Hollyoaks Favourites flashed back to 1997 this week, and as well as the novelty value of seeing the likes of Cindy Cunningham, Tony Hutchinson and Mandy Morgan in their younger days (they hadn’t changed a bit!) there was also an extra treat in the form of a surprise guest appearance from a future Emmerdale legend.
Eagle-eyed soap fans may have spotted village vicar Ashley Thomas, aka actor John Middleton, as a doctor who came to the Cunningham house after traumatised teenager Cindy gave birth to baby Holly in secret.
Middleton had actually been playing Emmerdale’s much-loved man of the cloth on a recurring guest basis for about a year when this episode of Hollyoaks originally aired in December 1997, so you could say he was on loan when he popped across the Pennines from Yorkshire to Cheshire.
Ashley went from officiating the occasional religious ceremony to becoming a cast regular from 1998, and Middleton remained with the show until April 2017 when the character died after a long battle with dementia.
The actor was already no stranger to soap even before this, having cropped up in a couple of small roles in Coronation Street – first in 1993, as the man who ran over and killed Lisa Duckworth, and a year later as a consultant on duty when Deirdre Rachid’s toy boy husband Samir Rachid died in hospital after being beaten up.
He also had a different, minor part in Emmerdale two years before he donned the dog collar, as a copper investigating a post office raid in 1994.
Hollyoaks Favourites launched in April, when the soap reduced from five to two nights a week to stay on air for as long as possible after lockdown paused production.
E4 shows three classic episodes from the archive on Wednesdays-Fridays to give Hollyoaks fans a nostalgia fix, and this week went further back in time than ever to when naive schoolgirl Cindy hid her pregnancy and went into labour alone in a video shop store cupboard on Christmas Day, while big sister Dawn Cunningham died from leukaemia in boyfriend Jambo’s arms.
Next week’s Favourites focuses on Cindy’s little brother Max Cunningham and his tragic exit from 2008.