• What happens when Lionel and Kirsty's plane goes down? (Shortland Street)Source: Shortland Street
Volcanic eruptions, plane crashes, pregnancies... the much-loved New Zealand drama has had it all over the 7000-plus episodes so far.
Olek Novak

12 Jan 2021 - 2:39 PM  UPDATED 12 Jan 2021 - 3:01 PM

The humble old end of season cliff-hanger. It’s been etched into popular culture ever since audiences spent an entire summer asking ‘who shot JR?’ at the end of the 1980 season finale of Dallas.

Since then, audiences have endured many more collective gasps, from the speculation about who shot Mr Burns or the terror of seeing Toadie and Dee drive their car off a cliff and into the ocean on their wedding day, to finding out that McDreamy was married all along (!), or seeing Aussie sweetheart Sally Fletcher stabbed in a Summer Bay carpark… the cliff-hanger has the capacity to shock, entertain and make us throw inanimate objects at the TV screen like no other dramatic device.

No genre does the cliff-hanger better than the TV soap, and New Zealand’s Shortland Street has been delivering juicy bombshells and plot twists for 28 seasons. So much so that the Shorty cliff-hanger is now a Christmas tradition across the ditch.

With the latest season now airing on SBS VICELAND and SBS On Demand, let’s take a look back at some of Ferndale’s best.

1994 – Stuart interrupts Lionel and Kirsty’s wedding

Nothing says soapie cliff-hanger like a wedding interrupted! 1994 was the first time the series took a break over Christmas and so the writers made sure to deliver a jam-packed episode featuring the reveal of a pregnancy, a manslaughter charge and a fairy-tale wedding for Lionel and Kirsty, an iconic couple for the show. However, the wedding was not exactly a fairy tale because Stuart summoned up the courage to confess his feelings at the last minute, gulp… 

1995 – the truck crash

Things started to escalate in 1995 with bigger action-packed stunts to finish the year. This particular episode featured a disgruntled father who was set up by a nurse and ended up crashing a Mack truck into the hospital reception! You can check out the aftermath below.

1997 – Lionel and Kirsty’s plane goes down

Lionel and Kirsty’s relationship clearly went through many ups and downs, and a significant down came in the 1997 season finale when the light plane they were in went, well, down. Meanwhile, receptionist Caroline was found guilty of murdering her best friend and sentenced to life in prison. And that’s not all; the clip below doesn’t even include the revelation that paramedic lovers Donna and Rangi were actually also brother and sister!

2007 & 2008: The Ferndale Strangler

Thought the Summer Bay Stalker was terrifying? Well, then you haven’t met New Zealand’s answer! The Ferndale Strangler terrorised the fictional community for much of 2007 and 2008 while also delivering stellar ratings for the soap as one of its most talked about storylines ever. So captivating was it that multiple red-herring endings were filmed in order to keep the identity of the Ferndale strangler under wraps until the 2007 series ended with the big reveal – it was nurse Joey Henderson, who slowly crept in on his love interest Tania, with his strangling implement - an IV line - at the ready.

Viewers then had to endure another few terrifying months before the Strangler’s terror came to a shocking rooftop climax:

2009 – Kieran frames Rachel

The 2009 season ended with Kieran, the owner of the local pub, finding out that his brother Sean was about to burn it down! Naturally, Kieran began speeding his way to the pub in Rachel’s car, with Rachel drunk and passed out in the passenger’s seat. Kieran ended up hitting and killing local nurse Morgan as he sped through the countryside… only to then place an unconscious Rachel in the driver’s seat!

2010 – a literal cliff-hanger

What could be better than a regular cliff-hanger? Well, what about an actual cliff-hanger! Shortland Street’s first ever 90-minute episode wasn’t actually an end-of-year finale, but rather an explosive end for the troubled Kieran who faced off with a gang seeking revenge before ending up dangling off a cliff and confessing to killing Morgan!

2010 finale – a fire and a severe case of Capgras Syndrome

The 2010 finale was no less dramatic than the previous 18 seasons with a fire and an explosion trapping several Shortland Street regulars. However, the extra cherry on top was Scotty’s PTSD developing into a severe case of Capgras Syndrome, a psychiatric disorder that causes a person to hold the delusion that a significant other has in fact been replaced by an identical imposter. In the below clip Scotty wrongly believes that his fiancée Tracey isn’t who she says she is, and so in a fit of rage he attempts to kill her …

2013 – the Warner family Christmas party goes off with a bang

Thought Capgras Syndrome was bad? In 2013, Dr Josh Gallagher developed a dangerous condition called Hero Syndrome which basically means that he was compelled to cause significant jeopardy to people so that he could then waltz in as a saviour. In this finale, that meant causing the LPG tanks at the Warner residence to explode during the family’s Christmas party…

2017: Mount Ferndale erupts

As Shortland Street’s longest serving and most iconic character, long suffering Dr Chris Warner has been through a lot, and as if the guy couldn’t get a break, the day before his 50th he found out he had leukaemia, only to then have a volcano eruption interrupt his birthday party, causing one of the biggest catastrophes the residents of Ferndale have ever seen. Like any good soapie, the episode then ends with nurse Lucy Rickman giving birth amongst the chaos, but a big question mark is left hanging over her fate... An appropriate and apocalyptic way to mark the shows 25th anniversary episode: you can watch the eruption from 15 minutes 30 seconds into the below:

2018: oops...

It’s not just the big finales that get juicy cliff-hangers on Shortland Street, it’s regular episodes too, such as this unfortunate incident in episode 6415:

2017: Please tell me that is not your penis

But we couldn’t help save the best to last. Arguably the show’s most iconic cliff-hanger aired in a regular episode in 2017, with Dr Chris Warner confronting his son Harry about photos that had synced from his iPhone to the family iPad. From there Dr Chris uttered the now iconic line “please tell me that is not your penis!”, and the rest is history… The line became so popular that it was even named 2017 quote of the year in New Zealand by Massey University. Below you can check out Alec Baldwin and Jimmy Kimmel’s recreation – yes, that’s right, the quote traversed the globe and even made it big in the US!

And you can check out one of the many remixes below: 


Could NZ's longest-running TV drama top those cliffhangers? We'll just have to wait and see.  

‘Shortland Street’ 101: everything you need to know about the iconic NZ soap
Discover the key foamy ingredients that have made New Zealand's longest-running TV drama such a success.

Shortland Street episodes premiere weeknights on SBS VICELAND at 5:45pm, fast-tracked from New Zealand. Episodes are available to stream at SBS On Demand after broadcast. Or bring yourself up to date before you start the current season, with the previous 40 episodes also streaming now at SBS On Demand. Start here:


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