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Features > What If... Helen Daniels Special by Moe

It's hard to believe, but today marks the tenth anniversary of the death of popular Neighbours matriarch Helen Daniels. To mark the occasion, we've produced a special edition of our interactive feature, What If...?, looking at three possible ways in which life in Erinsborough might have been different if she were still around.

Prior to Helen’s death, the romance between her widowed grandson-in-law and latter day Jim, Philip Martin and her physiotherapist Ruth Wilkinson was already in its early stages and had Helen still been around, she would have pushed the pair to get on with it. Helen would have welcomed Ruth and her twin teens Lance and Anne into No.26 with open arms – the more the merrier long being Helen’s mantra. And as Hannah had difficulty adjusting to a new stepmother and replacement for her mum Julie, Helen would have quickly shaken her great-granddaughter out of it and persuaded her to give things a chance. Anne’s love of art would also have been nurtured by Helen and before we knew it, there would have been trips to the Bungle Bungles and a new business venture in Erinsborough – Daniels and Wilkinson’s Portraits, operating out of Marlene’s old bric a brac shop. Best of all, there is no way Helen would have let Philip pack up and flee to Darwin after his credibility as an accountant was destroyed locally. Helen would have sat Philip down, firmly explain to him that he should never give up on his dreams and encourage him to pursue his long-term goal of adapting his Phillipa Martinez novels into a series of musicals, plucking aspiring local girl Nina Tucker out of suburban obscurity along the way and casting her in the role of the heroine. But what would have happened on the wedding day when Philip realised he had forgotten the wedding ring? Hannah wouldn’t have been able to come to the rescue with her deceased gran’s wedding ring – but Helen would have whipped hers off quick as a flash to avert a crisis. After all, she had a few knocking around.

. . .

Helen’s friendship with feisty Madge Ramsay had been a constant presence on the show since the early days, and by extension, Helen was good friends with Madge’s husband Harold Bishop, who shared a lot of Helen’s traits and would go on to become the patriarch of the series in Neighbours’ second decade and beyond. A few years after Helen’s death, Madge – having effectively replaced Helen as the series matriarch – also passed away and Harold was left a widower with their two teenage foster sons, Paul McClain and Tad Reeves to care for. If Helen were around, there is little doubt that, aside from the grief at losing her best friend, she would have been rushing around to the Ramsay house on a daily basis with casseroles and shoulders to cry on for the three men Madge left behind. And as time passed, perhaps Helen and Harold would have found themselves becoming more than just good friends. After all, Helen hadn’t had any romance since third husband Reuben White died in 1995 and in keeping with her tradition of having a steady flow of ‘special friends’ through the years (Douglas Blake, Gerard Singer, Frank Darcy, Derek Wilcox and Len Mangel, to name but a few), surely it would have only been a matter of time before Helen and Harold got together and the costume department were once again granted the chance of decking Helen out in an elegant array of colours for what would have been her third on-screen wedding. If nothing else, the union would have made for an interesting new twist on the ever-expanding Ramsay/ Robinson family tree – with Harold becoming Scott Robinson’s Step Grandfather as well as Stepfather-in-law and Helen being Stepmother to Charlene on top of being grandma-in-law. The big question, of course, would have been where would they live? The storyliners could have gotten at least an episode out of Helen wrangling with taking Madge’s place in her matrimonial bed and a further week’s worth of soul searching on Harold’s part over letting another woman, however familiar to Madge, take over the running of the household. But with the Martin-Wilkinsons filling up No.26, it would have been the practical thing for Helen to leave Philip to it with his new wife (as she had done when Jim first married Beverly) and move into No.24 with Harold and the boys.

. . .

When Paul finally resurfaced in Erinsborough at the close of 2004, he had become a changed man. Although previously a ruthless and hard nosed businessman, when it came to his family, and particularly his beloved gran, Helen, Paul was considerably softer and as long as he had Helen, Jim and his Robinson siblings around him to act as moral compasses, Paul remained a reasonably decent individual. Without any of his family in the neighbourhood upon his return, Paul was on a mission to self destruction. Harold even put it to him at one point that if Helen were around, she would be disgusted by his behaviour. So, had Helen still been around, what would have Paul’s return been like? The list of what would not have happened would be endless – although Helen wouldn’t have been on hand to prevent Paul from striking the blow that killed Gus in the fire at Lou’s Place, Paul would most certainly have confessed all to her the minute he saw her, and before you could say casserole, Helen would have assured Paul he had been acting in self defence, that Gus was a mad man, brought him to the police station to confess and been cleared off any wrong doing by teatime. The minute Paul started to find himself drawn to Liljana Bishop, Helen would have held Paul back, warning him of the hurt he would cause young Serena if he played a part in splitting her parents’ marriage up and reminding Paul of the importance of the generations-old connection between the two families. Instead, Helen would have been tracking Christina down in Sydney, flying her and young Andrew down to Erinsborough and help them to work things out. And then there’s Robert Robinson. The second he set foot in Ramsay Street claiming to be Cameron, Helen would have smelt a rat and through her great-grandmotherly intuition would have deducted, in a manner befitting Jessica Fletcher, that Robert was conning all around him. Before he could even think about trying to murder Paul or Elle, Helen would have sat him down, given him a good talking to about how he should be thankful for having had such a wonderful mother in Gail growing up and how he should seize this late chance in life of getting to know his father.

How do you think things might have been different if dear old Helen were still dishing out advice to friends and relatives in 2007? Visit the interactive section of The Neighbours Messageboard to share your ideas, and we'll add some of the best to our What If...? page in a few weeks' time.