Former Home and Away Script Executive Dan Bennett has disclosed that during his final time in the chair in 2015, he had plans to bring back and kill off fan favorite Donald Fisher (Norman Coburn).
Dan verified our thoughts that a Donald Fisher narrative had been conceived but was eventually scrapped by the network in our private interview with him in 2017, conducted as the last of his tales aired.
Now, in a Twitter Q&A, he’s revealed more about the canceled narrative, as well as the fact that he had quite different plans for Brody Morgan (Jackson Heywood) and Skye Peters (Marlo Kelly).
After an electric shock in the diner, Marilyn Chambers (Emily Symons), who had been married to Donald from 1996 until their separation in 2000, suffered from retrograde amnesia.
Marilyn felt she was still married to Donald after over 20 years of her life had been erased, and she had gone to her former marital home to find him. Alf (Ray Meagher) had gone away to visit Donald during the time of the tale.
Despite the fact that he couldn’t reveal the facts at the time, Dan told Back to the Bay that Alf’s visit was no coincidence: “We had a massive Fisher story planned.” I’m hoping it comes to fruition someday.”
Dan recently appeared to Twitter for a Q&A with soap fans, where he acknowledged that he had planned to send Donald back to Summer Bay to die in a euthanasia storyline, despite the fact that the tale had apparently faded from memory.
Fisher was actually meant to come back after the Marilyn amnesia story (remember when she thought she was married to Fisher?) – then we'd have played a months' long Euthanasia story (post dementia reveal) where Alf held his best friend on the beach as he helped him slip away…— Dan Bennett (@DanMBennett) March 12, 2022
“Fisher was actually meant to come back after the Marilyn amnesia story (remember when she thought she was married to Fisher?)” he revealed.
“Then we’d have played a months’ long Euthanasia story (post dementia reveal) where Alf held his best friend on the beach as he helped him slip away….”
A dementia diagnosis would have been heartbreaking for one of the show’s most intelligent characters, who could always cite the masters of English literature at the drop of a hat. So it’s understandable that the former headmaster could consider euthanasia as a less brutal, albeit more contentious, option.
Donald originally appeared in the first episode of the show in 1988, and he stayed on for another 15 years. Donald served as the (mainly) firm-but-fair principle at Summer Bay High for the majority of his tenure, and was known to most of the students as ‘Flathead.’
Donald’s personal life was plagued by tragedy on a regular basis. Three of Donald’s four children died during his stay on the show: Alan (Simon Kay), from his marriage to Alf’s sister Barbara (Barbara Stephens); Bobby (Nicolle Dickson), from a 1970 romance between Donald and Morag (Cornelia Frances); and baby Byron, born to Marilyn in 1999. Oscar, the couple’s second child, had died in a miscarriage.
As she struggled to cope with the loss of Byron, who died at the age of only a few months due to an infection while battling liver cancer, Marilyn decided to leave Donald and Summer Bay behind. The couple’s marriage was eventually put to rest in 2001 after a fortuitous meeting in London.
Donald had his happily ever after two years later, in 2003, when he and new love June Reynolds went for the Whitsundays (Rowena Wallace).
He returned for a few episodes to officiate at Sally (Kate Ritchie) and Flynn’s (Joel McIlroy) weddings, to transport his grandson Seb (Mitch Firth) back to the Whitsundays after a car accident, and to celebrate Alf’s 60th birthday in 2005.
Unfortunately, Donald’s peaceful existence away from the bay was broken when he returned to the program in 2007, much to the chagrin of several long-time fans. Donald was destitute and had to beg former pupil and employee Sally for a job now that he was divorced from his third wife June.
Donald, who had once been a highly capable headmaster, had somehow lost his touch during his few years away, becoming computer illiterate (a far cry from the man who could write entire books on his computer in the 1990s) and struggled to control or get respect from his students.
Donald fell on his sword and resigned after forgetting to take a roll call on a school trip, leaving Annie (Charlotte Best) and Rory (Jack Rickard) behind. He flew to the UK under a cloud of sadness to see his ex-wife Marilyn, who he’d recently learned was suffering from breast cancer.
Donald has continuously been voted one of the Top 10 Most Popular Home and Away characters of all time in our polls over the last decade, reaching third position for Home and Away viewers in 2014/2016 following the Early Years repeats on 7TWO.
Despite this, Dan indicated that those higher up the Seven hierarchy are the ones who put a halt to the storyline continuing due to a forecasted loss of viewer interest…
“Network didn’t think anyone would care. I disagree. Perhaps that’s why the ratings are… questionable… now?”
In a separate tweet, Dan reiterated past claims that Seven is reluctant to reference past characters to avoid “ageing” the show.
“We’re looking to the future, not the past” was the reason given by the network according to Dan. “Wish I were joking, but the shortsightedness is real.”
Dan, who has been a fan of the show since its inception, previously shared his thoughts on how Home and Away could honor its history:
“For me, it’s desperately important. Of course, shows evolve – just as the medium of television in its totality has evolved, and continues to do so – but I’ve always been a big advocate for acknowledging and revisiting what has come before, while also embracing the wonderful new aspects of the show.
“It’s not always easy to achieve because, naturally, the here and now resonates more in the press, publicity etc. – but where appropriate and achievable, I certainly think acknowledging the past is deeply vital.”
Dan also went into greater detail regarding the original goals for the characters of Brody Morgan and Skye Peters in his Twitter Q&A.
Following Brody’s debut in 2016, a number of people speculated that he might be gay, however, this was quickly refuted when the character established a brief romance with Jeannie Woods (Anna Bamford).
Putting the idea to Dan in our interview in 2017, he was only able to reply with a rather telling “No comment ?”.
“One of the series regulars during my latest tenure was meant to be gay, another to be larger set in frame… both were rebuffed by the network,” Dan said on Twitter in response to a question regarding storyline alterations.
He later verified that he was referring to Brody, and went on to say that the character of Skye was originally intended to be larger than the later cast Marlo Kelly.
Unfortunately for the program, the audience, and Marlo herself, the premeditated stories no longer worked, and Dan was obliged to write out the character despite her popularity.
“‘Skye’ was meant to be a 3 year player” he explained. “I canned her after her initial 13 weeks because (that poor girl) they cast someone geometrical different to what the story required.“
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