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Return to Eden (1983-1986, Rebecca Gilling, Peta Toppano)

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Return to Eden had originally appeared in 1983 as a lavish 6 hour mini series filmed in various glossy locales around Sydney and the Barrier Reef; Rebecca Gilling headlined as Stephanie Harper who gets caught up with evil tennis pro Greg Marsden (played by singer James Reyne), his plot to murder Stephanie to get his hands on her money go awry when she manages to escape from the crocodile infested swamp he left her for dead in. Stephanie, in full on Dynasty mode, undergoes plastic surgery and emerges transformed as Tara Welles intent on revenge on Greg….. cue the series.

Although only 3 years had passed in the real world the series was set seven years after the events of the mini series and in the opener Jilly (Peta Teppano in a career defining superbitch role), who had been in partnership with the evil Greg to swindle Stephanie, is fresh out of prison and determined to succeed at any cost, much of the action over the course of the 22 episodes centres on the feuding between Stephanie and Jilly and later it’s revealed that they are actually half sisters.

Return to Eden is Australia’s answer to Dallasty et al, a glossy supersoap of the kind that Australian TV networks rarely attempted, it touches all the bases that inhabit the genre, the fashions, the cars, the shoulder pads, the hair (male and female cast members of course, this being the hair spray 80’s) and the outrageous plot lines, at one stage Stephanie fakes her own death and comes back in disguise as an Arabian princess. Tellingly Return to Eden had financial assistance from Hanna-Barbera as part of their failed attempt to break into live action.

production details
Australia | Hanna Barbera-McElroy and McElroy | 28×60 minutes | 1983 and 1986

Creator: Michael Laurence
Music: Brian May
Script Editor: John Alsop
Executive Producer: Hal McElroy
Producer: Tim Sanders

cast
REBECCA GILLING as Stephanie Harper
JAMES SMILLIE as Dr Dan Marshall
PETA TOPPANO as Jilly Stewart
DANIEL ABINERI as Jake Sanders
PETER COUSENS as Dennis Harper
MEGAN WILLIAMS as Cassie Jones
WARREN BLONDELL as Tom McMaster
NICKI PAUL as Sarah Harper
ANGELO D’ANGELO as Angelo Vitale
PETER GWYNNE as Bill McMaster
CHRIS HAYWOOD as Jason Peebles

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