1 9 8 3 (Australia)
6 x 60 minute episodes
1 9 8 6 (Australia)
22 x 60 minute episodes
Return To Eden first appeared in 1983. The 6-hour Australian mini-series, with themes of murder, love and revenge was filmed over 12 weeks around Sydney, the Darling Downs in Southern Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef and Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.
The series featured rock singer James Reyne from the band Australian Crawl in his first TV acting appearance. Production costs were around $2.5 million.
The 22 part series which followed the successful mini-series boasted a budget of more than $8 million. A lavish $1 million studio was constructed in Five Dock (in Sydney) and the series was also shot on location around Sydney and in Fiji.
The show featured a glossy, American-style production and it was compared to American soaps Dallas and Dynasty – no doubt why it was so successful with TV audiences. Producers converted a luxurious Barrier Reef resort to a plastic surgeon’s clinic, run by Dr Dan Marshall (played by James Smillie).
The central figure in Return To Eden is Stephanie Harper (pictured at right). Her rich father died when she was 23 and she spent the following 17 years in a kind of dream. She had divorced twice and as the series starts she is marrying a younger man, the incredibly handsome Wimbledon champion, Greg Marsden.
Everyone except Stephanie can see that he is no good. He immediately has an affair with Stephanie’s best friend Jilly Stewart and, while on their honeymoon at her family homestead, Eden, in the Northern Territory, Greg pushes Stephanie into a crocodile-infested river.
Luckily she escapes and is given a new body, face and name (this IS a soap opera remember!) by plastic surgeon Dr Dan Marshall.
She returns to Sydney as a different woman, Tara Welles, where she becomes a model and entices Greg into falling in love with her. They return to Eden (hence the title!) with Jilly following them.
Stephanie hatches an elaborate plan and confronts the two. Greg shoots the aboriginal help while Tara/Stephanie and Jilly save Eden from burning down by putting out a fire. With the curtains.
Greg then tries to kill Tara/Stephanie in the swimming pool. Instead, he is badly wounded by Jilly and he attempts to flee in a light plane. It crashes and he is killed.
The next day the police arrive and arrest Jilly. Shortly after, Stephanie Harper is reunited with the doctor who gave her a new face and with her two children.
The Return To Eden TV series of 1986 picks up from the mini-series seven years later. Stephanie Harper, now Australia’s richest woman, is happily married to her plastic surgeon husband and her two children are now young adults working in the Harper empire.
The release of Jilly Stewart from prison, however, starts a dramatic chain of events.
Like all tales of melodrama, Return to Eden sounds trite in this kind of summary. Nevertheless, the show appealed to audiences (despite a caning from the critics) and did enormously well on air.
I recently saw Eden again and I was amazed at how dated it looks now. Apart from the incidental music sounding like the soundtrack from a bad porno movie, the fashions are hilarious. The outdoor photoshoot where Stephanie is trying to get on the cover of Vogue is an absolute scream.
I had also forgotten what a fashion accessory the headband was in the 80s. . . and having seen the mini-series again recently, I can confirm that James Reyne may just be the worst actor in the entire world.
Dr Dan Marshall
Wendy Hughes (1)
Peita Toppano (2)
Charles Lathalu Yunipingu
Steve Djati Yunipingu
Sgt Jim Gully