Dame Barbara Windsor is making one last return to EastEnders as her character Peggy Mitchell is to be killed-off.
The actress made the decision to leave the iconic role for good last summer and has had a hand in plotting Peggy’s final storyline.
“Barbara is the real guvnor of EastEnders. So when she told me her decision back in the summer, we both had a little cry before getting excited about how Peggy Mitchell, the matriarch to end all matriarchs could bid her final farewell to Albert Square.” – Dominic Treadwell-Collins, Executive Producer
Barbara made a surprise return to the show in Friday’s (15 January) episode which saw Peggy reveal to son Phil (Steve McFadden) that her cancer has returned and is terminal. The scenes were secretly filmed in November and it is the start of what will be Barbara’s final episodes in the BBC One serial.
The Mitchell matriarch and long-time Queen Vic landlady has been at the centre of some of EastEnders‘ most memorable storylines since Barbara’s first appearance in the role in 1994. She feuded with Pat Evans (Pam St. Clement) for the affections of Frank Butcher (Mike Reid) prior to a friendship being established between the pair, held a long term grudge against Grant’s one-time wife Sharon (Letitia Dean) for her affair with Phil, and married her manipulative former brother-in-law Archie (Larry Lamb) which led to her losing the Queen Vic.
Peggy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996 with the disease recurring in 1999, leading to her having a mastectomy. The emotional scenes saw Barbara pick up an award for Best Actress at the British Soap Awards. Peggy later feared her cancer had returned in 2010 but it was a false alarm.
“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.” – Dame Barbara Windsor
While Barbara has made a number of brief returns to the saga since quitting full-time in 2010, she has previously ruled out a permanent comeback. Single episodes in 2013 and 2014 saw Peggy visit her son Phil in hospital after his involvement in a car crash, pay her last respects to friend-and-foe Pat Evans, and in the lap of luxury in Portugal ordering her niece Ronnie (Samantha Womack) to prevent Phil and Sharon’s wedding from going ahead. She was seen again during EastEnders’ 30th anniversary live week in 2015, returning to Walford to tick Dot (June Brown) off over Phil’s stint behind bars for attempted murder with Dot’s son Nick (John Altman) the real culprit.
“In Peggy Mitchell, Barbara has created one of the greatest ever characters on British television, someone who has become as synonymous with EastEnders as The Queen Vic itself. So this is the end of an EastEnders era. But it is also an opportunity to send Peggy Mitchell out in style in what will be one of the most heartbreaking, uplifting and epic exits an EastEnders character has ever had.
“We can’t wait to have Barbara back at EastEnders, even if it is for the final time. The most professional of professionals on set and off, and a true friend, we have all been working harder than ever to make Barbara and Peggy Mitchell proud.” – Dominic Treadwell-Collins, Executive Producer
Peggy’s final scenes will transmit late spring 2016.
EastEnders airs Monday and Friday at 8.00pm and Tuesday and Thursday at 7.30pm on BBC One, with repeat screenings on BBC Three at 10.00pm. Viewers can also catch up online via BBC iPlayer.