The Archers 60th anniversary special

Published January 2, 2011

The BBC have gradually been building up to this evening’s episode, with behind the scenes stories and footage littering the news and blogs and a great campaign to get listeners to tweet-along with the episode.

Although I knew it was supposed to be something special, I was just going to treat it like any other episode and listen to the podcast when I had the chance. How much damage are they really going to do? If a normal storyline is how many different kinds of species Pip can find in the grass, a massive storyline is probably not going to be a plane crashing into the village.

Eventually, though, I could no longer ignore the hype, so I caved. I fired up Radio 4 via the iPlayer, did a Twitter search to keep up with the chatter and indulged in the double length special live.

It was a tale of two stories from the very start, with Helen arriving at the Lower Loxley New Year Party looking distinctly peaky, whilst Nigel and David mentioned the possibility of heading up onto the roof to remove a festive banner.

The Helen story was resolved pretty sharpish when she was rushed to hospital, diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, and prepared for a cesarian section all within about ten minutes. I was very surprised that Helen wouldn’t have been more aware of her symptoms already - considering how ardently she was striving for a healthy baby beforehand, and how many books she must have read on the subject. Instead, it was left to handy midwife Amy to take a look at her symptoms - swollen ankles, headache and impaired vision. Come on, Helen. Wake up.

Anyway, Pat went with her to the operating theatre, and reported that a healthy baby boy had arrived - Henry Ian. At first I was suprised that Ian got a mention in the name, whilst someone on Twitter suggested that perhaps there was more to it than him just doing up the nursery. I think perhaps it is just because Ian has been a good friend to her for so long, and stuck with her through this battle with her father.

Talking of which, the arrival of a grandson meant that both parties softened, and Tony and Helen reunited. It seems that the bitter feud is over without a second thought. What are the chances that Helen will actually apologise at any point though?

So, with a relatively healthy baby delivered, everyone back in Ambridge relaxed. The party had dwindled, and because Elizabeth had explicitly told them not to, David and Nigel headed up on to the roof.

It was all quite obvious, but in true Archers style, you just don’t believe it is going to happen until it actually does. Nigel and David. A very high roof. Wind, rain, and frozen tiles.

I must admit, I was worried for David. I really didn’t want him to be the one to fall off, but it was the only option I could see that really made for “shocking Ambridge to the core.” Nigel is important, of course, but he’s no David.

Nevertheless, with all the talk of what a wonderful life he has led, how important his family is to him, and how he knew his way round the roof like the back of his hand, it was Nigel that ended up plummeting to the ground below.

The scream as he fell sent a shiver down my spine.

At this point, we don’t know how far he fell. It sounded quite high up, but equally, we didn’t hear him land and we don’t know what his condition will be when they discover him. It seems most likely that he’s a goner, but perhaps there will be a surprise that means the story will linger for decades to come.

Whatever happens it still raises plenty of questions: How is Elizabeth going to cope? What about all that schooling nonsense with the twins? Is David going to feel guilty because he pushed Nigel to go up on the roof after all? Will they now stop going on about that silly brooch?

It was not, perhaps, the most shocking thing to happen, after being obvious from the start, but it was a compelling thirty minutes of radio, if only listening out for all the red herrings. I had to sit and blog it immediately, because I knew I couldn’t wait a month. The Twitter posts were flooding in, and for a while The Archers was all anyone could talk about. It certainly had the desired effect.

Archers visualisation

The BBC have done some epic work on visualising the conversation as it happened, the full results of which can be seen on the site [link removed]. I dread to think what the message boards will be like!

Now all that’s left is to sit back and await the repercussions. I’ll probably wait for the podcast for those.

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