storylines in The Archers history, with listeners avidly following the fall-out and the trial of Helen Titchener, which eventually saw Helen found not guilty of attempted murder.
From left to right: BFI & Radio Times Television Festival host Gillian Reynolds, actors Timothy Watson and Louiza Patikas, and former Archers editor Sean O’Connor
O’Connor, who has since left The Archers to serve as executive producer on EastEnders, also talked about what the future might hold for Rob Titchener – and why he was left alive.
“The reason for not killing Rob is The Archers is a brilliant show which can tell stories over decades, not over months,” he explained. “It’s the only show that does it.
“When Corrie did dementia, Mike Baldwin got dementia in January and was dead by June. When The Archers did dementia, it took place over ten years, and that’s the difference.
“What’s brilliant about leaving a legacy for the future is that [Helen’s sons] Henry and Jack are clearly going to be very troubled, and Helen and Rob will be united as long as those kids exist. If I were there in 20 years’ time, I’d have an absolute field day with Henry!”
Sean O’Connor was speaking at the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival. To find out what’s on and to book tickets, head to the festival website