Is Emmerdale soapland’s deadliest soap? Sure, Coronation Street has had a sinkhole and EastEnders the odd pub fire, but when it comes to freak disasters, that one small village in Yorkshire has now become notorious.
For the first two decades of its on-screen life, it was a relatively peaceful place to live. But ever since a certain plane-related incident in 1993, it’s seemed as though death has been stalking the Dales.
Now, Emmerdale is set to mark its 50th anniversary with a deadly storm – by our reckoning, the third freak weather occurrence of this nature we’ve seen on the ITV soap. Only this time, it is apparently going to be different. “It’s all in daytime,” promises boss Jane Hudson, “so you can actually see what’s happening and what’s going on.”
How distinctive it is remains to be seen, but there is now a nagging feeling that the ante can’t possibly be upped any higher. Especially when you consider all the devastation that’s been depicted down the decades.
Here, in time for the anniversary, is our pick of the top Emmerdale disasters...
Emmerdale's plane crash (1993)
Prior to the Beckindale Air Disaster, life in the village had been more concerned with ploughing than pyrotechnics. But all that was to change thanks to input from former Brookside boss Phil Redmond, who’d been tasked with turning a cosy daytime show into a peak-time melodrama with cliffhangers to match rivals Corrie and EastEnders.
His biggest moment came with the crashing of an airliner into the local countryside – a stunt that gave Emmerdale its highest-ever rating of 18 million, as well as four victims, with Mark Hughes, Elizabeth Pollard, Archie Brooks and Leonard Kempinski all meeting their maker.
Longer term, it all set in motion the notion that each subsequent stunt had to outdo the one that’d come before…
Emmerdale: The New Year’s Eve storm (2003)
It was here that the curse of being married to Marlon Dingle originated thanks to estranged wife Tricia getting crushed under the weight of a collapsing pub during a tumultuous storm. The epic downpour came right at the end of 2003 – and just at the moment when Tricia had forgiven Marlon for playing away with Charity.
Lightning bolts were seen striking first an oak tree and then the Woolpack, a great chunk of wall from which came crashing down on top of Tricia. After being found by her husband in the rubble, Tricia uttered her final poignant words of “I came back, Marlon”. But if only the chef had stayed single after this loss – he could have been spared so much heartache.
Emmerdale: The Woolpack siege (2013)
Yet more torrential rain – this time, a freak weather event that coincided with serial killer Cameron Murray deciding to take all the Woolpack regulars hostage and threatening to shoot dead anyone who tried to escape.
Needless to say, attempts were made to escape, with Alicia getting shot in the stomach and Chas and Debbie fleeing to the pub cellar, into which rainwater was soon gushing. A struggle for survival ensued, but all soap villains must eventually get their comeuppance – hence Cameron not making it out alive.
The cause of his demise? Electrocution, after coming into contact with the pub’s lights while wet.
Emmerdale: The falling helicopter (2015)
What is it about Emmerdale and plummeting aircraft? Having already fallen victim to a plane falling from the skies (see above), many were dicing with death again on the occasion of Debbie and Pete’s wedding.
As fans will recall, an argument between Robert and his wife Chrissie resulted in a car being set alight, with the flames then causing nearby gas canisters to explode into the air – colliding with a helicopter, which then fell into the village hall! As if that wasn’t enough, the destruction of the helicopter then wrecked a nearby mirror maze, where Val was killed by a large shard of falling glass.
Emmerdale: The Hotten Bypass crash (2016)
Village residents take their life in their hands heading outside at the best of times, but it’s become a real risk during the month of October. It’s the time of year that ITV likes it unveil what’s now become known as Super Soap Week – and this multi-car pile-up from 2016 remains the craziest showstopper.
The catalyst for the carnage was poor James Barton, who was pushed from a road bridge by swivel-eyed wife Emma. As the drivers below, tried (and failed) not to hit him, it turned out that many Emmerdale regulars just happened to be on this one stretch of road at the same time (what are the chances?).
The resulting smash-ups were worthy of a 9.00pm drama, with Aaron and Robert’s vehicle careering into a lake, while Paddy and Rhona flipped their Vauxhall multiple times. But, in the end, James proved to be the wreckage’s sole casualty.
Emmerdale: The deadly survival challenge (2021)
It was meant to be a day of fun: a survival challenge on the water in the company of friends. But this outdoors event came at the peak of murderous Meena Jutla’s reign of terror, so a life was inevitably lost.
During a week of high-profile episodes, we witnessed a vertiginous rope bridge collapse and Meena attempting to drown a suspicious Victoria. But it was Andrea Tate who sealed her own fate after witnessing Meena trying to do away with Vic.
Her grisly end came in a maize maze, torched by Meena, who then abandoned her to die.
Emmerdale's hour-long 50th anniversary episode will air on Sunday, 16 October from 7pm on ITV and ITV Hub.
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