Return to Eden was an Australian mini-series and subsequent weekly television series starring Rebecca Gilling, James Reyne (who was also a singer with pop band Australian Crawl), Wendy Hughes and James Smillie. The miniseries aired on Network Ten in 1983 whereas the weekly series aired in 1986.
Stephanie Harper (Rebecca Gilling), a dull, "plain jane" heiress, marries a handsome but unscrupulous tennis
pro, Greg Marsden (James Reyne), who promptly begins an affair with Stephanie’s best friend Jilly Stewart (Wendy Hughes). Greg and Jilly then plot to murder Stephanie and lay claim to her fortune. Greg pushes Stephanie into a crocodile
-infested river, and watches as she is apparently mauled to death. However, Stephanie survives and is found washed up on a beach. She meets Dave Wells (Bill Kerr) who nurses her back to health but she is horrifically scarred from her encounter with the crocodile. Dave gives her a fortune in precious jewels and she leaves to find someone who can restore her looks. She goes to an island and meets Dr. Dan Marshall (James Smillie), a brilliant plastic surgeon
who uses his talents to repair her face and body. After the bandages are removed, Stephanie has been transformed into a beautiful woman. Using the alias Tara Welles, which Dave has given her, Stephanie returns to Sydney
and becomes a glamorous supermodel
, whilst plotting her revenge on Greg and Jilly and take back what is rightfully hers, particularly her beloved home. Hence the title "Return to Eden".
Such was the enormous success of the original mini-series that Return To Eden
returned as an ongoing regular series in 1986
. The series premiered on 11 February
1986 and had a run of 22 one-hour episodes. The events of the series took place seven years after the end of the mini-series. The opening episode featured Jilly's release from prison and ongoing storylines dealt with her ongoing rivalry with Stephanie, and Stephanie's continued attempts to keep control of the family company, Harper Mining, which Jake Sanders was trying to take away from her. Rebecca Gilling and James Smillie returned to reprise their roles from the original mini-series, while Peta Toppano
took over the role of Jilly, playing her as a manic, petulant, scheming superbitch, much in the style of Dynasty
's Alexis. In the series first episode it was revealed that Jilly was actually Stephanie's half-sister, whilst her partner in her villainous schemes, Jake Sanders (Daniel Abineri), was ultimately revealed to be the brother of the late Greg Marsden.
The final episode screened in Australia concluded with a cliffhanger ending in anticipation of a second season. Closing scenes featured Dennis being knocked unconscious by an unseen assailant. Meanwhile, upstairs at Stephanie's mansion while a party went on down stairs, Jilly pulled a gun on Stephanie in yet another attempt to murder her. As Jake attempted to wrest the gun from Jilly it fired, fatally wounding Jake, and he careened into the hallway and down the stairs to die in view of the shocked party guests. Stephanie had snatched the gun away from Jilly and as Jake lay dying at the foot of the stairs, Jilly appeared to check on Jake, seeing the gun in Stephanie's hand she announced to the assembled guests that Stephanie had shot Jake.
The show's ratings had not been high enough to justify a renewal so this cliffhanger was never initially resolved for Australian audiences. The actors playing Stephanie, Jilly and Dennis were later brought back to film a hasty conclusion to the various unresolved story threads. Dennis' abductor, revealed as his half-brother and Stephanie's long-lost son Chris, quickly abandoned his plan to hold Dennis to ransom when he learned Stephanie had been arrested for Jake's murder. Chris had in fact been following Stephanie so had witnessed the shooting incident from the bedroom balcony, and what's more had photographs that proved what had really happened. He quickly cleared Stephanie who was released while Jilly was arrested for murder. This new ending was never seen in the original Australian run and only included in the version of the last episode that was sold internationally. Network 10 repeated the series twice in the 1990s and at least one screening contained the revised ending.
Return To Eden was screened in the UK on ITV where it was a huge hit during the summer of 1986. The 1986 transmission also ended with the original cliffhanger, as did the 1989 repeat screening on the then ITV Night-Time service. However, the newer ending was screened many years later when the series was repeated on UK satellite television, primarily the now defunct Granada Plus, which showed it twice.
The 1986 series of Return To Eden
was clearly intended as an Antipodean answer to the glamorous American "supersoaps" Dallas
, with the requisite ostentatious fashions, boardroom struggles, bedroom romps and outrageous storylines. It is fair to argue that Return To Eden
successfully delivered all the stock soap pleasures with the Australian setting giving the show a certain ironic distance.
Both the original mini-series and the follow up weekly series have been made available on DVD
Kaleidoscope Film has released the original 1983 mini-series as two "Region 0" discs. Unfortunately, even though the packaging states "Digitally Enhanced", the picture quality of the discs actually leaves a lot to be desired and certainly is reproduced from many generations of copies down from the master. Bonus extras on the discs include interviews with Rebecca Gilling and James Reyne in 2001.
The 1986 series was released as a six disc set by MRA Entertainment. Marked as “Region 4” on the packaging and discs, it is actually encoded as "Region 0" and consequently will play on any PAL DVD player. Although the picture quality is generally better than the mini-series, there is some tape distortion and interference on some of the episodes during the series. The episodes end on the newer 'zoom-in' Worldvision logo except for the final episode which uses the original 'scroll' logo. The set does not include the extra ending to tie up the loose ends – leaving the last episode with the unresolved original cliffhanger ending. This particular episode is in original form with the original Worldvision 'scroll' logo at the end, a dead give away that it is not the re-edited version. An international version of this episode containing the new ending was made available to new broadcasters who wished to buy and show the series complete, this version has Chris Harvey listed as Chris after the opening credits, plus there are two names listed as Producer, the second being Arch Nicholson. The new re-edited version of the final episode uses the newer 'zoom-in' Worldvision logo. One wonders why the newer re-edited episode was not used on the DVD boxset leaving the series complete!?
remade the miniseries into a feature film in Hindi
with the title Khoon Bhari Maang