When a ruthless soap producer decides it's time to sharpen their axe, it usually means the end for characters that are past their sell-by-dates and haven't had a decent storyline for years.
Not always, though! As we've seen recently with some fans outraged over Ben Mitchell's upcoming EastEnders departure, a great character can often find themselves caught in the crossfire when there's a cast cull afoot. Here, we take a look back at 10 times soaps messed up and annoyed their fans by axing the wrong person.
1. Ronnie and Roxy Mitchell (EastEnders)
A predictable choice, but let's face it, we couldn't not include the Mitchell sisters after all the fuss over their controversial departures. Ronnie and Roxy featured in some of EastEnders' biggest storylines over their 10 years in the show, so it was a real surprise when executive producer Sean O'Connor put them right at the top of his axing list after taking office last year.
The ever-popular duo's gruesome swimming pool ending certainly made for a dramatic New Year's Day episode, but ever since then, die-hard fans haven't quite been able to let Ronnie and Roxy go. Some even spend their days dreaming up possible comeback scenarios. Although "the last year was all a dream" seems the only plausible one...
2. Dennis Tanner (Coronation Street)
Corrie bosses made a right song and dance about bringing back Dennis Tanner in 2011. Philip Lowrie's character was a Weatherfield original, appearing in the very first episode in 1960 and bowing out in 1968. His reappearance decades later meant that he even won a Guinness World Record for the longest ever gap between appearances on a TV show.
Dennis's presence on the Street gave Rita more to do as they rekindled their old connection and got married in a genuinely moving ceremony. Fans also loved having more than one original character on the Street – move over, Ken.
Sadly, once the hype wore off, the writers decided they didn't know what to do with Dennis and shipped him off again in 2014, publicly blaming a lack of storyline ideas. The unfortunate knock-on effect of this was less story material for Rita too, until her recent health scare brought her back to the spotlight. At least Philip still has his World Record to show for it, though, which is more than most axed cast members can say.
3. Lee Carter (EastEnders)
Okay, so most EastEnders fans weren't shedding too many tears last year when it was first announced that Lee Carter would be leaving the Square as part of the 2016 cast cull. Even so, opinions quickly changed once his exit storyline got under way.
As EastEnders dug deeper with Lee's depression plot, Danny-Boy Hatchard delivered his best ever performances as we saw the former soldier's problems mount up, leaving the character contemplating suicide in tragic scenes.
In truth, this was probably one of the first times Danny-Boy was given an opportunity to really show what he could do in EastEnders, which made the decision to write him out seem hasty. Some fans even wondered whether he could get a reprieve, but it wasn't to be. With plenty of dramas for the Carters still ongoing, perhaps Lee could still pay a visit one day?
4. Viv Hope (Emmerdale)
Soaps usually respect the long-serving legends in their cast, but Emmerdale broke all the rules with their pretty harsh treatment of Deena Payne and her popular character Viv Hope in 2011. No-nonsense Viv had been a staple of village life for 18 years, but when the show decided it was time for a dramatic fire to tear through the village, Viv became a casualty of the latest high-stakes soap stunt.
When nasty Nick Henshall started a fire that spread to the post office and the flat upstairs, oblivious Viv was sleeping soundly on the sofa and lost her life in the flames. Fans were heartbroken over Viv's surprising fate, as well as the lack of scenes she had in her fiery final episode, so nobody really blamed Deena when she later spoke out to brand her exit scenes "a damp squib".
5. Janelle and Bree Timmins (Neighbours)
When the rowdy Timmins family joined Ramsay Street in 2004, they played a key role in another golden era for the Aussie soap. The antics of Janelle and her brood meant that there was never a dull moment in Erinsborough, but while UK fans loved the new family, rumour had it that the show's Australian network wasn't so keen on the resident "bogan" clan.
When Ben Nicholas and Damien Bodie later decided to bow out as Stingray and Dylan, the decision was made to axe Janelle and her youngest daughter Bree too – replacing them with the dull Parker family. Even Neighbours legend Ian Smith, aka Harold Bishop, was outraged: "I think it was a huge mistake to get rid of them – I was in love with every single one." You said it, Ian!
6. Martha Kane (Hollyoaks)
Hollyoaks has the biggest cast turnover of all the soaps, but in fairness, it's often because the show's young stars are eager to find the next project. But amid all the comings and goings, one character fans were really sad to lose was boozy mum Martha Kane.
Martha was introduced as the troubled mother of Ash, Callum and Lacey in 2012. She had a couple of eventful years in the show, but when two of her kids had gruesome deaths and the other one abruptly left town, the Hollyoaks gods decided she didn't have much more to offer and wrote her out. Boo!
There was definite disappointment from viewers when Martha moved away in a low-key exit, especially after Carli Norris had brought great warmth and fun to the role. But with Carli later popping up in EastEnders and Holby City, she wasn't out of work in Soapland for long.
7. Cindy Williams (EastEnders)
EastEnders legend Ian Beale always works best with a busy and bustling family around him, so once Lucy had been killed off and another incarnation of Peter Beale had waved goodbye, it seemed a shame to also lose Cindy Williams from the show. Cindy was among a number of young characters who were written out in 2015, heading abroad with her boyfriend Liam Butcher.
It certainly wasn't lack of talent that led to the decision, as young actress Mimi Keene had put in a standout performance in the most recent EastEnders live episode. With Steven now dead and Jane threatening to leave next, maybe Ian could call Cindy back to avoid things getting too dull?
8. The Bishop family (Neighbours)
We loved Neighbours for going brilliantly bonkers in 2005 when they decided to put half their cast on a plane that catastrophically crashed into the sea, but we weren't so impressed at which characters were chosen to perish in the air disaster.
Harold's son David, daughter-in-law Liljana and granddaughter Serena all lost their lives in the crash – what are the odds that it wiped out a whole family while everyone else was fine?
The Bishops had breathed new life into Harold's character so it was a shame to lose them all in one fell swoop. And, once again, Ian Smith wasn't too happy about it, telling Inside Soap: "I have to be honest, I was very upset when I heard the news. I went to speak to the producers and begged them not to kill the Bishops off." Why didn't they listen to Harold?
9. Pam and Les Coker (EastEnders)
Sob! We're still not over the loss of the Cokers, in part because we were lucky enough to interview Lin Blakley and Roger Sloman – who played Pam and Les – and know how much they genuinely loved being part of EastEnders.
The Coker couple may have started out as creepy suspects in the 'Who Killed Lucy?' saga, but we saw real warmth to the characters once their grandson Paul arrived on the scene and the show delved into Les's cross-dressing.
Pam and Les were among those who were axed in 2016, before being replaced by poor man's versions Ted and Joyce Murray this year. 'Enders has tried to keep us all from moaning too much by bringing back Pam for a couple of guest appearances since – but soz guys, it's just not the same.
10. Daniel Robinson (Neighbours)
Admittedly, Daniel's first year on Neighbours wasn't the greatest, thanks to his happy clappy hippy nonsense and his ill-matched relationship with Amber Turner. Fortunately, the turning point came when the writers decided he was better off with Imogen Willis instead.
Our over-enthusiastic Daniel/Imogen shipping came back to bite us last year when the writers suddenly decided they should leave together after getting married. While it was a happy ending for the couple, it always felt like we were losing Daniel too soon and that more could have been done to give him a chance in the show – especially since he was the son of the legendary Scott and Charlene.
Tim Phillipps, who played Daniel, said at the time: "The decision wasn't mine - the producers wanted Daniel and Imogen to leave together. With Imogen going, the only real option was for Daniel to go too. I think the writers also wanted to create a parallel with Daniel leaving Ramsay Street after getting married, just like his parents Scott and Charlene did." Let's hope Daniel is a bit more free to come back, unlike Scott and Charlene...
Digital Spy Soap Scoop video – hit play below for all the latest EastEnders gossip, as Jane plans a shock exit and the lives of Stacey and her baby hang in the balance.
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