Sunday, 15 May 2016

Our Top 50 Favourite Crossroads Characters - 16: Doris Luke

Doris Luke featured in a 1984 knitting book, based on the Crossroads characters. That cardigan is actually rather dressy by Doris's standards.

Dear old Doris Luke was a born spinster - no, I don't mean "batchelorette". Doris, played by Kathy Staff, had spent her younger years looking after her poorly parents. Not that she begrudged them - no, not our Doris - she loved her parents and said it had been a pleasure to care for them. But it left her rather on the shelf. Her attitude didn't help. She arrived at Ed Lawton's farm as housekeeper in 1978, and was a bit of a hatchet-faced dragon at first. But she quickly mellowed. According to soap writer Hilary Kingsley, Doris even forgave Benny Hawkins's pet goat Starry when it ate her best hat.  If this was indeed so, the episode seems to have been wiped - although I think I recall something...

In November 1978, Doris was transplanted to King's Oak, and worked at the motel as vegetable cook. She also helped out in the village shop for a while, until a bad fall landed her in hospital, and later did a spot of housekeeping for Reg Cotterill.

Doris was not in the best of health. Her lengthy absences from the screen were sometimes explained by health matters, or not mentioned at all. The truth was Kathy Staff was also, of course, Norah Batty in the BBC's Last Of The Summer Wine, and so she flipped between the two shows throughout her time in Crossroads.

Loyal to her friends, Doris kept an aunty-ish eye on Benny, was a great pal to Kath and Mac, and told Alison Cotterill off for losing touch with her friends when she briefly returned to King's Oak in 1983.

In the early 1980s, Benny Hawkins wanted to buy Doris a house in the village, but of course Doris could never take his money. She offered to live there with him and look after him, but he refused and said he didn't like houses.

So, that was that. 

Father Fate, Dame Fortune, or whoever, did not smile on Doris. In 1981, she was attacked and mugged at home, and 1982 found dear Doris reflecting on her lonely life and grotty little bedsitting room at Mrs Price's house in King's Oak.

And then her old wartime love Tom Logan returned from France.

And he began determinedly courting Doris all over again.

Doris was uncertain - could they really rekindle the magic of forty years ago? And he'd gone a bit Frenchie-fied with his neckerchief and love of escargo. The way he wolfed his food in public at the motel restaurant was hardly the way an English gentleman would behave. Yes, he certainly seemed... different.

But, finally, the two became engaged. Tom wanted to buy the post office in King's Oak, and all seemed set fair, until the doubts set in. On both sides.

The couple parted. Tom left.

Doris dithered. Had she done the right thing? She contacted Tom. He had had third thoughts too. So, Doris left the village, it seemed to marry him.

But, of course, Doris could never be accused of being lucky. Tom died. And she returned.

A further period of ill health followed, and during this Doris found great comfort in looking after Katy Louise Banks, the baby daughter of Kevin and Glenda. 

Doris called Katy "Kitty" and grew to adore the child, which did not please Glenda, who was looking for a child minder, not an extra grandmother figure for her baby. 

Aware of the problems she was creating, Doris became distressed and wandered off with Katy for a few hours, causing great concern. On her return, she told Glenda that she didn't think she should see the child any more. Glenda had been about to tell her in no uncertain terms that their child minding arrangement was at an end anyway.

Doris's sister, Edna Tilling, turned up in 1984 and was totally unlike Doris. She was spolit and somewhat neurotic. Doris was going to stay with her after an operation on her veins, but Edna ditched the idea when her daughter, Gloria, arrived. Doris left to recuperate with friends in her old district of Peachy. 

In early 1985, she wrote to Benny to tell him she was housekeeping for some old acquaintances back there.

Doris was a lovely character - earnest and caring, and beautifully played by Kathy Staff, a great actress and much-loved by the public. She returned briefly for the revived Crossroads series in the early 21st century, but didn't stay long - sprouting a gay nephew in her brief time on the new show. Who was his mother I wondered? Gloria? Edna? Incredible! But then, in Dallas 1986 fashion, the revival turned out to be a dream.

And a good job too!

I do hope Doris found some happiness...

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