She’s thrown half of Walford out of the Vic, slapped the other half across the face and tonight she’s back in town: yes, Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor) is returning to EastEnders at 8pm on BBC1 to reinvigorate a flagging Phil. Here, we look back at her many highlights – but just watch out for that lethal right hook and the odd baseball bat:
There’s a neat symmetry to Barbara Windsor’s reappearance tonight in that, when she first arrived in 1994, Phil was also laid up in hospital. So here she is making her debut as Peggy in a performance that Windsor says was based on three people: her own mum, Shirley Reid (wife of co-star Mike Reid) and Violet Kray (the mother of East End gangsters Ronnie and Reggie).
Memorable line: “Don’t talk about it. You’re giving me the willies”
2) Breast Cancer
When Peggy had a mastectomy in 1999 after developing breast cancer, hundreds of viewers wrote to the BBC to thank them for tackling a challenging subject so sensitively: “It’s the first time, as far as we know, that anyone in a soap has had a mastectomy,” said a spokesperson for the show.
Memorable line: “I’m not going anywhere for a long time, love”
3) Peggy and Pat spat
Witness the pair comparing notes and swapping insults on everything from the allure of Frank Butcher to the impotence of Roy Evans. The sight of Peggy scurrying down the passageway after Pat makes for one of the most comical duff-duffs ever.
Memorable line: “I’ll flamin’ well kill ya!”
4) Peggy v Pauline
We’re in classic “get outta my pub” territory here as the matriarchs of the Mitchell and Fowler clans square off in the Vic. Who needs a happy hour when you’ve got these two providing a spectacle?
Memorable line: “Your husband was a thief, your son’s got HIV and the whole lot of you are a pack of liars!”
5) Slap happy with Frank and Pat
Peggy once again chooses to air her dirty laundry in public as she exposes Frank and Pat’s uncontrollable lust in front of the pub’s regulars. Two well-aimed slaps around the chops and Peggy exits, leaving her enemies reeling.
Memorable line: “Hope you all enjoyed the fireworks – goodnight!”
6) Christmas baseball bat surprise
Usually it’s Phil who’s the one to get handy with a baseball bat, but over the festive season of 2000, Peggy became a pint-sized vandal as she trashed her own beloved pub.
Memorable line: “You always were a poisonous little bitch, Janine. Get outta my pub!”
7) Peggy & Pat in an ice-cream van
A van, some vodka and two redoubtable old birds make for an excellent combination. ‘Enders doesn’t often do humour well, but a sozzled Peggy and Pat do provide some decent laughs here.
Memorable line: “Try cracking a smile once in a while, Shirley”
In a pink velour tracksuit which may well have come from Mothercare, Peggy does some stretching and breathing in the company of her hands-on instructor. But what a shame that Phil never joined his mum at the class. He’d have done a great Downward Dog.
Memorable line: “If you don’t take your hands off me, I’ll show you some moves you won’t like”
A crack-crazed Phil torches the Vic and endangers the lives of everybody within. At the episode’s end, a trembling and slightly charred Peggy is left to witness the ruination of her livelihood.
Memorable line: “Let it burn”
10) Peggy exits
And here’s that departure from 2010 as Peggy cuts Phil’s apron strings and walks away from what seems to be a pink-tinged Square to the accompaniment of the specially composed Peggy’s Theme. Who knew that just three years later she’d be back?
Memorable line: “Go back inside, love. Go on. I’ll be fine”