Soap fans were treated to high drama tonight as Emmerdale celebrated its 40th birthday with a live episode in which Carl King (Tom Lister) was battered to death with a brick.
The bad boy of the Dales suffered a blow to the head at the hands of his love rival Cameron Murray (Dominic Power) – but a death was not the only big event to happen in the hour-long episode.
The live show was a display of some of the soap world’s traditionally favourite occasions and was completed with two weddings and two births.
Avid viewers watched as Chas Dingle’s (Lucy Pargeter) wedded bliss to Dan Spencer (Liam Fox) lasted no more than the first 30 minutes, while Katie Sugden (Sammy Winward) enjoyed a marquee reception with new husband Declan Macey (Jason Merrells).
Elsewhere, Debbie Dingle (Charley Webb) gave birth to the baby boy she hopes will save her daughter Sarah’s life after she developed leukaemia.
Joining Debbie in her labour pains was Gennie Walker (Sian Reese-Williams) who gave birth to a baby girl on the floor at Chas and Dan’s wedding reception.
With the emotions of weddings and babies running high, the episode culminated in the shocking death of Carl which show bosses say will have have “major, far-reaching repercussions”.
Fans of the soap were left to speculate about the death, which was kept secret until tonight.
Viewers feared Carl may meet his demise but other characters fans thought faced playing out their final scenes live included vet Paddy Kirk (Dominic Brunt), old favourite Alan Turner (Richard Thorp) and shrewd businessman Declan Macey.
The ITV soap has followed in the footsteps of Coronation Street and EastEnders as each celebrated their 50th and 25th birthdays respectively with live episodes.
Tony Prescott, the episode’s director, has already been in charge of two live episodes for Coronation Street, and believes one thing a live episode needs is “waves of good luck”.
Speaking before the live episode, he said: “There is so much out of my control with a live episode.
“At Corrie, 50% of it was set in studio so we were in controllable conditions, whereas with Emmerdale, the majority of the action is set outside.
“What we basically have for the 40th birthday episode is a magnificent play, set on the world’s biggest stage, in the middle of the Yorkshire wilderness.
“You can just imagine the problems that could be unleashed.”
In an attempt to make the live episode’s births and weddings go as smoothly as possible, there were four newborn babies and seven wedding dresses on set, while 27 cameras captured the drama as it unfolded.