EastEnders has aired Peggy Mitchell’s (Barbara Windsor) final scenes with the character’s close friend and one-time enemy, Pat Evans, putting in an appearance from beyond the grave.
In scenes shown tonight (17 May) on BBC One, Pat – played by Pam St. Clement between 1986-2012 – appeared to Peggy in the form of a hallucination, just before she took an overdose of pills to end her battle with terminal cancer.
“I said, ‘oh, how can I, I’m dead, I couldn’t possibly come back. The approach is to say, right, I am appearing. Am I appearing as an ‘independent’ Pat? Am I a figment of Peggy’s imagination, in terms of she’s seeing what she would like to see? So she’s getting affirmation?
“In other words, she’s not getting Pat – she’s getting her idea of what she wants. That was quite a difficult one, I had to speak to Michael Owen Morris, the director, about that.” – Pam St. Clement
Peggy had earlier paid an emotional final visit to the Queen Vic and been ambushed by her sons Phil (Steve McFadden) and Grant (Ross Kemp) over her decision to end her own life.
Despite resigning herself to Phil and Grant’s promises to look after her during her illness, Peggy decided to forge ahead with her plan behind their backs and was joined by a vision of Pat in her final moments.
Pat, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2012, listened as Peggy told her:
“Will they ever forgive me, the kids? I’m being eaten alive and it hurts. I can’t wait and I don’t want that to be me. I don’t want to be that little old lady in the bed being looked after. No, no no. I will go as I have lived. Straight back, head high, like a queen.”
In one last trading of barbs, Pat told Peggy that she didn’t look bad “for a bottle blonde” leading to one last “You bitch!” / “You cow!” exchange between the two this time delivered with affection and without the slaps.
“Oh my dear friend, you won’t ever leave me will you?” Peggy asked the vision of Pat whose pledge not to prompted Peggy to begin taking her medication.
The camera panned away from Peggy’s lit bedroom window and on to an aerial shot of Albert Square as the credits rolled silently.
Dame Barbara Windsor announced in January that she was drawing a line under her iconic character, noting at the time:
“Everyone knows I love EastEnders and that will never change. Peggy is a character close to my heart but I made the decision a while ago that I need to say goodbye to Peggy once and for all as otherwise she will always be there, urging me to go back and that is something I need to shut the door on. After thinking long and hard about it, I realised that it is time for me and the audience to say our final farewells to the lady who I have loved for many years and I thought that whilst the guvnor, who I adore, is still in charge I want him to be the one to oversee it. I am grateful that Dominic has accepted my decision and together, since late last summer, we have been secretly plotting Peggy’s last scenes.”
Peggy, Mitchell matriarch and long-time Queen Vic landlady, has been at the centre of numerous high-profile storylines in the BBC One soap. These include her marriage to Frank Butcher (Mike Reid) and fury upon discovering his affair with ex-wife Pat, her grudge against Sharon (Letitia Dean) for cheating on Grant with his brother Phil and her battles with breast cancer.
Barbara originally played the role between 1994-2010 and has since made a number of one off returns to the saga, including during the 30th anniversary live week last year. Speaking to Richard Arnold on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, she revealed that she asked to be killed off to avoid ‘watering down the part’ in reference to her cameo appearances of recent years.
Previous sufferers of illness to take their own life in soap include Coronation Street‘s Hayley Cropper, Emmerdale‘s Jackson Walsh and Alice Dingle, EastEnders‘ Ethel Skinner and Brookside‘s Gladys Charlton. Visions of deceased characters returning in hallucination include Trisha Dingle in Emmerdale, Vera Duckworth in Coronation Street, Charlie Cotton in EastEnders and Jack Sugden in Emmerdale. Suicide has long been a subject tackled by television soap opera from their earliest days in UK serial, with Emergency Ward 10 and Crossroads both broadcasting controversial demises in the 1960s.