15 Iconic 90s Soap Storylines That Had Us All Glued To Our Screens

From Deirdre Rachid's wrongful imprisonment to Brookside's body under the patio, the 90s served up their fair share of soap scandal.

While soap audiences are relatively modest nowadays, back in the 90s millions of us tuned in to catch up with the carryings-on of our favourite characters.

Whether it was Deirdre Rachid’s wrongful imprisonment in Coronation Street, Brookside’s body under the patio, Sharongate in EastEnders or a full-scale plane crash destroying Emmerdale, the decade had more than its fair share of soap scandal.

As we continue our celebration of old-school TV in HuffPost UK’s nostalgia series Rewind To The 90s, we’re looking back at 15 iconic soap storylines that had everyone talking at the time...

Free The Weatherfield One, 1998 – Coronation Street

Coronation Street created one of those rare soap moments that became a national talking point when Deirdre Rachid was wrongly imprisoned.

The beloved character was conned by lover Jon Lindsay and ended up in jail after he implicated her in a number of his scams and fitted her up as the brains of the operation.

A now-iconic ‘Free The Weatherfield One’ campaign swept the country, campaigning for Diedre’s release, which eventually came when one of Jon’s exes came forward with a similar story.

While there was a real strength of feeling among fans for Deidre to be freed, producers had always planned for the character to eventually make it out.

Sharongate, 1994 – EastEnders

In one of the most memorable EastEnders moments ever, Sharon and Phil Mitchell’s affair was exposed when Sharon’s husband and Phil’s brother Grant played a tape recording of Shaza discussing their rendezvous with best mate Michelle Fowler to a packed Queen Vic.

Awkward doesn’t even begin to cover it.

The Millennium Club explosion, 1999 – Brookside

Brookside loved a good disaster plot in the late 90s and early 00s, but perhaps the most devastating was the explosion at the Millenium Club.

Many of Brookside Close’s residents found themselves caught up in the drama when the newly-opened fitness club-come-nightspot was blown up by gangster Callum Finnegan, who had been terrorising co-owner Lindsay Corkill.

Greg Shadwick perished in the disaster, having been too busy having sex in the shower with Susannah Farnham to hear the alarm, while his son Jason also died while trying to save him.

The plane crash, 1993 – Emmerdale

The plane crash is often seen as a pivotal moment in Emmerdale history, as it helped transform the show from a cosy, rural drama serial into one of the ‘Big Three’ soaps.

Some 18 million people tuned in to watch these dramatic scenes, which saw a huge plane crash kill four people in the village of Beckindale, which was then renamed Emmerdale in the wake of the disaster.

Karl and Sarah’s affair, 1997 – Neighbours

Karl and Susan Kennedy had been one of the most dependable couples on Neighbours following their arrival on Ramsay Street in 1994, but all that changed when Dr Karl embarked upon an affair with his secretary Sarah Beaumont.

The pair were getting up to all sorts behind Susan’s back, but when the truth did eventually out, it culminated in this iconic soap slap, which we can still feel two decades on.

Kevin and Natalie’s affair, 1997 – Coronation Street

Much like their counterparts Down Under, Corrie’s Kevin and Sally Webster’s marriage appeared to be unbreakable prior to Natalie Horrocks’ arrival on t’cobbles.

But Kevin soon fell for the charms of the new Rovers landlady, and while it had initially started as a no-strings arrangement, Natalie later convinced Kevin to leave Sally for him, resulting in one of soap’s most infamous scraps.

The first pre-watershed female same-sex kiss, 1994 – Brookside

Five years after EastEnders aired soapland’s first same-sex kiss between Barry Clark and Colin Russell, Brookside aired a landmark moment for LGBTQ+ representation.

The moment saw Beth Jordache and Margaret Clemence lock lips on the Channel 4 soap, in what marked the first time a female same-sex kiss had aired before the watershed on British TV.

Kim’s exit, 1999 – Emmerdale

To say Kim Tate’s original stint in Emmerdale was eventful would be somewhat of an understatement, so when her reign as the village’s resident villain came to an end in 1999, bosses had to come up with a fitting ending.

Having let husband Steve take the fall for both of their roles in a botched heist, she stole back the money from her former stepson Chris Tate and left him for dead – although not before telling him about her role in his father’s death some years prior.

A smirking Kim then strode out of Home Farm and took off for a new life in a waiting helicopter with son Jamie.

Curly and Raquel’s relationship, 1995-96 – Coronation Street

Soap bosses created one of Corrie’s most iconic couples ever when they had the stroke of genius to pair up two of the show’s comedic characters, Rovers barmaid Raquel Wolstenhulme and supermarket manager Curly Watts.

While their relationship certainly served up plenty of comedic moments over the years, it wasn’t without its tests, especially when Raquel broke off their engagement to be with Des Barnes.

Ultimately, it didn’t prove to be true love for the couple, with Raquel leaving Curly to accept an aromatherapy job in Kuala Lumpur in 1996 when Sarah Lancashire quit the show.

Saskia’s murder, 1999 – EastEnders

After Steve Owen’s ex-girlfriend Saskia Duncan tried to strangle him in the office of the e20 club, he accidentally killed her by hitting her over the head with an ashtray.

After Matthew Rose helped the club owner cover up her death, Steve later fit him up to take the fall and he was later convicted of manslaughter.

The plot spilled over into the new millennium after Matthew was released from prison and plotted revenge on Steve.

Hayley’s arrival, 1998 – Coronation Street

In another huge soap first, Coronation Street introduced British soap’s first-ever trans character when Hayley Cropper arrived in Weatherfield in 1998.

While actor Julie Hemondhalgh has admitted since she left the soap in 2014 that she would not accept a trans role as a cisgender woman now, Hayley’s introduction was still regarded as a huge step forward for trans visibility on screen at the time, and the beloved factory worker helped pave the way for other trans soap characters, including Hollyoaks’ Sally St. Claire and EastEnders’ Kyle Slater – both trans roles that were given to trans actors.

Tiffany dies, 1998 – EastEnders

This New Year’s Eve death scene stunned fans as Frank Butcher mowed down Tiffany Mitchell in one of his dodgy motors, just as she was finally ready to escape her abusive relationship with husband Grant.

While we grieved Tiff, Martine McCutcheon went on to much bigger things, starring in the festive classic Love Actually alongside Hugh Grant in 2003.

The body under the patio, 1993 – Brookside

Perhaps Brookside’s most memorable storyline aired in 1993, when the abusive Trevor Jordache was murdered by his tormented wife Mandy.

Mandy and her daughter Beth, who Trevor had also abused, later ended up burying his body under the patio in their back garden, where it stayed undiscovered for two years.

It was only when a leak meant the area needed to be dug up that Trevor’s body was discovered by Eddie Banks.

Mark’s HIV diagnosis, 1991 – EastEnders

In a landmark soap storyline aimed to tackle the stigma around HIV and AIDs, Mark Fowler was diagnosed with the HIV virus.

Viewers saw Mark coming to terms with the diagnosis and telling his loved ones, as well as depicting the ignorance and discrimination he faced from some Albert Square residents, including Queen Vic landlady Peggy Mitchell.

Bet’s exit, 1995 – Coronation Street

It was truly the end of a soap era when the iconic Bet Lynch left t’cobbles, seemingly for good, back in 1995.

The leopard print-loving, chain-smoking landlady of the Rovers Return handed over the keys to the pub after finding out the brewery was selling up.

Her exit came before a falling out with Rita Tanner, who had initially agreed to help Bet buy the pub outright, but when Rita pulled out, it ended their friendship – something they failed to patch up during Bet’s subsequent brief returns to The Street in 2002 and 2003.


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