TV Week
15th November 1986

There are rumours of a Wandin Valley wedding for Alex, but who’ll be the lucky man?

Rumours are rife that there are plans for a big A Country Practice wedding next year and Dr Alex Fraser (Diane Smith) will be the bride, but the identity of her groom remains something of a mystery.

And while Diane and her two most eligible “suitors” — Shane Porteous, who plays Dr Terence Elliott, and Mark Owen-Taylor (schoolteacher Peter Manning) — are happy to talk about directions their characters might take, they remain somewhat coy about the subject of Alex walking down the aisle.

Diane says there is a lot more she would like to do with her character before the producers of A Country Practice start planning Alex’s wedding — even though TV WEEK knows they already have.

“She’s a professional woman and so there are so many good stories to pursue,” Diane says.

“Also there are a few past lovers to rear their heads yet. I must admit I really liked the way Judy Loveday (Wendy Strehlow) was never married off.”

And Mark, whose Peter Manning character is desperately trying to win Dr Alex’s heart at the moment, adds, “Anyway, there’s the thrill of the chase.”

Diane and Mark, the show’s newest regulars along with Caroline Johannson as Donna Manning, have immensely enjoyed working together.

“We virtually just act off each other,” Mark says. “It’s very easy.”

They met for the first time while screen testing for the series and say something just clicked between them.

“That’s when I knew in my heart,” Mark says with a laugh. “Seriously, though, Diane was the only actress who really touched me at the audition.”

Now the two are getting a lot of fun out of their on-screen conflict as one character pursues the other — so far with no result.

“It’s difficult to say what their relationship is based on,” Mark says. “I’m infatuated with her and won’t let go. The conflict is good and something to work with.” Diane adds: “Their backgrounds are very different, but deep down she thinks he’s cute.

“At the moment, though, her work is her priority. That’s her prime motivation.”

And it’s Alex’s work that brings her into such close contact with Dr Elliott, who hasn’t been all that lucky in love since his marriage fell apart.

Diane and Shane Porteous acknowledge that their characters are “fond” of one another.

Of course there is the utmost respect one has for the other’s skills as a doctor and, not to put too fine a point on it, Terence thinks Alex is quite gorgeous.

“But with his track record he’s unlikely to try anything,” Shane says, pondering the prospect of combining personal and professional relationships.

“But there is a torch smouldering away, I think. He feels very protective, not that Alex needs much protection.

“However, he’d quite like her to need protection and he can get quietly browned-off because she doesn’t.”

Diane agrees and adds: “I think Alex sees something gorgeous in Dr Elliott. He is, after all, the big boss and as far as Alex is concerned I’m sure she has him way, way up on a pedestal.”

Only the writers can map the futures of the three characters. Over the past year A Country Practice has had an injection of new characters such as Alex and Peter, and Terence has been given a fillip with stronger, more interesting storylines.

There was a time when Shane felt the character had become sluggish and lacklustre and wondered whether it was worth continuing.

“Only sometimes I felt like that, particularly towards the end of last year when I was very, very tired,” he says.

“This year, fortunately, I’m not but at one stage last year there were a lot of storylines that were similar. All Terence seemed to be doing was telling people they were dying — week in, week out.

“It felt depressing. Every time you were on screen you knew someone was going to drop.”

Shane says the highlight of this year has been working with young Lisa Rhodes in dramatic episOdes about child abuse.

“When I first read the script I thought, ‘Where do you find a kid who can do all this?’ but as soon as Lisa started to play the part I sensed there was something exciting,” Shane says.

“That development of my character was a big challenge, too, and if anyone was nervous at first it was me.”

Original content copyright TV Week.