5 Things You Didn't Know About Early EastEnders

Classic EastEnders is now on Drama, and here are some things you might have forgotten about the early days of Albert Square…

Albert Square


EastEnders' original storyline was a murder mystery. Long before "Who Shot Phil?", the question on everybody's lips was "Who killed Reg Cox?" The unfortunate Mr Cox was introduced in the very first scene of the very first episode, with Den Watts, Arthur Beale and Ali Osman (remember Ali Osman?) breaking down the door of a squalid flat, to find the dying body of "cantankerous old git" Reg Cox.

The scene perfectly captured the gritty mood of this brand new soap, and ushered in the show's first major story arc, with police officers turning up to interrogate various characters who would soon become household names. The mystery of Reg's demise - due to a brutal beating - would linger for some time, and the police investigation served as a neat way of introducing viewers to the various secrets and lies swirling around Albert Square.


Ah, good old Dr Legg. Most viewers, if they know him at all, think of him as the kindly local GP who used to pop up every so often when one of the main characters needed a bit of TLC. Indeed, it was always a fond moment when the blandly reassuring Dr Legg made one of his very rare cameo appearances. So it may come as a bit of a surprise that Dr Harold Legg was actually a major player in EastEnders' early years. Indeed, he was one of the very first characters viewers met in the opening episode, when he was called in to inspect Reg Cox's ailing body.

Dr Legg was intricately entangled in the goings-on of the Square, and was even involved in some thorny, emotional sub-plots involving misdiagnosed medical complaints, and the appearance of his doctor nephew David, whose attempts to modernise the surgery brought him to blows with the stubbornly old-fashioned Legg. It was only some years later that Dr Legg's character was downgraded to a fleeting supporting player, which is how most of us remember him today.


Think "Mark Fowler" and Todd Carty's perpetually anxious face comes to mind. But the original Mark was far removed from the Carty version - and not just because he was played by a different actor, called David Scarboro. This teenage Mark, with his whipped-up Teddy Boy hair and scowling face, strutted around like Walford's answer to James Dean, and was nothing like the noble, sympathetic, soft-hearted man we would come to know over the years.

Forever squabbling with his long-suffering parents Arthur and Pauline, Mark was the classic delinquent youth, drawn to drugs, crime and the murkier side of life - even flirting with Neo-Nazi politics for a while. His turbulent time in the Square lead him to run away, and it was only after an extended absence that he would return in his Todd Carty incarnation with the poignant, emotional maturity we so associate with the character now.


EastEnders' early years were synonymous with Den and Angie. In popular culture, they're remembered as the Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor of Albert Square. Always fighting and having tantrums at each other, yet bound together by a kind of doomed mutual obsession. Except... Den was always actually in love with his long-term mistress, Jan Hammond.

This was no casual fling. Jan was always in the picture right from the start of the series, to the point where Angie was fully aware that her husband was carrying on with her much-despised rival. Indeed, the single most famous moment in early 'Enders - Den's dramatic brandishing of divorce papers to Angie - was a direct consequence of his long-running, very serious love affair with Jan. And yet the poor woman has been largely forgotten ever since.


Nick Cotton, one of the most iconic villains ever to stalk the streets of a soap opera, was known for many things. There was his oil slick hair. There was his leering smile. And there was his toxic relationship with his "ma", poor naïve Dot, who kept forgiving her demonic son no matter how many times he tried to manipulate or even murder her. This mother and son had a relationship that would have flummoxed even Sigmund Freud, and it became such an iconic aspect of the show that many have completely forgotten that Nick's dad was also a major character for a while.

Charlie Cotton wasn't quite as nasty as Nick - who could be? - but he was a bit of a wrong 'un in his own right. A bigamist, he was also a shady, secretive chancer who also took advantage of Dot's charitable, trusting nature. Perhaps because of his inherent similarities with his diabolical son, Charlie and Nick were fierce rivals during their time together in Walford, but Dot always took Nick's side. After all, in the words of Norman Bates, a boy's best friend is his mother.