It’s time for a catch-up with one last cast member, Dr. Karl himself, since the Neighbours finale is just hours away on UK television.
Alan Fletcher, a fan favourite who spoke with Digital Spy during the final weeks of Neighbours filming, talked about the show’s end, memories of John F. Kennedy, and if Neighbours would ever come back.
How has the environment been on the set while you’ve been shooting these last few episodes?
“With each passing day, anticipation has grown. Since we continued to film Neighbours till the end of the series, it’s not like we’ve been filming Neighbours in a typical manner. Every day, people have been curious about how big this could become.
“I’ve always thought it would be fantastic if Joe Mangel and Jordan Smith, who played Andrew Robinson, were engaged in the conclusion. And of course, there are the major ones with Harold returning and cameos from Kylie and Jason. Simply put, it’s going to be wonderful.”
What might we anticipate from the last episode?
“You can anticipate a colossal celebration of the programme, but one that dates back 37 years. It will be quite enduring.”
When the show’s cancellation was revealed, were you shocked?
“It was unexpected because Neighbours has always had the appearance of going on indefinitely. For many years, Channel 5 has been a great supporter of Neighbours. Although we are incredibly grateful for their assistance, there was a sense that things might be shifting.
“It makes perfect sense that Channel 5 has shifted course and is leaning more toward local production. Because of it, we were unable to afford to produce the show. That is simply the unforgiving truth.
“When the funding was cut off, many people speculated that perhaps they could locate another source of support. Unfortunately, that’s not quite how TV operates. When the dough runs out, the dough runs out.
“At Neighbours, there are around 200 employees. You cannot simply say, “We’ll keep going, hoping someone will show up.” You must play to the end. In any case, I believe it is best to do that. It would be sad if Neighbours kept on going and eventually just vanished.”
Are you pleased that the group had sufficient time to prepare a suitable conclusion?
“Absolutely. We have a fantastic writing crew. Our executive producer, Jason Herbison, who is also a writer, has been in charge of everything. They have had time to take things slowly. People have been frantically working behind the scenes to try and get in touch with historical figures and ask them to appear in cameos or zooms – whatever we can get – and piece the whole thing together.
Even though there was a lengthy preparation period, organising everything was quite hectic.
Did you always think Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue would return?
“To be perfectly honest with you, I believed the odds were relatively well balanced. We’re talking about two incredibly busy people, after all. It was also a very long time ago. Although they adore Neighbours and frequently express their gratitude for the programme, you might understand if they had stated, “I simply can’t fit this into my schedule.”
“But we simply want to thank them both for doing that. They truly went through the wringer to get there and complete the task, and we are incredibly appreciative.”
What are your favourite recollections from when you played Karl?
“It’s difficult to move past the Izzy/Karl/Susan triangle, though, because the Izzy plot was far more intricate than the Sarah one, which was also very much an affair. Earlier than physically leaving her, Karl abandoned Susan in favour of Izzy.
“In reality, Izzy was uninterested in Karl. Izzy didn’t say, “I’ll take you Karl, so you may be the father of my child,” until she learned she was pregnant with another man’s child and that man had perished in the Lassiters fire. She obviously lied about her pregnancy at the hospital. It was a fantastic tale.
“Susan’s response to Karl having a child with a different lady was amazing. In the street, she actually gave it to me. It took numerous turns and had a stunning conclusion. Naturally, Izzy returned later in the narrative to attempt to persuade Karl to have a second kid with her.
“I adore all of the comedic stories as well. I frequently remark that episode 7,000 is my favourite. Karl uncovered a scratch-off lottery ticket that had won $7,000 but hadn’t been scratched; he then misplaced it. He had to search all of Erinsborough for it and finally found it when he nudged Toadie up at his house. My favourite episode was that one.”
Had you ever had a least favourite plot?
“When Karl wasn’t working as a doctor, he found work as a pharmaceutical salesperson. He learned that the business he was working for was exporting outdated medications to developing nations.
“Karl developed some snooping skills by breaking into the warehouse and performing all of this. I noticed when reading this that it didn’t feel like a Neighbours story at all. I naturally gave it all the truth I could. At the moment, however, I remarked, “I fear this one has gone off the tracks.””
How did you feel about the programme receiving so much support after the demise was revealed?
“It was excessive. People wanting to email me and talk to me about it have suddenly flooded my inbox. I took my time responding to those emails. Neighbours has been on television for 37 years thanks to its admirers, especially those in the UK.
“Although I’m devastated for the program’s cast, crew, and the hundreds of individuals who will lose their jobs, I’m more devastated for the Neighbours fans for whom the show has truly become a part of their life. They tell me how crucial it is to them. It is quite terrible that what has occurred.
“The good news is that Neighbours continues after it finishes. Considering that Neighbours-related activities will take place in the future and that I’ll be returning to do my Dr. Karl tour in September.”
Do you believe the show will return after a break?
“Actually, I have no idea. That will probably require more thought than mine because television is a surprise medium. You can never predict what might occur. We’ve only been focused on the fact that the show is ending right now, and there is nothing else we can do about it.
“But guess what? No one would probably be happier than me if, in a year, someone announced, “We’ve decided we’re going to do a version of Neighbours.” Now, obviously, things could change. It might be presented in another format. It might be a comic book. The future?”
What are your plans for the future, after Neighbours?
“Extremely so. I’ve been creating and recording country and Americana music for the past year. I will thus release my EP here in Australia as soon as Neighbours is over. Then I cross over to the UK and perform a few shows in London. Then, in September, I return and perform some music in addition to the Dr. Karl tour. I have to admit that it will be pretty hectic for me, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Would you ever participate in a Home and Away season?
“I have no idea! Just a little bit too near for comfort, perhaps. We shall see. I would certainly have to be the go-to for that if they came knocking and said, “Home and Away needs a resident doctor who can heal patients across every medical profession”!”
How did it make you feel to learn that Izzy might return?
“That was a big one for me because Jackie and I consider Natalie Bassingthwaighte to be a close friend. We were very happy about that. Malcolm Kennedy’s comeback also made us very happy because it provided us with a fascinating narrative.”
Are there any characters missing from the episodes that you would like to see return?
“There are a lot of folks you’d like to see again. There must have been financial restrictions on how many individuals they could bring back from the perspective of productivity. But I also believe that they have to integrate characters’ returns into the narrative.
“I believe they are careful not to make this seem pointless by saying, “Let’s get that person back for the sake of it.” The best way to tell the story, in my opinion, is to focus on the characters who have returned since they are crucial to how the story will be delivered.”
If Susan and Karl had left the Street at the conclusion, how would you have felt?
“That’s a really intriguing topic, because I guess we’d have to leave in order to realise my idea that Karl and Susan go on vacation in the final episode and appear in every UK soap the following year as tourists,” Susan said.