Former Home and Away Script Executive Dan Bennett has revealed that during his last stint in the chair in 2015, he had plans to bring back and kill off fan-favorite Donald Fisher (Norman Coburn).
Dan confirmed our suspicions that a Donald Fisher storyline had been conceived but was ultimately scrapped by the network in our exclusive interview with him in 2017, conducted as the last of his storylines aired.
Now, in a Twitter Q&A, he’s revealed more about the canceled storyline, as well as the fact that he had very 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 believed she was still married to Donald after nearly 20 years of her life had been erased, and she had gone to her old marital home to find him. Alf (Ray Meagher) had gone away to visit Donald at the time of the storyline.
Despite the fact that he couldn’t reveal the details at the time, Dan told Back to the Bay that Alf’s visit was no coincidence: “We had a huge Fisher story planned.” I’m hoping it comes to fruition someday.”
Dan recently took to Twitter for a Q&A with soap fans, where he confirmed that he had planned to bring Donald back to Summer Bay to die in a euthanasia storyline, despite the fact that the story has apparently faded from memory.
Do you think we will see any characters pre Braxton eta return to #HomeandAway in future? Eg Don Fisher, Sally, Colleen, Martha Jr, Pippa, etc? Seven doesn’t seem to want characters to return even for guest stints?— Ramsay Street (@RamsayStreet30) March 12, 2022
“After the Marilyn amnesia story (remember when she thought she was married to Fisher?) Fisher was supposed to return,” he revealed.
“Then we’d have played a months-long Euthanasia story (following the dementia reveal) in which Alf held his best friend on the beach as he assisted him in slipping away…”
A dementia diagnosis would have been devastating for one of the show’s most cerebral characters, who could always quote the masters of English literature at the drop of a hat. So it’s understandable why the former headmaster might consider euthanasia as a less cruel, if more controversial, option.
Donald first appeared in the pilot episode of the show in 1988, and he stayed on for another 15 years. Donald served as the (mostly) firm-but-fair principal of 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 time on the show: Alan (Simon Kay), from his marriage to Alf’s sister Barbara (Barbara Stephens); Bobby (Nicolle Dickson), from a 1970 fling 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 finally put to rest in 2001 after a chance meeting in London.
Donald got his happily ever after two years later, in 2003, when he and new love June Reynolds left 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 happy life away from the bay was shattered when he returned to the show in 2007, much to the chagrin of some long-time fans. Donald was broke and had to beg former student and employee Sally for a job now that he was divorced from his third wife June.
Donald, who had once been a highly competent headmaster, had mysteriously lost his touch during his few years away, becoming computer illiterate (a far cry from the man who could write entire novels on his computer in the 1990s) and struggling to control or gain respect from his students.
Donald fell on his sword and resigned after forgetting to take a roll call on a field 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 consistently 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 place for Home and Away viewers in 2014/2016 following the Early Years repeats on 7TWO.
Despite this, Dan stated that those higher up the Seven hierarchy are the ones who put a stop to the storyline continuing due to a predicted lack 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.”
- Sam Frost is set to make her return to TV in new Channel Seven lifestyle show after quitting Home and Away
Dan, who has been a fan of the show since its inception, previously shared his thoughts on how Home and Away should honor its history:
“It’s vitally important to me.” Of course, shows evolve – just as the medium of television as a whole has evolved and continues to do so – but I’ve always been a big proponent of honoring and revisiting the past while also embracing the show’s wonderful new aspects.
“It’s not always easy to achieve because, naturally, the here and now resonates more in press, publicity, and so on – but I certainly believe that acknowledging the past is deeply vital where appropriate and achievable.”
Dan also went into greater detail about the original intentions for the characters of Brody Morgan and Skye Peters in his Twitter Q&A.
Following Brody’s debut in 2016, a number of viewers speculated that he might be gay, but this was quickly disproved when the character began a brief relationship with Jeannie Woods (Anna Bamford).
When I mentioned the idea to Dan in our 2017 interview, he could only respond with a flat “No comment.”
“One of the series regulars during my latest stint was designed to be gay, another to be larger set in frame… both were rebuked by the network,” Dan said on Twitter in response to a question about storyline changes.
He later confirmed 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 show, the fans, and Marlo herself, the storylines that had been plotted together no longer worked, and Dan was forced to write her out despite her popularity.
He explained, “‘Skye’ was supposed to be a three-year player.” “I let her go after her first 13 weeks because they cast someone who was geometrically different from what the story required.”