If you don’t want to know what Emmerdale producers seemingly have planned for the character of Jackson, then don’t read on. If you do already know then here we have a Word on the Web with other readers views on the development.
There was much praise heaped on Emmerdale for its socially aware storyline showing the character of Jackson Walsh coming to terms with a new way of living after an accident which left the character paralysed from the neck down.
As well as Jackson’s adjustment the Yorkshire dales based saga also showed how mother Hazel – played by Pauline Quirke – coped with caring for him. This positive storyline however is about to possibly take a terrible twist, and one that has been met with a raised eyebrow by soap fans old enough to remember way back…
Nearly 40 years ago in 1972, the year Emmerdale launched, ATV’s Crossroads ran a storyline which saw the character of Sandy Richardson, who had been with the soap since 1964, paralysed in a car crash. Many hours of research were carried out by the Crossroads production team at the Robert Jones And Agnes Hunt Orthopedic Hospital at Oswestry to make sure Roger’s performance as Sandy was authentic.
This storyline started off a charity which is now one of the biggest restbite organisations in the world – Crossroads Care (Caring for Carers). When Sandy’s mother – Meg, played by Noele Gordon – was due a holiday the writers had to find a way of caring for Sandy. This, it became apparent was a big issue for millions of carers across the UK and thus in the show a charity was launched – which in 1974 became a reality when ATV funded the real-life caring organisation after many thousands of letters to ITV suggesting if such a real life charity was around it would be a ‘God-send’.
Sandy remained a regular with the show until the actor – Roger Tonge – died in 1981. Roger’s portrayal gained a lot of praise, the character lead a ‘normal’ life with romances, arguments and work all part of his storylines. He even joined the Samaritans as a helper. There was nothing token about Sandy Richardson.
Sandy was paralysed from the waist down, however the Birmingham Motel based saga also introduced a character who was paralysed from the neck down – just like Jackson in Emmerdale.
Noel Crane, who was confined to a wheelchair after a swimming accident in 1970, telephoned ATV to offer his assistance. Reg Watson, producer of Crossroads, met Noel and took on board many more ideas and Noel became an advisor on the programme relating to disability-focused plots.
Reg, with Noel, devised Tony Scott a new friend of Sandy – to playout many of the real-life stories Noel had provided. The part was played by Peter Graham, the character portraying a disabled person with good and bad days, but never to be beaten.
Sandy and Tony gave disabled people a voice on television when very few shows had such characters – Sandy is soaps first long-term wheelchair character after all. However it appears Emmerdale producers are not in for the ‘long haul’ with Jackson.
Rather than provide positive images it appears that Jackson is to ask his mother and lover to help him commit suicide. The plot, if true, clearly indicating that being disabled from the neck down is such a terrible situation the only option is death. A comforting view for the many in a similar situation. There is still hope however that the introduction of a new character will change that outcome.
The soap is hiring a real-life disabled actor Andy Walker who has needed a wheelchair since he broke his neck during a diving accident while on holiday in Goa in 2006. Andy will play Steve.
Andy on his role says: “Steve is very much like myself and he encourages Jackson to see the good things. I really hope it shows the positive side of disability – that you can live exactly the same life as you had before”.
Some of your views:
“I did think he’d have to go just like EastEnders disabled quota.” – Michael
Castlewhich adds “I think it sends out the wrong message.”
“Yes I was just talking to Caring for Carers recently about the positive image Emmerdale had done, well thats gone and shot that.” – ATV’s Lynn Swift
Brendan adds: “It just goes to show there’s a lack of imagination there amongst the writers. They clearly felt they’d written Jackson into a corner and could only see one solution. It’s very clear, though, that there were others.”
“Shame ending it this way. Mark Silcock the actor who plays him was willing to sign for another contract, so it’s not his idea to leave. Stupid scriptwriters! They’ve used what ‘seemed’ a good idea at the time, and now realise they’ve backed themselves into a corner.” Says Daniel
Maria says: “It sends out the wrong message! There are alot of young people in this situation and this is going to be seen by some as the only option left. The scriptwriters obviously have no imagination or the inclination to write storylines for the character. Quite sad isnt it.”
“That’s why it always bugs me when soaps boast that they cover serious and difficult issues. Instead of the reality,they usually find a convenient,expedient way to end the story.” Says DJB.
Urbanate adds: “What an awful thing to do. Marc Silcock and his character are good in the soap.”
“It sends out the wrong impression. It’s also, on some level, irresponsible for the soap to suggest the only way to deal with being disabled through an accident (instead of being born disabled) is to commit suicide. I think had they done a Sandy and shown how people can adjust and lead perfectly normal lives it would have done a lot of good.” Says Douggie.
Pauline Quirke signed a year-long contract in December 2010 with Emmerdale which would see the mother of Jackson remain in the village well into a court hearing for the assisted sucide should the story be true.
The first physically disabled actor to appear in a UK serial was Mik Scarlett in Brookside. (No it wasn’t Eldorado despite how many times the BBC try to make out it was.)e l on perfecting the role.