Speculation about the Neighbours finale is rife. How do you end a story that’s been 37 years in the telling? With a natural disaster, a wedding or a plane crash? Could there possibly be another explosion at the surely-by-now-uninsurable Lassiters Complex? Is there anybody left that Paul Robinson hasn’t yet married?
We know a fleet of guest stars and familiar faces – Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan among them – will be returning for one last visit to Erinsborough. Set leaks suggest that the final ever scene will be a sweetly nostalgic capper to almost four decades of drama. If Neighbours were true to its roots though, it might end just as it began – with a sinister, overblown 80s nightmare sequence that’s more Elm Street than Ramsay Street.
On the 18th of March 1985, Grundy Television’s new soap aired on the Seven network in Australia. And it was determined to make an impression. Viewers expecting a gentle introduction to a new family teatime series might have experienced a shock to the system when they saw…
…silhouetted gum trees swaying against a setting sun as a sinister minor chord rings out. Then it’s night. Smoke drifts greasily around, illuminated by anonymous car headlights. Ominous synth music intensifies as a topless, sweating boy spins around in fear. He’s surrounded like a Wake in Fright kangaroo. More cars arrive, revving their engines and shining their lights onto the terrified kid. The onlookers laugh cruelly at his suffering as the camera spins around their delighted faces. But wait, these aren’t strangers; they’re his family and friends – his neighbours. There’s his dad, his mum, Julie Robinson… Helen Daniels tosses back her head in glee.
The boy runs to his father, who laughs cruelly as he grasps his son around the neck and starts to squeeze. Lit like Roy Batty at the end of Blade Runner, his torso glistening with sweat, smoke billowing around him in the blackness, the boy looks up to a swim-suited figure on a diving board. It dives, trailing what look like gas flames, as the music crescendos and the boy screams “NOOOOOOooooooo” then sits bolt upright up in bed.
Welcome to Danny Ramsay’s subconscious. Welcome to Neighbours.
Soon afterwards, Danny’s cycling around Ramsay Street chatting to Des about his imminent wedding to Lorraine. The whole street’s abuzz with bridesmaid dresses and stag party prep. A stripper called Daphne is booked to perform. Paul Robinson ends up worse for wear and dressed in just a nappy and a baby’s bonnet. Lorraine jilts Des and awkwardly, her posh dad turns out to be mates with the stripper. So ends the first instalment, the single step in a journey of 5,955.
Whatever the series finale has planned, that statement nightmare opening is something to live up to.
Neighbours concludes on Thursday the 28th of July in Australia on 10 and 10 Peach, and on Friday the 29th of July in the UK at 9pm on Channel 5.