With the warm weather on its way out and dark days on the way in, we might well be grabbing a brew and a blanket and spending more time in front of the box. And as we head into cold and dreary Autumn, EastEnders bosses have revealed the big storylines which they hope will give fans something to look forward to.
The BBC1 soap has been flagging in the ratings war lately, with viewing figures well below those seen by its prime time ITV rivals Coronation Street and Emmerdale. Could these upcoming plots give it a much-needed boost?
1. Stacey’s back... and she has a new pal!
Fan favourite Stacey has spent much of 2021 behind bars, thanks to best pal-turned-nemesis Ruby lying to the police that the feisty mum pushed her down the stairs of the club. In real life, actress Lacey Turner was temporarily written out of the soap due to being on maternity leave with her second child.
But in the coming weeks, Stacey will be back in Walford, a free woman…and she’ll be bringing with her a huge secret. What has she been up to on the inside? And can she manage to get her life back on track?
Fans may remember that when Stace was sent down for the ‘assault’, in Spring, she was given a 12-month sentence, which means she has been released earlier than expected.
Is this a sign that Ruby sees the error of her ways and admits the truth? And, if so, could Ruby end up being charged with perverting the course of justice and experiencing prison life for herself?
Stacey’s going to want to make up for lost time when she returns to the square, and if wild nights out are on the cards, then she has a new pal, Eve Unwin, to enjoy them with. Played by Heather Peace - probably best known for her roles as firefighter Sally ‘Gracie’ Fields in ITV drama London’s Burning and teacher Nikki Boston in BBC1’s Waterloo Road - Eve was in prison at the same time as Stacey. Described as ‘tough as nails', she pitches up on the Slaters’ doorstep not long after Stacey has returned home, and causes no end of chaos.
Says Kate Oates, BBC’s head of continuing drama, “There’s a reason Eve’s sentence kept getting extended when she’d initially been imprisoned for a short stint - she simply can’t keep out of trouble.
“Jean is determined that Eve will not lead her daughter into bad ways, but just how extreme is she prepared to go to keep Stacey on the straight and narrow?”
2. It’s game over for Gray!
As the first anniversary of Chantelle Atkins’ death arrives, the locals are still none the wiser that the pretty mum met her maker at the hands of abusive husband Gray - who went on to murder Tina Carter and Kush Kazemi.
Gray has so far managed to cover his tracks, but it seems the sinister Mr. Atkins is set to get his comeuppance.
Says Kates Oates: “Gray is a classic narcissist. We have a character who tells himself that Chantelle died in a terrible accident, that Tina had to die so he could be there for his kids, and Kush had to go because he and Whitney are ‘meant to be’. He’s the centre of his own universe, and nothing is his fault.
“But life is going to throw Gray a curveball; something out of his control that will bring the story back to its grass roots as he tries to start again in a new relationship.
“He hasn’t been as clever as he thinks. Smoking guns are all over the Square, just waiting to be found. Gray’s downfall awaits…”
3. Dotty’s mum arrives in Walford
We know plenty about Dotty Cotton’s father - nasty Nick - but we know a lot less about her mother; troubled alcoholic Sandy Gibson. That’s all set to change, though, as Sandy stuns her daughter by dropping by, unannounced.
Last seen on the square in 2010, Sandy was formerly played by Caroline Pegg. But EastEnders bosses have recast the role, and Martha Cope will now fill her shoes. The actress has appeared in the likes of Doctors and Family Affairs, and eagle-eyed soap fans might also recognise her from Coronation Street - she had a guest role in late 2015 and early 2016 as Joanne; a woman Kevin Webster met on a singles night.
Says EastEnders executive producer Jon Sen: “To say Sandy has a chequered past is an understatement, and it’s no secret that Dotty’s upbringing was marred by her parents.
“Sandy’s arrival catches Dotty off guard, and she’ll be forced to confront everything she’s tried to leave behind.”
4. Serious drama for comedy Kim
‘Fox catcher’ Kim is normally at the heart of Walford’s more lighthearted storylines, but there’ll be a change of direction for Denise’s flamboyant sis, with actress Tameka Empson given a more serious storyline to sink her teeth into.
Says show boss Jon Sen, “Tameka has lit up the screen for the last few months; she's a comedic joy. But Kim finds a ghost from the past which comes back to haunt her, and we're going to see Tameka embark on a much more dramatic storyline.
“It will be great to see her showing different strings to her bow, because she's such a brilliant actress.”
5. Will Rainie rumble Linda?
As Linda prepares to give birth to her fifth child, she’s still keeping up the pretence that the daddy is hubby Mick, when the truth is that it’s her former lover, Max Branning. And no wonder - Max recently kidnapped granddaughter Abi, and ‘L’ is terrified that if he finds out about his new nipper, he’ll try and swipe him or her, too.
But Rainie starts to become suspicious that Linda’s lying, and takes matters into her own hands. She knows that if her hunch about Max is correct, then it would give him a reason to come out of hiding and return to the square, which would then hopefully lead to her getting Abi back.
Can the Carters put her off the scent?
6. Kheerat falls for the ‘wrong’ woman
Following a fling earlier in the year with older woman Sharon, a new romance is brewing for Kheerat Panesar. But as was the case with Shazbang, the relationship isn’t likely to get the approval of the businessman’s fearsome mother Suki - although will anyone ever be good enough for her kids?
Says Jon Sen: “Suki is making more enemies, as ever, and, and that becomes a big problem when it turns out that Kheerat is going to be potentially romantically involved with one of those enemies.”
EastEnders airs Mondays at 8.05pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7.35pm and Fridays at 8.30pm on BBC One - see our TV Guide for full listings. You can also watch all of this week’s episodes on BBC iPlayer now.
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