|The Feature Length Special (a.k.a "The QE2 Video")|
|Release date|| 9th December 1995 (VHS)|
24th March 1996 (Sunday)
|Running time||76 min (VHS) 60 min (TV)|
Coronation Street: The Feature Length Special, since known also as "The QE2 Video", was the first in a series of "Straight to Video/DVD" releases which carried the story of the main programme's characters outside of the milieu of the Street and its environs. Set in a luxurious setting, far removed from the usual locales presented on screen, the VHS tape set the template for future releases in that it continued the narrative thread of the story while tempting but not alienating viewers who did not buy the tape and had the added bonus followed since by most of the releases in that it featured a guest spot by a past regular of the programmme, in this case Alec Gilroy.
Mavis and Rita delighted to join the QE2 at Southampton. Mavis wishes that some of the neighbours back home could see them and seconds later is shocked to see her wish granted when entertainments manager Alec Gilroy greets Curly and Raquel as they emerge from a taxi at the dockside. Alec takes the new arrivals down below where he asks Curly for his £1000 fee in cash but Raquel finds clothes already in the cabin allocated to them. Alec explains that it is the normal cabin for Mrs Bligh, the cruise director for Sunliners, who is currently on leave. Once left alone, Raquel tearfully tells Curly not to expect too much from her in their new marriage. Curly tells her he is not bothered but it is obvious that she is unhappy in the arrangement. Their conversation is interrupted when Alec hurriedly ejects them from the room - Mrs Bligh has unexpectedly returned. Curly is livid that Alec has sold them a cabin which wasn't even his to sell but is forced to go along with Alec's pretence that they are new staff for the ship, even though this will mean that they will sleep in separate quarters and have to "work their passage". Curly is allocated to the children's games room while Raquel is given work serving in the Mermaid Bar.
Mavis confesses a fantasy to Rita of a shipboard romance with a handsome stranger. A possible candidate comes forward in the Mermaid Bar when French Count Henri de Vence introduces himself to Rita as she waits for Mavis, but she is impervious to his charms. Instead, she kids Henri that she is the companion to the "Miss Wilton", the famous carpet heiress, who leads a tragic life and has invented an imaginary existence for herself that she is a happily married woman working in a northern newsagent. Henri sweeps Mavis onto the dance floor for an impassioned tango as Rita finds out from Raquel that she and Curly are married and that Alec had let them down, meaning they were working on the ship and in separate cabins.
After several days at sea and the ship having passed Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean, Curly is miserable while Mavis is having a wonderful time, although she feels guilty that she is possibly breaking Henri's heart. Rita tells Alec what she thinks of his machinations and sneers at his relationship with the dreadful ship's entertainer Melody Lane. This leads Melody to later confess to a shocked Rita that she is Alec's half-sister, her father having had a relationship with his mother and she and Alec never having met until she was twenty-six.
Raquel does her best to avoid Curly, using her work as an excuse. When Curly confronts her, she makes excuses but Alec has an attack of conscience and gives the newly-weds his cabin for the remainder of the voyage. This leads to a confrontation between Curly and Raquel and she confesses that she slept with Des just before their wedding. Tearfully, she tells Curly that she married him for the wrong reasons but he says it doesn't matter. She starts to see their marriage in a new light and the two are reconciled. They happily go through a religious service with the ship's Padre to restate their vows.
Having found out about Melody and that Alec has given Curly and Raquel his cabin, Rita also starts to see Alec in a new light. He confesses his past sins to Rita, including pocketing the occasional past fee and refusing to sell her contract to a London agent who could have seen her through the big time. She forgives him and even stands in as the singer when the booked turn falls ill.
The voyage nears its end with Mavis delighted at her romance and accepts a lit cigarette from Henri in the style of Bette Davis in Now, Voyager. However when the ship docks Rita is shocked to find that Count Henri is in fact Sid Clegg, a Birmingham man who is on Alec's books as an official ship's "seducer". Rita is amused but asks Alec not to tell Mavis. Mrs Blight tells Curly as he leaves the ship that he isn't cut out for ship's entertainer but he isn't bothered - he has his "Mrs Watts". They leave for home and their married life together.
- Mavis Wilton - Thelma Barlow
- Rita Sullivan - Barbara Knox
- Henri de Vence - Nicky Henson
- Alec Gilroy - Roy Barraclough
- Curly Watts - Kevin Kennedy
- Raquel Watts - Sarah Lancashire
- Padre - Berwick Kaler
- Mrs Bligh - Elizabeth Bennett
- Melody Lane - Louisa Rix
- Carol - Bridget Brammall
- Bet Gilroy - Julie Goodyear (uncredited)
The video was commissioned especially to celebrate the programme's thirty-fifth anniversary and was released on the actual date of that event, one day after the episode in which Curly and Raquel were married.
Carolyn Reynolds fulfilled her usual role as executive producer, with David Hanson as producer, and filming took place between the 13th and 25th October 1995 entirely on board the QE2 with the exception of a short scene set on the dockside near the start of the story. The release was a joint production with Warner Home Video and was a huge success with over 600,000 copies sold at the price of £13.99 but it had a bittersweet conclusion. The tape came with a sticker that stated that it was a video only release and it would never be shown on ITV. On 24th March 1996 purchasers of the tape were therefore angry to see that it was given a transmission on ITV at 8.00pm, albeit in a version edited down to one hour. Although some grumbled, some took further action and The Times of 12th March 1997 reported that a Mr. Allan Kelley obtained a refund of £13.99 plus £2 expenses following court action. They claimed that the sale of the tape had netted Granada a profit of £700,000. They were not represented in court where it was stated that 263 people had complained to the Independent Television Commission (ITC) and a further 3000 to Granada direct. The ITC insisted that letter of apology be sent with a free paperback book to each complainant as a sign of goodwill but Mr. Kelley had refused to let the matter drop on point of principle. The irony of the situation was that Granada had not sanctioned the transmission of the special but they had been over-ruled by ITV network control, however when the adverse publicity came out it was Carolyn Reynolds and Granada who were forced to convey the public apology. Writer John Stevenson was further annoyed that the edited version created plot holes in his screenplay.
- Prior to the beginning of the special, the tape featured five clips to familiarise viewers with the characters and their relationship to each other:
- - Alec Gilroy's credentials as an entertainments booker are established when act supplier Harry Norton pays a visit - from Episode 3412 (17th July 1992).
- - Rita Sullivan tries to break some news to Mavis Wilton but she's not listening - from Episode 3905 (6th September 1995).
- - Curly Watts tells Raquel that he's officially had a star named after her as a Christmas present - from Episode 3795 (25th December 1994).
- - Rita and Bet Gilroy row over Rita's refusal to help Bet buy the Rovers - from Episode 3920 (11th October 1995).
- - Curly and Raquel are married - from Episode 3945 (8th December 1995).
- The tape had the programme's usual theme music by Eric Spear and opened with the same shot as the 1990 title sequence but as a still frame. A collage of shots of the QE2 then followed.
- Derek Hilton who with his trio of musicians had appeared several times in the programme in the 1970s as Rita Littlewood's backing musicians, here provided additional music for the cabaret sequences aboard the ship.
- Three children, arguing over Curly's scoring of their table tennis match, were uncredited.
Henri de Vence: "So there is no more…Monsieur Sullivan?"
Rita Sullivan: "No."
Henri de Vence: "Ah, this life - it deals us many painful blows as we travel through it. Our consolation is….French. This amity of the heart which poets call…love."
Rita Sullivan: (Unimpressed) "The drink 'elps too."
Rita Sullivan: "Typical Alec Gilroy - that man's so twisted he could hide behind a spiral staircase."
Mavis Wilton: "Henri says I have a certain Je ne sais quoi. That's French for 'I don't know what'."
Rita Sullivan (dryly): "Well, you can always ask him."
Mavis Wilton: "And then he calls me his Petit Chou. That means he's calling me his little cabbage."
Rita Sullivan: "Yeah, well, granted, some sort of vegetable would spring to mind."
Mrs Bligh (reading the entertainment's rosta): "Eleven hundred hours - Theatre: talk - living with sciatica. Eleven-thirty - Grand Lounge: Colonic irrigation - the truth."