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'EastEnders' exec teases 2010 storylines

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I recently spent time chatting to Walford boss Diederick Santer about what's to come in the early part of 2010.

If you haven't read his take on 2009, then click your pointing device right here.

Here, though - in his trademark cryptic style - is what he had to say about what's on the horizon in the New Year...

What's the feel of anniversary week?
"It's really important that the feel of the week is active and exciting and not too reflective. There'll be those moments for some of our longer-serving characters that briefly reflect on themselves and how they've changed. The characters don't know that it's the 25th anniversary of anything, so it'd be absurd to contrive too many situations in which they're reflective on the past.

"The main engine of that week is great stories that'll get people talking. That's why we're doing the live episode, which will feature a huge plot development. That's also why we're doing the soap wedding of the year - and perhaps the soap wedding of the decade - with Ricky and Bianca. The romance played against the thriller story is a great balance, which I hope the audience will be both gripped by and satisfied with.

"The wedding is the perfect opportunity for us to bring back the much-loved Jackson characters - Carol, Sonia, Robbie and Billie. I don't want to go over the top with returnees because, again, it'd be contrived if loads of old faces suddenly turned up in Walford. Bianca's family I can understand, but beyond that, I'd start scratching my head a little."

You must be so proud to be heading up such an iconic landmark...
"I think back to that 15-year-old boy watching EastEnders - who'd have thought that 25 years on, he'd have the honour of steering it to its anniversary peak. It's such a privilege and certainly a career highlight. What's going to top that?"

Do you have any other characters returning?
"I can't tell you that!"

The Jacksons
"By the middle of February, the Branning-Jacksons become the biggest family on the Square. They're huge. Billy's an interesting character. He's a troubled soul, torn between being a good son to his mother and trying to have an exciting London life. And when your mother's Carol Jackson, that's quite a feat. I'm so pleased we have Lindsey Coulson back, too - she's such a fabulous actress."

Glenda Mitchell
"Glenda's a curious character. She's got some of that Mitchell determination rubbed off on her, even though she's not a pure Mitchell - having only married into the family. She's got a steel to her. She married Archie very young and had the girls very young, too. The question for the audience - and for the rest of the Mitchells - is what does she want? On the face of it, she wants Archie's money because his will is read – and she's the original Mrs Mitchell. But is there more going on than just her being a gold digger? I'd suggest that there is."

Will Peggy's departure spell the end of the Mitchells' reign in Walford?
"As I've said before, the Mitchells are the premiere family of British soap. Barbara's a legend as Peggy but there's of course more to the Mitchells than Peggy. To be honest, we're still working out how to play Peggy's departure and what that does in terms of the power structure of the Square and of the Mitchells. Peggy's exit will by no means see the Mitchells a spent force, that's for sure."

Ronnie
"With Ronnie, her psychology is always so tied up with her dad, so will her dad's death finally bring her peace? Or will it mess her up even more? I'd like to think that with his death comes some kind of closure. But then if it's her that actually kills him she might not get that..."

Do you know who kills Archie?
"I do! And like all the best story twists, it's incredibly surprising, yet utterly inevitable."

Bradley
"I always see departures as an opportunity. They're a shame if a much-loved actor wants to move on, but they're a chance to give characters an exciting and significant exit. Bradley's departure relates to some of the stories we're playing either side of the 25th anniversary and I can certainly promise a memorable exit for him."

Max
"Yet again, Max has messed up, hasn't he? He's learned to keep it in his trousers, but financially, he's corrupt. He's taken his eye off the ball business-wise and like a lot of people in the last year or two, he's found it tough going. His inability to show weakness or to share his problems with Tanya has been his downfall. He has to rebuild his life now and his long-term objective is to get Tanya back. Jo Joyner is of course returning to the Square but whether Max gets Tanya back is another thing. I don't know if he's good enough for her."

Bradley and Stacey
"Bradley and Stacey are together – that's what I want, that's what the audience wants and that's what the characters want. Together, they're very strong and they can take on the world. She's good with him, she takes her medication and on the face of it, she's the Stacey Slater we've always known. As ever with Stacey, though, there's a lot hidden. There are a lot of vulnerabilities there but she and Bradley want to make a go of things."

Will Kim and Dexter be asked back as regular characters?
"There's nothing currently storylined for Kim and Dexter, but they really caught my eye. I know they've caught Bryan [Kirkwood's] eye, too, because we were only talking about them recently. They work brilliantly with the rest of the family. I hope that if the actors are up for it and if me or Bryan find the right moment, we'll see them again."

Lucas
"Yeah, now this one's interesting! He's got right on his side, hasn't he? Is the world a better place without Trina? Probably, yes. Is the world a better place without Owen? Well, I don't know about that, but he's not a particularly nice person… Lucas is doing the Lord's work and who knows what that's doing to his head maybe he'll kill again.

"Lucas's story is 'poised' and we're just trying to work out the exact timing of the long-term story. There's brilliant stuff in the pipeline - it's one for a slow burn really. We have Lucas who's a murderer. Will he murder again? Who's the next person to cross him? He's one dangerous man."

What else are you excited about?
§ We have so many secrets stacked up!
§ I'm excited about the fallout of the Christian and Syed big reveal at New Years.
§ The Ian and Jane story is great, too - does Ian want another baby or will he get one somehow for Jane just to make her happy because he's in the last chance saloon?
§ Heather will get on really well being a mother. We always knew that she would. She gets quite a lot of funny looks from Denise which she could do without…
§ There's also some really nice stuff with Shirley and Phil. Is it Shirley's time at last with Phil? Will she be the person that Phil goes to in his hour of need and/or when drunk, or will he treat her with some respect and love?
§ There's something really interesting with Ryan and Janine, too. They're both people who don't know how to love. So will they fall in love? And if they do, can they cope with it? Will they understand the alien feelings coursing through their bodies?
§ And we've seen that Sugar had a little bond with Owen. It's not Robbie and Wellard, but there was a connection. Sugar's drawn to Trina's tree where Owen's buried, but will his scent ever dry out? Will someone go Lassie-style and say, 'I think she's trying to tell us something'. Who's going to say that?! And if they do, will Lucas kill them?

Let me know your thoughts on the above using the usual form below!

Don't forget to check back next week for the second part of my exclusive interview with Diederick, in which he chats about his decision to step down as exec and how the handover with Bryan Kirkwood will work! Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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