Love Thy Neighbour: The marriage of Daniel and Imogen

We all love a Neighbours wedding, and there have been a fair few over the years. Unfortunately, many of them have had disastrous or tragic consequences. However, with Daniel and Imogen’s nuptials being arranged in the aftermath of the Lassiter’s explosion, we knew that this union would not only go ahead, but that we would be waving the pair off, tissues at the ready, to their exciting new life in America. Granted it was rushed, to the point of being somewhat unrealistic: just how quickly can you arrange a marriage licence, book (and then re-arrange) a celebrant, and flights and visas to the States? However, as this was a happy event after much sadness, we were ready to suspend disbelief. Besides, we already knew that both Ariel Kaplan (Imogen) and Tim Phillips (Daniel) were to be leaving the show, so why not make it a joyous exit, with scenes reminiscent of Daniel’s young parents Scott and Charlene so many years before.

Daniel and Imogen’s path to marriage has been typical of the Neighbours young: rocky, fraught with tension and, at one point, including the ubiquitous love-triangle. As soon as the nephew of Paul Robinson arrived on Ramsay Street as a carefree hippy, we saw Imogen’s eyes flicker. Initially, with anger, over a misunderstanding involving a vintage dress, but that’s Imogen for you. She’s a strong-minded girl who likes to feel that she’s in control of situations. Beneath her apparent dislike of Daniel was an instant attraction that she was trying to keep at bay.

Career oriented Imogen is the opposite of best friend Amber in so many ways. Although both might have romantic notions of love, Imogen always kept hers in check and was not about to settle for anything less than the real thing. Including taking things to ‘the next level’. We saw a hint of love to come when, after the tornado – 2014’s disaster – Imogen and Daniel rescued a baby wombat whom they named Erin. (Yes, we did all get the name-play!) Daniel had a fear of wombats and managed to overcome it with Imogen’s help. They also bonded over academic texts. Daniel might have been a hippy back then, but like Imogen, he is a deep thinker, whereas Amber is less scholastic. Daniel and Imogen have a shared love of nature and of eco causes. (There were much in-joking text messages between them about ducks.) Daniel admired Imogen’s strong belief in justice and her unwillingness to be anything less than her own woman. It was only a matter of time …

As we know, though, it was Amber who first caught Daniel’s eye. Sensing that she was unhappy with the then-nonchalant Josh, twin brother of Imogen, he befriended her and took an interest in her ambitions as a photographer. We watched as Imogen struggled with her feelings for Daniel, her idealistic notions of love shattered as her parent’s marriage fell apart, and sensing her pain as the complexities of the Willis and Turner clans grew ever deeper. I felt very sad on Imogen’s behalf when, after discovering that her best friend was cheating on Josh with Daniel, she still kept her feelings for him to herself. And it must have hurt her to see her friend openly dating the man she loved. She later had to watch as Amber and Daniel planned their wedding, and in order to distract herself from the pain, she set about being chief wedding planner, in true Imogen style. Imogen definitely inherited her mother’s organisational skills!

A well of emotion

Of course, Daniel and Amber’s wedding was a non-event, because of Erinsborough’s notorious well. Imogen and Daniel just happened to be the latest characters trapped therein, in the pursuit of a family ring that Daniel learnt was down there. Imogen had already been barred from the wedding, having been confronted by Amber, after her true feelings for Daniel had been uncovered by Paul Robinson. Imogen insisted that she would never have stood in her friends’ way, which was obviously the truth but, once down the well, and fearing they might not get out alive, she asked Daniel if he could ever feel the same about her as she did about him. No, he said. Liar, we thought! And even though Daniel and Amber eventually reunited when Amber realised that her fiancé had not eloped with Imogen after all, you could tell that this was not how things would end. After Amber’s ‘comforting’ from ex, Josh, on what would have been her wedding night, there was a pregnancy. Josh and Daniel had come to an uneasy truce after Amber had left the former for the latter, but this new situation only fired up the animosity again. Daniel was delighted when told about the pregnancy. He had no reason, at that point, to suspect that the baby wasn’t his. But in true soap style, despite Imogen counselling Amber against telling Daniel of her night with Josh, she blurted out the truth. A paternity test ensued. It was pretty easy for fans to guess ‘Who’s the daddy?’

For Amber and Daniel’s relationship, it was to be downhill thereafter. Daniel was insistent that he wanted to play a rôle in the baby’s life, despite not being the biological father. Josh was excited about being a dad, and thought that there might be a chance of reconciliation with Amber. Stress mounted as the unborn baby was found to have a life-threatening condition which needed surgery, either in vitro, at great expense, in America, or after birth. Of course, Josh was on the side of Amber who wanted to go to America to give the baby what she thought was the best chance. Daniel didn’t. Clearly, Daniel and Amber’s hearts were not in this relationship any more, and Daniel bowed out without much fight. It wasn’t long before he and Imogen finally got their act together and he acknowledged his true feelings for the feisty law student. Imogen worried that dating him might have a detrimental affect on her friendship with Amber, but Amber was fully focused on her baby, and went around in a sort of daze. She didn’t even react adversely to her mother Lauren shacking up with Brad Willis so soon after her father, Matt’s, death. Daniel and Imogen were given the green light.

Intellectually matched

I have always felt that Imogen was a better match for Daniel than Amber, although other fans are entitled to their own opinions. For me, Daniel and Imogen are intellectually and emotionally matched. He might have started out as a hippy with no particular career goal, but since then, he has realised that he needs to have more of an aim in life. He has learnt from Imogen that you don’t have to compromise your ethics for ambition, and that you can have a career and still be an honest-living person. This is in contrast to Paul, of course, and there were moments that we felt alarm for Daniel, and worried that he was becoming a younger version of his uncle. Being with Imogen has ensured that this will not happen.

It was Imogen who pulled Daniel back to base recently. Her attentions had wandered towards Tyler’s hot bod, as Daniel worked long hours at Lassiter’s. The revelation that his girlfriend was attracted to a mechanic with a man-bun caused Daniel to insist that he and Imogen have a break for a while, even though Imogen argued that she hadn’t acted on her attraction and that Tyler hadn’t encouraged it. Daniel wasn’t sure of Imogen’s feelings any more. But after knowing that Josh died in order to save him, Daniel recognised the truth: Josh knew his sister was most definitely in love, and had even gone to the hotel prior to the blast, to reiterate the fact to Daniel. Daniel had been rather horrible to Josh, and yet, Josh bore no grudge, only wanting his twin sister’s happiness. Life is sometimes cut cruelly short; there was a strong need for viewers to see happiness to come out of such profound sorrow. Imogen had not only lost her brother but her beloved Pop, Doug. Her eulogy at Josh’s funeral was heartbreaking, and whilst she wasn’t the only family member to suffer such pain, the loss of a twin was expressed with brutal honesty. Well done to the writers for making this point.

So what else was there to do for Daniel but to propose, when Imogen was offered the chance of an internship in America? Daniel is currently under the impression that his uncle Paul may have been responsible for the hotel explosion, and he knows how difficult this is for Imogen and her family to deal with. He understands that she needs to get away from Erinsborough, and that it would be good for him too. So, we snivelled as Daniel discarded a post-explosion crutch and went down on one knee at Lassiter’s lake. (Where else?)

An open window – and an exit

We laughed as Scott and Charlene sent Daniel’s sister Madison to check on Daniel’s state of mind before he tied the knot. We saw her attempt to climb in through an open window just as her mother had done before her, only this time it was her brother, not a future husband, on the receiving end of a smack in the face when he mistook her for a burglar. Yes, writers, it amused those of us old enough to remember the first time. Predictable, but a nice touch. Madison Robinson (you wonder whether Charlene named her when under the influence of gas and air, it’s such a mouthful) was there and gone in the blink of an eye, but I get the impression she will be back at some point. We need a new Robinson. Her brother has not only departed, but chosen to take Imogen’s surname, Willis. His choice, we’re told, but one of which we knew feminist Imogen would wholeheartedly approve!

Whilst we can understand the bride and groom not wanting to cause any fuss after two bereavements, a wedding was just what was needed to galvanise everyone and give the family something to smile about. Thankfully, Daniel and Imogen’s hastily planned original ceremony was put on hold following Brad and Terese’s frantic dash to the registry office – with Terese clad in nightdress, dressing-gown and slippers – once they got wind of it. We were happy that Amy and co transformed chez Willis into a reception room – complete with fine tableware and a few hundred cupcakes in less time than a TV makeover programme – for the two families to witness the ceremony. Miraculously, Terese still had her wedding dress stashed in the spare wardrobe, in pristine condition (well, you can’t imagine Terese spilling the jam from a Lamington down it) and looking more 2016 than anything I remember from 1994. Equally miraculously, the dress fitted Imogen perfectly, unless we are to assume that the women of Ramsay Street had her safety-pinned, stitched, and vow-ready in minutes. We were relieved that Terese was able to play her rôle as mother of the bride in her finery, rather than her recent daytime attire of nightdress and slippers – probably concealing a wine-glass in her dressing-gown pocket. But, like I said, we’ll suspend disbelief, and Imogen looked beautiful. Of course the pair had learnt their vows off-by-heart in one day, and of course Susan had no essays to mark that afternoon and was free to be the celebrant. Sorted in minutes, in true Erinsborough style!

As this article is a tribute to Daniel and Imogen as a couple, it’s not possible to look in depth at both characters’ noteworthy moments. However, the comic episode when Imogen, mistaking alcohol for fizzy pop, became drunk at the dinner table, stands out. Terese wondered: ‘Imogen! What has got into you?’ And the frantic baking marathon, when she developed a bit of a crush on the recently-bereaved Mark Brennan, left us unconvinced that she was cut out to be a domestic goddess. But what she may have lacked in expertise, she certainly made up for with enthusiasm! We’ve seen her extreme vulnerability when she developed an eating disorder, leading us to realise that she wasn’t quite as self-assured as she made out. But she’s matured a lot since then and, as with her late twin, she arrived as an adolescent but has left as a grown up.

And as for Daniel, he’s definitely changed a great deal during his Ramsay Street stay. He frustrated many of us at the start: admirably idealistic, but so laid-back he was horizontal. Whilst we felt that his presence was good for his uncle Paul, who had a lot to learn about putting family before fortune, we could see that Daniel needed to go through a process of self-evaluation and change, too. He alluded to a time when he was shorter-tempered and troubled, which presumably had led him to move towards his hippy existence with ex-girlfriend, oddball brainwasher, Rain. But perhaps he had gone too far down the route of day dream believer, and it was just a phase of his life which wasn’t meant to last forever.

I’m going to miss both Imogen and Daniel, and want to wish Ariel and Tim the best of luck in their respective careers. We are losing two more prominent and popular characters. Coming so soon after saying goodbye to Doug and Josh, it’s rather hard to take. But, for now, it’s enough to know that the newlyweds are alive and, for once, they got their happy ending, a rarity in soap land. Let’s hope they follow in the footsteps of Scott and Charlene. Here’s to the next generation of Willis-Robinsons.

© Carol Ann Wood
April 2016


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