Much-loved characters lie motionless amid the rubble after a tram crashes on to Coronation Street next week, leaving viewers to wonder who will survive the devastation.
The soap’s 50th anniversary celebrations kick off on Monday night, when an explosion in The Joinery bar causes a Weatherfield tram to plummet off the viaduct on to the cobbles below.
After celebrating his stag night in the new bar, Peter Barlow (Chris Gascoyne) is left trapped and fighting for his life alongside love rival Nick Tilsley (Ben Price).
Also in peril in the debris of The Joinery are butcher Ashley Peacock (Steven Arnold), cabbie Lloyd Mullaney (Craig Charles), barman Ciaran McCarthy (Keith Duffy), barmaid Cheryl Gray (Holly Quin-Ankrah), businessman Dev Alahan (Jimmi Harkishin) and Cheryl’s ex Chris (Will Thorp).
Familiar landmarks The Kabin and Corner Shop are demolished, leaving Molly Dobbs (Vicky Binns) and her baby Jack, Dev’s wife Sunita (Shobna Gulati) and Kabin owner Rita Sullivan (Barbara Knox) overcome by flying bricks and shards of glass.
Ken Barlow (William Roache) and bride-to-be Leanne Battersby (Jane Danson) are knocked off their feet by the blast as they rush to stop Nick revealing her affair to fiance Peter.
The disaster and its aftermath will unfold over five nights next week, with a special hour-long live episode due to air on Thursday night, 10 years after the soap staged a live broadcast for its 40th birthday.
Special effects expert Danny Hargreaves was brought in to create explosions, mechanical stunts, fire, and atmospheric effects such as wind and rain for the dramatic scenes, and computer-generated imagery (CGI) experts The Mill enhanced the tram crash sequence. Both have previously worked on Doctor Who.
Producer Phil Collinson said the tram stunt cost “not far off” £1m (€1.2m).
He added: “We had to ask ITV for an awful lot of money and they said yes. I wish I’d asked for more. I will learn next time – not that there will be a next time.”
Roache, who has been in the soap since the first episode, said he shed “tears of pride” when he watched the drama unfold at a preview screening yesterday. And he said departed cast members would have been “proud and impressed” by the spectacle.
“We did the train crash way back in the ’60s, and that didn’t have half the impact. Now we have the best teams of experts in every field. Everyone from the past would have been really proud we’ve got to this point.”
Michael Le Vell, who plays Kevin Webster, said he was feeling excited about Thursday night’s live episode.
“It’s a continuation of the last seven weeks, it’s carrying on that excitement. It’s like live theatre – but hopefully in front of about 20 million people. That’s the difference.”
Collinson shrugged off worries about harsh weather, saying the possibility of snow was all part of the experience of live television.
“We wanted to put the live episode right in the middle with fire, explosions, flames, stunts, death, fire engines, everything we could throw at it. It’s amazing, huge and, fingers crossed, astonishing.
“That’s what live is about. If it snows, we’ll plough on. If something falls out the sky, we’ll plough on regardless. And if the tram falls down, we’ll plough on, and if any of those things happen the audience will enjoy it even more. That’s the business of live and that’s what we’re embracing.”