(This post was originally posted by Graeme N on the Coronation Street Blog in October 2015, reposted with permission.)
The sad news that actor Peter Baldwin, the man who created Corrie's Derek Wilton, had passed away aged 82 has made me reminisce back over the years. Derek and Mavis were such an integral part of Coronation Street for over twenty years and I don't think Peter Baldwin ever really received the credit he deserved. Derek was frequently ridiculed, often redundant and sometimes ridiculous but we had great affection for him all the same.
Derek was quite often a pain in the backside. He was weak-willed, dominated by his ex-wife (the rarely glimpsed Angela) and manipulated by the mean spirited Norris Cole (who always called him Dirk). He was an old fusspot who gave Mavis the run around for years before finally settling down to daily Grape Nuts and middle-management angst at Number 4 Coronation Street. Derek could be difficult, snobbish and frustrating but in Mavis he met his soulmate. Not even the foppish, pottery making Victor Pendlebury could keep them apart!
Derek enjoyed (or endured) a rather spiky relationship with Rita, friend and employer to Mavis at the Kabin for over twenty years. Rita enjoyed sending Derek up but you always felt she thought Mavis deserved something better. Sometimes Rita could be downright cruel to Derek but then again, often his pompousness asked for it. Whatever the situation, we all knew Derek loved Mavis and cared for her deeply. Their marriage wasn't always plain sailing but it was frequently touching and always played for real.
I guess what I'm saying is that Peter Baldwin created a wonderfully multi-layered character in Derek. Probably because he was middle-aged and fairly ordinary, neither the character nor the actor ever really got the attention either warranted. Derek was the figure of fun with his gnomes and his green paper-clip car. Yet characters like Mavis and Derek are thin on the ground these days. They were given time to mature together on screen and over time, the audience came to love them and care about them.
I think it was a mistake to kill off Derek and axe Peter Baldwin in 1997. Times were a-changing alright but it still seems like a waste all these years on. It did give Thelma Barlow some excellent material as a grief-stricken Mavis. After years of mousey indecision, in death, Derek gave our Mave some much-needed backbone. I always thought that Mavis was a strong Corrie woman underneath it all and one scene, at Derek's wake will always stay with me. She suddenly realised that her house was full of familiar faces, all of whom had ridiculed her Derek over the years and to some extent still were at his funeral. Mavis then gave a defiant defence of Derek and their marriage, stunning even Rita into something akin to pride in her friend. It's a glorious moment which will always cement both Mavis and Thelma in my affections. Mavis eventually left Weatherfield to run a bed and breakfast in the Lake District. I live in hope we will one day see her back in Corrie, however brief the appearance.
Peter Baldwin always came across as a lovely, gentle man when interviewed about his time in Coronation Street. He never seemed bitter about his parting with the show that made him a household name. He forged a delightful double act with Thelma Barlow that served Granada so well for over twenty years and he deserves to be remembered with respect and fondness for his important contribution to our favourite television programme.
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