Dot Cotton, the chain-smoking, devoutly religious hypochondriac may be one of EastEnders’s most eccentric characters, but BBC bosses have trusted her with some of the soap’s heaviest storylines.
Dot, played for 35 years by veteran actress June Brown, has dealt with the killing of her son, the assisted suicide of a friend and cancer.
Brown, 93, stunned fans in announcing she had left Albert Square, leaving many to reflect on her time on the show.
Here are some of Dot’s most memorable storylines:
Dot is diagnosed with cancer
In 2004, Dot was diagnosed with kidney cancer but, going against her reputation as a hypochondriac, told no-one apart from Dennis Rickman.
Producers sought help from experts to make the storyline as realistic as possible, and were later praised by Macmillan Cancer Support for their handling of the subject.
However, Brown, then in her seventies, later admitted she was unhappy to be involved. “I didn’t want to play this storyline,” she said.
“I don’t think playing illness is productive at my age. I know that doesn’t mean it will happen to me – but I think it’s best not to worry that it might.
“In your seventies you thank your lucky stars for every extra year you get.”
Heartbreaking moment Dot helps best friend Ethel to die
One of Dot’s hardest hitting storylines involved euthanasia.
The devout Christian was faced with an agonising decision when best friend Ethel Skinner, who had terminal cancer, begged her to help her die.
In heart-rending scenes, Dot agreed to go against her faith and handed Ethel a bag of pills.
The emotional episode ended with Ethel telling a weeping Dot “you’re the best friend I ever had”.
Dot’s soap opera first
Fans were jubilant when Dot walked down the aisle with Jim Branning in 2002, cementing an hilarious double-act with both Brown and John Bardon winning awards for their characters.
However, Bardon suffered a stroke in 2007, leaving unable to film for the soap. Producers reflected real-life events by having Jim also suffer a stroke, paving the way for Brown to make UK soap opera history.
In January 2008 she appeared in the first ever soap one-hander, where she was the only actress to appear in an episode.
It featured Dot recording a message for Jim to listen to in hospital. Brown’s performance was widely praised and she earned a Bafta TV nomination for best actress.
Dot finally has enough of “nasty” Nick
Dot was married twice on EastEnders but arguably her greatest love was villainous son “nasty” Nick, played by John Altman.
Frustrated viewers spent years urging Dot to once and for all get rid of the scheming heroin addict, who at various times stole from her and even tried to kill her.
However, no matter how low Nick went, doting mother Dot always seemed to welcome him back with open arms.
Until she finally had enough during a 2015. Holed up in an abandoned house, Nick persuaded Dot to buy him drugs – only to fall ill.
As Nick gasped his final trademark gravelly “maaa”, Dot refused to call an ambulance, leaving her son to die.
She was later sentenced to 14 months in prison for manslaughter.
Dot’s lighter side
While Dot was often at the centre of EastEnders’s most poignant storylines, Brown had a keen eye for comedy.
Whether it be her chain-smoking or love of gossip, the character was seldom far from providing the audience with a laugh.
And few were funnier than the long-running joke of Dot’s inability to pronounce the name of her boss at the launderette, Mr Papadopolous.
Over the years she called him both Mr Oppodopolus and Oppydoppy, among other humorous pronunciations.