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'Defining' edition to mark 65th anniversary of rural drama The Archers


Nigel Pargetter, played by Graham Seed (left) was the casualty in the 60th anniversary edition

Nigel Pargetter, played by Graham Seed (left) was the casualty in the 60th anniversary edition

Nigel Pargetter, played by Graham Seed (left) was the casualty in the 60th anniversary edition

The Archers editor Sean O'Connor has said the show will celebrate its 65th anniversary with an episode "completely different" from previous milestone editions.

Five years ago, a much loved character was killed off in the 60th anniversary episode.

Landowner Nigel Pargetter (played by actor Graham Seed) fell off the roof of his stately home while removing a Christmas banner.

Now fans of the long-running serial wonder how O'Connor will top that tragedy, but the former EastEnders producer has given little away.

"I'm ruling nothing in and ruling nothing out," he told the Radio Times. "But it will be completely different from any show's anniversary episode ever, and defining for The Archers."

Set in the fictional village of Ambridge, the BBC Radio 4 show began properly on January 1 1951 with the Archer family living at Brookfield Farm, where they continue to reside to this day.

One storyline expected to feature in the 65th anniversary episode is the disquieting relationship between Archers villain Rob Titchener (Timothy Watson) and his wife Helen (Louiza Patikas).

A recent instalment suggested Rob had sexually assaulted his now-pregnant spouse after getting her drunk, or even possibly drugging her - a plot line that sent shock waves through the audience.

Rob's control over Helen has become more evident as the writers delve deeper into his emotional abuse.

Currently one of the show's most talked about plot developments, it has led fans to speculate about a possible pregnancy scare for Helen.

Aficionados are also expecting an appearance from Jill Archer.

The matriarch, for many the lynchpin of life in Ambridge, has been played by actress Patricia Greene since 1957.

Originally billed as "an everyday story of country folk", The Archers is now described as "a contemporary drama in a rural setting".

The brainchild of Godfrey Baseley, who had produced Dick Barton for the BBC, it is the longest-running broadcast drama in the world.

The Archers was in its ninth year on the BBC when Coronation Street made its debut on ITV in 1960.

Topical events, such as the death of Diana, Princess of Wales have featured in the programme.

However, of particular resonance were issues dealing with the impact on farming and rural communities including: UK floods, foxhunting, the BSE crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Britain joining the Common Market and the closure of the Royal Show in 2009.

In September 1955, 20 million listeners tuned in when Grace Archer (Ysanne Churchman) tragically died in her husband's arms after she tried to rescue a horse from a barn fire.

Latest statistics reveal a weekly reach of nearly five million, which equates to one in every 11 adults in the UK listening to the programme whose f amous fans include Stephen Fry, Sir Ian McKellen and HRH The Prince Of Wales.

::The Archers is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on January 1 at 7pm.

PA Media