Eli Mathewson provides in-depth analysis of Shortland Street‘s Extract 7 storyline, discovering undeniable parallels with other great cultural works of our time. //
Sarah Potts died this year, and if I were Amanda Billing, I’d feel pretty bloody peeved about it. Simon Bennett, a Shortland Street producer, told stuff that the reason they had to kill her off is so TK could explore new romantic prospects without the audience getting angry. What a way to go.
Billing can hold one thing dear though – her character’s death was the culmination of the greatest Shortland Street storyline of the year. The Extract 7 saga was a plot we’ve never seen before on our NZ screens. Namely, it was an amazing rehash of the Halle Berry led disaster Catwoman.
“Really?” You ask. Yes. Yes it was.
New Zealand television legend Siobhan Marshall, the unsung hero of Outrageous Fortune, returned to our television sets as the brilliant, charismatic Ava – a mysterious woman who’s unprofitable appearance medicine clinic was a cover for a dangerous secret. Whilst the obvious joke was to see this character as the return of an older, smarter Pascalle, or to link it to Marshall’s earlier Shorty role as Harry Warner’s father-smooching teacher, the more insightful fans were quick to notice her new short pixie cut – which made her bear a striking resemblance to early 2000s-era Sharon Stone. The very same Sharon Stone who portrayed the nemesis of Catwoman.
In Catwoman, Sharon Stone runs an enormous beauty company that provides woman with the fountain of youth, in the form of a moisturizer called Beau-Line. Sure, it gets rid of wrinkles – but it will make the users face melt if they stop using it. In Shortland Street, Ava prays on aging women’s insecurities to make hundreds of thousands of buckos by providing them with Extract 7, a serum she has illegally imported that reverses the aging process (sadly without the face-melting side-effects of Beau-Line). All of her buyers then become complicit in the drug smuggling that eventually brings a terrifying super-virus to Ferndale. A virus that will kill Sarah Potts and also at least one nurse who had about six lines and smooched Garret once.
In Catwoman, Sharon Stone is taken down by her employee Patience Price (a triumphant Razzie win for Halle Berry). Patience discovers the evil plot to sell this moisturizer, essentially turns into a human-cat hybrid and then fights Stone, whose skin has now turned rock hard. In Shorty, Brooke Freeman takes the Catwoman role, but unfortunately never has the gusto to find a superhero costume and kick her ass. She does reveal the secret plot to Rachel McKenna, but Ava is not taken down in time to save Sarah.
It must be said that in the Extract 7 storyline Brooke got a majorly raw deal. Not only did she never gain cat-like superpowers, but also she lost her husband Boyd. Ava ruthlessly fought for Boyd in a way that made it seem like she had an ulterior motive, but as it turned out her motive was just Boyd’s fine ass, cool kid personality and smart brain.
The story was incredibly enjoyable at surface level. But if you look a little below the surface – it gets even better.
FAN THEORY TIME. Alright, you might think you know what happened, but let your mind flip and spin in excitement as you read my totally probable fan theory. Ava’s real age was never revealed on the show, but it was hinted that she was older than she appeared – 50 at least, due to scoffing Extract 7 like injectable candy up her hungry mouth veins. What’s to say Ava was not one of our favourite older Shorty cast members magically drug-serumed into a youthful beauty? What’s to say she’s not former receptionist YVONNE JEFFRIES?!
Picture this: Yvonne, having experienced a Shortland Street tenure short on romantic prospects, watching the young doctors around her jumping into each other’s beds like bunnies, finally decides to get out of there when the boyfriend she stole from her daughter dies of a brain haemorrhage. So Yvonne heads overseas, and concocts a plan: using the tidbits of medical information she overheard from the reception desk, Yvonne makes a deal with some other evil Sydney-based medical experts and develops Extract 7. She takes the drug herself and returns to Ferndale a beautiful young blonde. This time – she will rule the romantic roost.
Upon arrival, Jeffries starts to turn the hospital on its head, and everyone in it goes head over heels for her. She matches her newfound glorious looks with extreme social confidence and flirting ability she learnt on an expensive correspondence course, funded with her drug dollars. She brings reformed crazy bitch Brooke as close to her as possible – only to use that closeness to steal her husband Boyd. This has a domino effect, suddenly turning the dorky doctor into a babe-magnet-tornado that will eventually trap Harper in its eye.
Then, Yvonne brings a horrific virus into her beauty drug, not through an infected delivery from the Philippines, but intentionally. BOOM, she kills off Nurse Effie, a fresh Unitec graduate who had seriously hoped her guest role would extend to least three months – take that, youngster! And then she deals her final blow – she destroys down the most beloved woman on the street. The Judy Bailey of fictional television. Sarah friggin’ Potts.
After the fall of the true heroine of Shorty, she’s ready to leave. And so Yvonne Jeffries allows herself to be arrested, but escapes heads to Brazil, and with her new hot bod enjoys a life of cocktails and pool boys.
And so ends the terrible reign of Yvonne, and the incredible saga of Extract 7 – or does it?
My hope is that we haven’t seen the last of Extract 7. Perhaps a hidden batch is in the basement of Shortland Street, and somehow through a clumsy janitor (played by Wesley Dowdell) will be leaked through the air conditioning unit, filtering through the hospital and affecting everyone inside.
Grace Kwan’s baby will be hit with a huge dose, causing her to remain in a baby body even as she goes through school and then university, until she becomes a walking talking baby doctor a la the hit films Baby Geniuses and Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2. She’ll rise through the ranks, eventually becoming the first baby CEO on Shortland Street.
Or maybe a vat of leftover Extract 7 will be buried in a secret spot in the cemetery, only to somehow find it’s way through the soil into the body of Joey Henderson, reviving the Ferndale strangler for one last shot at slaughtering everyone (whose contract is up) in sight.
Maybe Waverly and Nick will return from Taranaki, poor and desperate for work, and start pedaling recovered Extract 7 to Leanne, who’ll then seduce Nick and together with him steal Nicole and Vinnie’s baby and leave for Japan.
Whatever happens, I’ll be parked in front of the TV next year waiting for the next turn in our own, wonderful, wacky soap.