Rana Habeeb (Bhavna Limbachia) made a surprise return to Coronation Street on Friday 31st May, despite having been killed off months ago. The shock appearance was part of a special episode told from the point of view of fragile Carla Connor (Alison King), who suffered a mental breakdown causing her to hallucinate she was talking to the tragic nurse who perished in the factory roof collapse disaster.
Carla blames herself for the incident, which viewers discovered in the dramatic instalment was deliberately caused by Gary Windass (Mikey North), and her guilt has driven her to an extreme psychotic episode, gripped by paranoia and delusion believing Rana, her late brother Aidan Connor, and deceased best friend Hayley Cropper, were all still alive.
Limbachia, who died on screen in March when she was buried under the roof rubble en route to her wedding to Kate Connor (Faye Brookes), filmed the scene, kept top-secret until transmission, to make Carla’s meltdown all the more real and put the audience inside Mrs Connor’s mind.
You might think the narrative trickery of resurrecting dead characters as ghosts or figments of the imagination is rare in soaps, which usually strive to be as realistic as possible, but it’s actually more common than you think. There are at least 6 other times the deceased memorably rose again…
Pat Evans (EastEnders)
As one Walford legend met their maker, another returned to wave them off into that good night – Peggy Mitchell’s death in 2016 had added poignancy as the matriarch imagined one final conversation with BFF Pat who appeared as the Queen of the Vic prepared to end her suffering from terminal cancer. Barbara Windsor was unhappy with the decision to kill Pat off a few years earlier, and was thrilled Pam St Clement reprised the role for her final scenes.
Vera Duckworth (Coronation Street)
Ending the era of the beloved Duckworths, Corrie’s audacious idea to have Vera’s ghost escort husband Jack to the afterlife to the strains of Matt Monro’s Softly As I Leave You paid off to make William Tarmey’s 2010 exit a tearjerking classic. Vera’s own demise in 2008 had been criticised for being too low-key, so Corrie bosses went all out to make Jack’s extra special by reuniting Tarmey and Elizabeth Dawn one last time.
Val Pollard (Emmerdale)
Vivacious Val had one of the most spectacular soap deaths of all time (she was trapped in a collapsed fairground hall of mirrors and impaled by a falling shard of glass in 2015) and became probably the most resurrected Emmerdale character of all time. She returned as a ghost to comfort grieving husband Eric in the days following her passing, then in Robert Sugden’s Dickensian fever dream on Christmas Day 2017 in which he imagined his own funeral where Val was a guest.
Calvin Valentine (Hollyoaks)
Before finding international fame with American Gods, Ricky Whittle was super hot soap cop Calvin, shot dead on his wedding day by spurned lover Theresa. In 2011, a year after his exit, he offered comfort from beyond the grave to widow Carmel as the baby daughter he never lived to meet fought for her life in hospital after being dropped down a lift shaft. In the heightened world of Hollyoaks, anything can happen…
Jim Robinson (Neighbours)
Alan Dale left Ramsay Street behind in 1993 when patriarch Jim was killed off and became one of the most in-demand actors in Hollywood, popping up in the likes of 24, Lost, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the Dynasty reboot. Putting bad blood with producers over his exit to bed, him and co-star Stefan Dennis, aka Paul Robinson, apparently concocted the idea for Jim’s one-off return over a drink or two and on Christmas Day 2018 the character was back as a ghostly vision in a festive decoration hanging on the rear-view mirror of his car, ready to dispense advice to his troubled offspring.
Ailsa Stewart (Home and Away) No-nonsense Alf Stewart is not the spiritual sort, so when dead wife a mischievous version of Ailsa started to intermittently appear and goad him into bad behaviour in 2003 he may well have dusted down his popular catchphrase “Stone the flamin’ crows!”. It turned out the apparition of Ailsa was a symptom of the Summer Bay stalwart’s brain tumour, and the visions ceased once it was removed.