Shortland Street keeps you hanging around

As Shortland Street heads towards an explosive Christmas cliffhanger this Friday, we look back at its other shocking moments.

Angela Dotchin and John Leigh in 1997's  Shortland Street  cliffhanger - the plane crash. Photo / Supplied
Angela Dotchin and John Leigh in 1997's Shortland Street cliffhanger - the plane crash. Photo / Supplied

It has become a New Zealand television tradition.

Designed to bring the audience back after the summer break, Shortland Street's Christmas cliffhanger weeks, which first started in 1994 (two years after the show's debut), are carefully planned so that several key storylines come to a climax in the last episode of the year.

The producers usually pull out a major, unexpected event - an explosion, a plane crash, a boat accident - for the big finale before going off air for five weeks. Remember these classic moments?


Jenny was shocked to discover she was pregnant. Hone Ropata had to defend himself against Ant, a dodgy (and violent) associate of his nephew, Manny. And in the grand finale Stuart Neilson interrupted Lionel and Kirsty's until-then fairytale wedding.


No Christmas cliffhangers this year, as the show screened throughout the holiday period. However, in the last week of the year a truck crashed into the hospital. Guy proposed to injured Carmen, minutes before she collapsed and died leaving him and baby Tuesday alone.

Ellen unwittingly gave the driver a fatal dose of potassium. And as she recovered from amnesia, Kirsty told a stricken Lionel she could remember everything except having been in love with him - their marriage was over.


Wheelchair-bound Rangi was trapped in the garage by his drunk ex, Rachel, who then passed out, leaving the car running. Nick discovered the truth about the rubbish company he worked for and found himself in danger.

In Fiji, Ellen told David she was pregnant. And Lionel and Kirsty decided to give their marriage another go.


The tradition of Christmas cliffhangers was now firmly in place and the last episode of 1997 set the standard for the end-of-year epic that fans have come to expect.

Nick realised mum Jenny's husband Ian was not to be trusted but no one believed him. Donna and Rangi's romance came to a sudden halt when they discovered they were half-brother and sister. Tiffany was rushed to hospital after a potentially fatal collapse. Caroline was sentenced to life imprisonment for Annabel's "murder". And the small plane that Kirsty and Lionel were travelling in crashed.


Bad guy embezzler/rapist Oscar Henry was attacked by Fergus, Lionel proposed to villainess MacKenzie Choat, and Mike was desperately trying to find Ellen, lost overboard when jumping to safety from a sinking boat.


Another mix of romance and heartache as Moira and Dean were finally reconciled and Alesha told Frank she was pregnant - to him. Wave was shocked that cousin Minnie was accepting money for sex. After a fight with lover Laura, Caroline turned to Greg for comfort.

Donna discovered Rangi wasn't her brother after all - but while trying to contact him with the good news he was pledging his devotion to policewoman girlfriend Janet, trapped in her vehicle as it went up in flames.


A literal cliffhanger as nasty Eamon begged for his life, but would Kate Larsen (whom Eamon had raped) pull him up?

Fergus proposed to Waverley, then called off the engagement when Wave wouldn't believe he was off drugs; Wave soon realised the error of her ways and proposed to him - but would he accept?

Sophia met a stranger who introduced himself as the new head of the hospital - Chris Warner.

Angela and Nick's son Lucas was born (but it was bittersweet for Nick, as he knew Angela's cancer was spreading). And Frank came under fire when he treated a murderer - and was later seen lying in the carpark in a pool of his own blood.


Disappointed suitor Jack Hewitt attacked Chris and kidnapped Rachel, later staging a creepy mock wedding.

Nick declared his love for Waverley and asked her to come to the UK with him. And Barb's Christmas party turned to tragedy when Marshall's garage drug lab exploded.


In one of the best Christmas cliff-hanger weeks, Waverley was diagnosed with breast cancer, Shannon was pregnant to Tama, a drunk Rachel was involved in a serious car accident, and Victor's nemesis, prisoner Kurt Matakuare, stabbed Adam and left him bleeding in a deserted corridor.


As 2003 drew to a close the question on everyone's lips was "Who killed Geoff Greenlaw?"

Donna discovered Chris had been unfaithful and he was arrested on trumped-up charges of sexual molestation, thanks to Dominic.

Waverley fainted for a good reason - she was pregnant. And across town at a charity function, Anne and Tama were trapped when the building collapsed.


A celebratory one-hour special screened on Christmas Day.

The centrepiece was Tama and Shannon's beach wedding, a Christmas Carol wrap party at Coltrane, the reunion of Barb and Sticky, and the start of Sarah and Andrew's ill-fated relationship.


Craig, Sarah, Judy and Maia formed a band for the hospital Christmas party and even though Sarah was dating Hamish and Craig was with Huia, their chemistry was clear as they sang the Dance Exponents, Why Does Love Do This To Me?


Baxter was in over his head when he accepted LSD from Alice.

Sarah finally decided who she wanted: Craig or TK.


After six months of murder and mayhem, the Ferndale serial killer was finally revealed as likeable nurse Joey Henderson, who was preparing to strangle Tania with an IV line.

Chris had finally tracked down his wife Toni who, with their son Harry and Chris' brother Guy and his daughter Tuesday, had disappeared several months earlier but Guy's erratic driving left Chris uncertain as to whether any of his family had survived.


Head of Surgery Ethan Pierce's connection with dodgy medical supplies company Nessus-Bio was finally revealed.

While packing to leave town, an unseen gunman shot him three times.

Popular nurse Tania Jeffries and gang member boyfriend Kingi TeWake were abducted by the ruthless leader of the Whitetails gang.


Kieran Mitchell discovered that his brother Sid was intent on burning down the IV with his fiancee Sophie sleeping upstairs.

Attempting to leave the party to stop him, Kieran was forced to borrow drunk Rachel's car and ended up hitting and killing nurse Morgan Braithwaite.

He pulled a comatose Rachel across to the driver's side of the car, effectively framing her for the death.


View has been told that five Shortland Street characters' lives will hang in the balance.

Hint: Scotty slowly loses his grip on reality and Isaac plays a dicey game with dangerous criminals.

"In the tradition of cliffhangers past, it's true to say that this is event' television," says producer Steven Zanosk.

"Viewers can expect to be in for some shocks in the Christmas episode."

*The soap will return in mid-January after a five-week break.

- Herald on Sunday

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