> Pete McTighe
After first chatting to us a year ago, Neighbours writer and Supervising Script Editor Pete McTighe returns to share some thoughts on the 2009 season, and a few hints on the dramas set to hit Erinsborough in the coming months...
Which were your favourite stories from the past year?
I loved the Susan Kennedy surrogacy and how that tied into Dan and Libby's marriage falling apart. Writing the episode where Dan and Libby separated was a gift - then we got incredible actors doing amazing work. And then the Dan/Steph shag which of course set in motion an epic 2010 story, and will have repurcussions for years to come! Also really enjoyed (if that's the right word?!) Bridget's death and that whole block. Each and every department worked even harder than they normally do to pull out all the stops and make that week a truly memorable piece of serial drama, and we were all very proud of how it turned out. We had a cast & crew screening of that block in a cinema and it truly was worthy of being on the big screen. They had to shut the place down afterwards for the floods of tears.
Were there any stories that you didn't like, or would have handled differently with hindsight?
Speaking personally, Lucas' crash and subsequent recovery moved way too fast for my liking. I also feel we spent too much time focussing on purely-teen stories (like the Deb) and am very happy that we have found more of a balance this year. Neighbours has always been an inter-generational show and it's at its best when there is that balance between the younger characters and the adults.
The main arrivals in 2009 were the Ramsay kids - are you pleased with how they've slotted into the cast?
The Ramsays were a great addition. Unfortunately we had to farewell Harry, which was a great shame, but all three of those actors brought a real warmth and some fresh energy to the show. There's plenty more in store for the Ramsays in 2010.
You've mentioned Susan's surrogacy as one of your favourite plots of 2009 - did Brett Tucker's departure affect the ending, or was it always planned that she would lose the baby? Did you ever consider a different exit for Dan?
It was always intended that Susan would lose the baby, but we had originally envisioned a different ending for the story - she would've lost it over the 2009 cliffhanger. But once Brett decided he wanted to pursue work in the States, we needed to rework the entire Kennedy story. Brett's departure actually gave us more to play with, and dovetailing the baby drama into the breakdown of Libby and Dan's marriage worked very well. Those Kennedy actors are just gold - no matter what we throw at them, they embrace it and run with it. Dan and Libby splitting was really the only way out for us - we didn't want to kill another of poor Libby's husbands - that really would've sent her over the edge!
Steph and Dan's one night stand and her pregnancy has proved to be a controversial plot. Are you worried about the position this has left Steph in, and will she continue to be a sympathetic character, despite carrying the baby of her best friend's ex?
Absolutely not worried at all. We needed big stories for 2010, and this is one of them. Obviously Steph will continue to be a sympathetic character - and she will pay dearly for what she's done. Ooooh she will pay. There are many twists and turns to come, so enjoy the ride.
Bridget's death was another highlight of 2009 - was it a difficult decision to put Declan into a new relationship with Kate only six months later?
Not at all. Having Declan single and moping forever would have bored everyone to tears. Although he's begun a very tentative relationship with Kate, in no way is he forgetting about Bridget - her presence will be felt as long as Declan and India remain part of the show. And it's his soulmate connection to Bridget that complicates this new relationship - that may even destroy it...
The return of Andrew Robinson is already proving popular - will Andrew's behaviour continue to be so manipulative, or is he going to calm down a bit as he settles further into Ramsay Street?
Andrew is very much Paul's son, yet he's constantly having to try and prove himself. It's this need to be accepted by his father, and a desire to be seen as successful by his peers, that drives Andrew and will continue to do so. Those fans who have warmed to Andrew will have plenty to look forward to over the coming months. And for those who have been wondering - his slight Scottish accent is real!
With Harold gone and Lou only appearing for half the year, the over 60s age group is almost completely unrepresented in the regular cast, for the first time in Neighbours history. Are there any plans to address this in 2010?
Yes there are.
The departure of Will Moore (Harry) was recently announced – are you disappointed to be losing one of the Ramsays so soon, and will there be any new arrivals to bump up the numbers at 24 Ramsay Street?
Absolutely, it was very unfortunate that we had to lose Harry. Will brought so much vulnerability and heart to that role and he'll be sorely missed. But the Ramsays will cope without him - it's a new and interesting dynamic. And yes, there will be an addition to Number 24 later this year.
New cast additions Michael and Natasha Williams were also announced in the last few weeks – what can we expect from these new faces? Will they be the only additions to the regular cast in the coming months?
We feel it's important not to bombard viewers with too many new faces at once, so Michael and Natasha will have some time to settle in before we bring in any other new characters.
2010 marks Neighbours' 25th anniversary - we've already seen new opening titles and ad bumpers to mark the occasion - will there be any episodes to celebrate, as with the 20th anniversary week in 2005?
Absolutely - our 25th Anniversary culminates later this year with Block 1200, the Friday of that week will be Episode 6000 which is absolutely cause for celebration. That week will revolve around one central story which we will have been building to for some time, and kick off months of fallout for many of our most popular characters. And no, it's not Steph's secret.
Will any old faces be coming back as part of the celebrations?
You'll be seeing a few old faces on screen this year, yes. But they've been chosen because they work for story, we're not wheeling past characters in for the sake of it. Our characters don't know it's an anniversary! As it happens we're doing a day of filming later this week with one particular blast from the past, who ties into the Ep 6000 story and will be seen across four episodes.
Finally, can you give us any other hints about what's to come in 2010?
The Neighbours staples: drama, heart, humour, the awful and shocking reveal of Steph's secret and subsequent fallout, a major Paul Robinson story, a big well-deserved wedding (or two), the wonderful Jane Badler guesting as Paul's nemesis, romance - for both the older and younger generations - and a shocking turn of events that sees death come knocking once more on Ramsay Street.
One final word - spoilers! Try and avoid them for the anniversary year. If you don't know what's coming, you'll be rewarded with some great shocks over the coming months.
Interview by Steve. Added on 6th May 2010