With its daily dose of drama, Ferndale has long held the title of catastrophe capital of New Zealand. Over 25 years, plenty of its residents have come and gone, often in increasingly calamitous ways. But, just when you think you've got Shortland Street pegged, along comes a character exit so shocking as to remain the stuff of legend.
On December 22, 1995, a truck ploughed into the Shortland Street clinic reception, causing the type of widespread chaos, injuries and characters' lives hanging in the balance that we've come to expect from the annual Christmas cliffhanger.
But that wasn't all. In the following episode, which screened on Christmas Day (and doubtless put more than a few downers on Christmas dinners) a much-loved cast member was struck down with next to no warning. Nurse Carmen Roberts (Theresa Healey) had survived the crash having apparently only received minor bruising. Discharged from the clinic, she returned home to spend Christmas with her partner Guy and baby daughter Tuesday, delighted by Guy's surprise marriage proposal. As the two prepared to celebrate with champagne, she collapsed from a brain haemorrhage which led to her death. A brutal double whammy of seasonal shock.
See Carmen's final scenes here:
In July 1998, popular Shortland Street nurse Tiffany Marinovich (née Pratt, previously Warner, played by Alison James) was out shopping when she spotted a suicidal patient heading for the roof of a high rise. Rushing to his aid, she managed to successfully talk him down, only to slip and fall from the building herself. Suffering brain death and serious injuries, her husband Johnny Marinovich (Stelios Yiakmis) was forced to make the choice between letting her go, or keeping her on life support until their baby was born.
See Tiffany's final scenes here:
Almost 20 years on, it's a scene that still has people talking - what really happened to Lionel Skeggins? In March 1999, the nice-guy hospital café manager had been married to Mackenzie Choat (Ingrid Park) for just a week before things turned sinister after he learned of her murderous past. Fleeing from her at the beach, he encountered a freak wave and may well have been washed out to sea, his body never recovered. The end of Lionel? Never say never in Ferndale.
See what was possibly Lionel's final scene here:
Over a two-year stint from 2003, dastardly Dominic Thompson did plenty to earn his place among Shortland Street's super villains. When his affair with a 16-year-old was revealed, he resorted to drugging his wife, two murders, framing others, and feigning insanity to cover it up. In December 2004, on the cusp of finally being sprung, he lured his rival Chris Warner (Michael Galvin) to a remote barn and prepared to incinerate them both. But, as these clips reveal, if you play with fire...
See Dominic's explosive final scenes here:
In 2008 gasps were heard across the nation's living rooms as Shortland Street's ultimate bad guy finally met his end (accompanied by what might be the most gruesome sound effect in NZ TV history). The finale of the Ferndale Strangler's reign of terror, the scene climaxed an eight-month long plot-line that had seen five members of the cast taken down. Earlier a trio of leaked videos, each revealing a different killer (none of them Joey) upped the suspense as to the strangler's identity.
See the end of the Ferndale Strangler here:
You can see more great Shortland Street moments here, in NZ On Screen's collection.