Coronation Street’s 10,000th episode ended in a shock climax as Ken Barlow revealed he’s leaving the cobbles after 60 years – but will remain on the show.
The end of the emotional and hilarious episode on Friday culminated in the long-term resident (played by William Roache, 87) bid farewelll to his home as he made up his mind to move to a retirement complex with girlfriend Claudia Colby.
As he walked his beloved dog Eccles at the end of the night, he fondly said the words: ’80 years too late but finally it’s time to go. Goodbye old friend.’
The special hour-long episode aired on Friday 7th February and saw many of the show favourites join Rita Tanner (Barbara Knox) on a trip to Blackpool to scatter the ashes of her late husband Dennis Tanner.
And while on the road in a fun-filled party bus driven by Early Doors actor John Henshaw, several of the residents took a trip down memory lane as they reflected on the past.
However, the flashback to the past saw Ken lament his own life as he realised he’d never gone further than the street.
Speaking with his good friends Rita and Audrey Roberts (Sue Nicholls), he moaned: ‘I had such dreams when I was a young lad, like George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life. When I was a young man, all I wanted to do was travel.
‘I was born at Number 3 Coronation Street, and the furthest I’ve got is next door.’
He also showed his pals a brochure of the retirement village he and Claudia had been discussing, with a shocked Rita exclaiming: ‘You’re not seriously think about this surely.’
However, he clearly was as at the end of the episode, he seemed to have made his mind up about saying goodbye to his beloved home for good.
As he walked dog Eccles, he meaningfully looked up and remarked: ’80 years too late but finally it’s time to go. Goodbye old friend.’
Viewers were quick to comment on the shocking turn of events, with several remarking on their upset that the iconic character is departing the street.
‘So Ken’s leaving @itvcorrie Awwwwww. Longest serving cast member. You will be missed #kenbarlow #CoronationStreet’ commented one viewer.
While another remarked: ‘Well! What with the @Schofe making his announcement and now #KenBarlow leaving, it certainly has been a different Friday than usual. #corrie.’
A third said: ‘Noooo Ken Barlow cannot leave @itvcorrie that’s like David Attenborough not doing nature programmes anymore!!!’
A fourth remarked: ‘That was a wonderful trip down memory lane tonight in #Corrie and the old timers – Barbara Knox and Bill Roache – gave fantastically moving performances. But surely Ken can’t leave?!’
‘Wait…WHY has ken left?!?!?!?!?! NO’ exclaimed a fith upset soap watcher,
While another added: ‘Ken’s NOT seriously gona leave the street after 60 years is he?’
But some fans were left baffled over whether the character was leaving the street or the entire show, with several asking: ‘Is Ken Leaving?’
With another stating: ‘@itvcorrie please confirm whether Ken has left #Corrie or not. people are getting confused with the special ep tonight.’
However, actor Bill later revealed that while Ken would be moving away from Coronation Street, the character will still appear in the ITV soap.
He said: ‘This is a big decision for Ken, but in some ways he thinks it is now or never. He has lived on the same street his whole life and in the same house for most of it.
‘He feels that he had a chance to move away with Martha on the barge but he let her go. Part of him regretted that.
‘He doesn’t want to make the same mistake again and Claudia is very persuasive. Filming that final scene of the episode was very poignant, just Ken and Eccles and the cobbles.’
The veteran actor then went on to reveal that Ken breaks the news to his family next week, with children Tracy and Peter squabbling over who gets his house.
He added that the cast have ‘have already started filming at the retirement complex’, adding that he’s ‘enjoying’ the filming, but it ‘feels different’ to shoot scenes away from the iconic cobbles.
The star went on to say that it ‘seems fitting’ that Ken made this momentous decision in the 10,000th episode, but it will be ‘strange’ no longer filming at Number 1.
Upcoming episodes will seen Ken despair over his warring family as he stands firm about beginning a peaceful life at Still Waters with Claudia.
However, his time is far from peaceful as he soon bumps into old pal Norris Cole and his partner Freda, while he soon locks horns with fellow resident Charles (Michael Elwyn).
Will Ken and Claudia be able to enjoy their new lives? Or will they soon come running back to the cobbles?
The 10,000th episode also saw some touching moments as Rita Tanner was looked back on her past as she sat in an empty and dark Rovers Retun after the trip.
As the veteran character walked around the pub, she heard the voices of her friends that have come and gone including Betty Williams, Jack and Vera Duckworth and Hilda Ogden.
And as her step-daughter Jenny came downstairs, an emotional Rita told her: ‘They all left a little something, it’s in these walls, the fabric of the place.’
She then added that she still has ‘plenty of life left in me’ as she vowed to live life to the fullest.
There were also several light-hearted moments which included the residents, including Mary Taylor and Evelyn Plummer, dancing along to the Venga Boys on the party bus hired by Jenny.
While Emma Brooker, Sean Tully and Gail Rodwell provided some humerous moments with their iconic one-liners – including Gail confusing Beyonce’s sister Solange with the ice lolly Solereo.
Disaster soon struck as during yet another toilet break for the weak-bladdered bus driver, Rita became fed-up and attempted to drive the coach to Blackpool herself.
But there was shock as Sean suddenly revealed that the driver had suffered a heart attack and that he had called an ambulence.
But amidst the chaos, Rita had left her late husband Dennis Tanner’s ashes in the middle of the road, resulting in the urn shockingly run over by an ambulence – scattering the ashes all over the road.
Actor Bill recently discussed reaching the huge episode milestone as he said: ‘10,000 episodes – who would have believed that? Nobody when it started.
‘If they’d offered me a 60-year contract back then, I probably would have run a mile at the time.’
Bill, who won the British Soap Awards Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999, was 28 when he first played Barlow, then an 18-year-old student. He was introduced as the educated son of a working-class family.
His storylines have been dominated by his many love interests.
Barlow has been married four times: to Valerie Tatlock, Janet Reid and twice to Deirdre Hunt.
He also has four children by three women, two from affairs. His daughter Susan was killed off in 2001.
One of his biggest storylines was when he found out that Deirdre had been having an affair with factory owner Mike Baldwin. It was reported that 20million people tuned in to watch his discovery of the affair.
Coronation Street producer Iain MacLeod said: ‘10,000 episodes! Not bad for a programme which one newspaper said in 1960 was “doomed from the outset”.’
‘I am first and foremost a massive fan of the show and I watched this landmark episode with absolute glee. It is uniquely Corrie: funny, poignant and characterful – and a glorious homage to the comedic charabanc trips of times past, packed with strong female characters and sparkling dialogue.’
He added: ‘It’s a really great exhibition of Coronation Street’s classic qualities as we start a new decade on the cobbles.’