She’s a soap institution, a national treasure and an EastEnders icon. Dot Cotton waltzed into Albert Square on July 4, 1985 and has been at the heart of the show for the following 30 years.
Dot has evolved into that rarest of things in soap land, a good-natured and likeable character. Her biggest crimes amount to a bit of gossip in the launderette or a judgemental look over a glass of sherry in the Queen Vic.
However, that hasn’t made Dot a boring character. Far from it, as she has actually been integral to some of EastEnders most moving, vital and memorable episodes down the years.
To mark her pearl anniversary in E20, we’ve picked out her five greatest moments.
1. Nick tries to kill Dot
When Dot arrived on Albert Square you would probably have predicted her to be an absolute rotter. Her ne’er do well son ‘Nasty’ Nick had been on the soap since day one, wreaking havoc and committing the very worst crimes imaginable.
However, it was the dynamic between the almost angelic Dot and the very much devilish Nick that made them such a hit with viewers.
Down the years Nick created no end of trouble and heartache for his “dear old ma”, but no matter how awful he became (drugs, murder, accidentally killing her grandson), Dot was always able to dig deep in her bible and forgive.
In 1990 the Dot and Nick pairing was at its peak and John Altman’s heroin-taking villain pulled off his worst crime yet – slowly poisoning his own mother for her bingo winnings.
Nick’s decision to back out of the murder at the last minute was possibly the only time we ever saw a conscience from his character, but it also marked a new low for Dot who had to suffer the shocking truth that her son wasn’t a born again Christian, but a con-artist who had intended to kill her.
2. Dot on cannabis
Yes, this really happened. In a rare example of EastEnders showing its lighter side, June Brown played it for laughs as Dot Cotton became intrigued by the world of alternative therapies.
Unfortunately for naïve Dot, someone saw her coming and flogged her some cannabis. The results were very amusing, although it did briefly land her in trouble with the police.
3. Dot and Ethel
One of EastEnders’ finest ever double acts (or trio, if you include Ethel’s little Willy), the duo often provided the moments of light to balance out the very dark shade so often at the heart of EastEnders' gritty central storylines.
June Brown and Gretchen Franklin’s real life friendship shined on screen and every scene was improved by having the duo, thick as thieves gossiping in the corner.
When Ethel left the show in 2000, it was one of the soap’s most enduring storylines as Dot helped her friend take an overdose to bring a close to the pain she was suffering in her final days.
The euthanasia storyline was hugely controversial, but Brown and Franklin’s performances as the dear old friends saying goodbye to each other was unquestionably brilliant.
4. Dot and Jim
Dot and Jim were a match made in heaven in EastEnders. The duo had troubled family lives and pasts, but together they were a classic soap couple, constantly bickering and nagging each other, but always utterly in love.
In arguably the soap’s happiest ever moment, Jim got down on one knee in a carriage of the London Eye in 2001 and proposed to his dear Dorothy. Never have so many happy tears been shed at an EastEnders ending.
"I love you." "I don't think you're half bad either."
5. Dot alone
June Brown’s finest hour came in 2008 when the sad exit of Jim due to actor John Bardon’s ill-health gave the writers a unique opportunity – a monologue episode.
Dot recorded a special message for Jim in hospital and Brown carried the episode as a single-hander, which was 30 minutes of powerful and poignant drama that showcased British soaps at their very best.
Brown was deservedly honoured with a BAFTA nomination and many critics felt it was only soap snobbery that stopped her from taking home the gong on the night.