Sons and Daughters was about the lives and loves of the Palmer, Hamilton, Morrell and O’Brien families and their friends.
John Palmer’s life went from bad to worse when he had to go on the run for a murder he didn’t commit, and then fell in love with a woman who turned out to be the twin sister he never knew he had. The revelation opened up a whole can of worms, and forced two families, the wealthy Hamiltons and the homely Palmers, to confront events from the past that affected them all.Sons and Daughters began as the saga of two families linked by events that had happened twenty years earlier.
At that time, young David Palmer and his pregnant girlfriend, Patricia Dunne, had found themselves at Fiona Thompson’s Sydney boarding house. After giving birth to twins, a boy and a girl, Patricia promptly ran out on David and their son, taking baby Angela with her.
Fiona was then left literally holding the baby, while David also took off to “get on his feet”. He returned to collect John some years later, now married and with another young family of his own.
While David had married kaftan-wearing, Pavlova-baking Beryl, Patricia did much better for herself, marrying businessman Gordon Hamilton, and becoming something of a high society lady.
Life could have ticked along nicely for all of them, had John not been accused of killing his boss (John’s future brother-in-law was the real culprit). He ran back to “Aunt Fiona”, and within a few episodes had met his mother and sister (none of them realising the connection), decided Patricia was a rich bitch (correct) and fallen in love with his sister, Angela (whoops!). Of course, the truth eventually came out, John’s name was cleared, and the scene was set for the action of the next year or two. Having been a spoilt little rich girl all her life, Angela moved in with the Palmers, and soon learned to appreciate her step-family, and the delights of their cream and beige décor. John, on the other hand, got a bit big headed and ended up driving fancy cars and dating petulant society girl Pru Armstrong.
Reunited after twenty years, David and Patricia realised they still had feelings for one another and embarked on a torrid affair, while Saint Beryl vowed to fight for her man. Meanwhile, their kids had their own problems. Susan’s husband went to prison for murder, after John’s name had been cleared, while brother Kevin got the girl next door pregnant and had to marry her.
Still determined to “keep it in the family”, Angela fell for and married her step-uncle. Their marriage survived miscarriage, adultery, amnesia, surrogacy, and a stint running a coffee shop before the couple bowed out of the show. During this time, Jill Taylor, an ex-prostitute friend of Fiona’s, ping-ponged between John Palmer and Angela’s wicked half-brother Wayne – for some time she seemed to be permanently engaged to one or the other of them. But, her past continued to be a stumbling block, and prevented her from ever marrying either of them.
Eventually, she married an IRA member so that he could stay in the country, thought he had died, only for him to turn up at the altar at her next wedding, had another boyfriend die at the hands of his nurse in a mercy killing, became a prostitute again, got raped, had her baby dangled from a window by a mad woman, and finally left town with the rapist father of her daughter (who also turned out to be Fiona’s long presumed dead son).
One of the biggest shocks in the show came during the twins’ twenty first birthday party, when Patricia announced to David that he was not their real father.
She had been pregnant when she had met him and, sizing him up as the mug he was, had decided to pass them off as his. This led to a host of new characters being introduced into the story, including Martin Healy, the twins’ real father. Much hand-wringing, and evil plotting by Patricia ensued, before Martin started to wish he had never got involved with his loopy family and shot himself. Not one to miss an opportunity, Patricia destroyed his suicide note, and watched David go to jail for his “murder”.
David was eventually cleared, and for the next couple of years the adult characters played a complicated game of “musical partners” with each others’ siblings. Gordon and Patricia divorced, and shortly after Gordon married old friend Barbara Armstrong, Patricia wed Barb’s brother, Stephen Morrell. David and Beryl also split, and David was due to tie the knot with Patricia’s sister, Margaret, but she died during surgery after sustaining injuries in a freak accident.
Beryl’s hopes of renewed wedded bliss were also scuppered when her beau, Jim O’Brien, was blown up in an explosion that left her temporarily blind.
As it happened, none of these new unions were to last. Patricia’s marriage to Stephen was beset by problems from the beginning (not least the fact that he wasn’t as rich as he’d led her to believe!) and he eventually left her.
Gordon and Barbara lasted a good few years longer, and their marriage survived his heart-attacks, her brain tumour, the reappearance of her “dead” first husband, his love for an escort called Liz, whom Wayne had hired to pretend to be his girlfriend, and financial ruin on more than one occasion.
However, following a car accident that left her badly scarred, Barbara decided she couldn’t face Gordon and left him.
David and Beryl did share one more night of passion. They were reunited by their concern for Kevin, who was feared dead in the Middle East. Kevin emerged, deaf but alive, and their night of “comforting” each other resulted nine months later in the birth of another son, Robert. Robert was at the centre of one of the longest running storylines of later years, when he was kidnapped by David’s illegitimate, scheming daughter, Leigh. She passed him off as her own and gave him away to a childrens home. It was over a year before Beryl got her son back.
The foundations of the show were rocked by the departure of actress Rowena Wallace, who had had enough of the demands of playing the increasingly deranged Patricia. Patricia was plagued by wealthy businessman Roger Carlyle, who held her responsible (erroneously) for his son’s death, and wanted revenge. She found a good friend and ally in David, and the couple finally married before she was smuggled out of the country for a new life in Rio. A year later another actress was recast in the part. Belinda Giblin was a good deal shorter and slimmer than Rowena Wallace, although the two did share some facial similarities. No problem for the producers – Pat had been badly beaten in Rio and had plastic surgery. This gave her the chance to return to Australia under a new name, Alison Carr, to clear her name for Luke Carlyle’s murder.
In the year of her absence, a number of actresses attempted to take over the role of the show’s bitch character. Karen Fox was a wealthy and neurotic businesswoman who married Wayne Hamilton, but was accidentally killed by Gordon’s mistress, Liz. Caroline Morrell was Stephen’s first wife, and while often a schemer, had a softer, almost comical, side to her than either Karen or Patricia. In fact, her evil plots frequently ended up backfiring on her.
In the show’s final years, it started to lose the plot quite dramatically. New characters were introduced that never seemed to fit in to the show. Who can forget the truly lamentable Ginny Doyle, Doug Fletcher, May Walters and Janice Reid, not to mention the excruciatingly awful Craig and Debbie. Popular, long standing cast members either left or were pushed, leaving only four originals – Beryl, Gordon, Wayne and Fiona.
As if they did not know what to do with these much loved characters they created ridiculous situations, such as the completely implausible marriage between Beryl and Gordon. The role of Susan Palmer was recast and she was reintroduced to the show.
Susan married Wayne, who by this point had become truly psycho and she was forced to fake her own death to get away from him.
The role of Charlie Bartlett was expanded, fleshing out the character and making her more three dimensional and sympathetic, but the opening of her gym “Bumps and Grinds” was surely the beginning of the end for what had once been a top quality family saga.
The programme began to descend into farce, becoming a sad parody of itself. By the end of its run, it was like a terminally ill patient begging to be put out of its misery. The viewers were that patient’s family, sentimental about better days, but relieved that the suffering would be over.
In a last desperate attempt to renew interest in the soap, the producers enticed Rowena Wallace back, for a stint playing Patricia’s twin sister, Pamela Hudson. However, her presence only served to remind viewers of the “good old days”, and seeing her towering over Belinda Giblin highlighted the ludicrous notion that Alison was really Patricia.
In the final episode, Alison was reunited with David, and Wayne killed Susan. The final scene ended the show how it had begun. Fiona welcomed a young couple into her boarding house and helped the young woman deliver…twins. Sons and Daughters had come full circle.