The makers of EastEnders wanted to do “something epic” to celebrate the soap’s 35th anniversary, its executive producer has revealed.
The soap kicked off a dramatic series of episodes on Monday to coincide with the broadcast landmark later in the week.
Executive producer Jon Sen said they wanted to make a series of ambitious episodes that celebrated the programme’s longevity.
Monday’s episode saw a large group of Albert Square residents on a boat party on the Thames after Whitney Dean (Shona McGarty) and Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) tried to decide how to respond to the killing of Leo King.
Linda Carter’s (Kellie Bright) battle with alcoholism and her relationship problems with Mick took centre stage as she got in a fight with Shirley Carter (Linda Henry) in the Queen Vic.
The programme ended on a cliffhanger after the boat began to sink and Mick tried to rescue a trapped and drunk Linda from the hull.
Speaking at a screening of the anniversary episode, Sen said: “We wanted to do something epic, obviously, for the anniversary.
“We all got together and we listed everything we wanted an anniversary episode to be and when we dug into it we thought we needed to really drill down to what we wanted to celebrate about EastEnders – London, contemporary, compelling stories.
“Obviously we have the shot of the Thames in the opening credits and we thought: ‘there’s the idea’, and it came from there really.”
Sen said that filming on the river was a “huge operation”, with the cast and crew having to battle the elements during Storm Brendan.
Around 150 people were involved during the river shoot.
Throughout this week each episode will focus on a different Albert Square family, telling a story from their perspective.
Then in Friday night’s episode one character will be killed off.
EastEnders boss Kate Oates said that the format will allow the families in the show to be honoured.
“As well as celebrating London and the iconography that comes with EastEnders we also wanted to celebrate the clans and the families,” she said.
EastEnders premiered on BBC1 on February 19 in 1985.