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Dorothy "Dot" Branning (née Colwell, previously Cotton) was the mother of criminal Nick Cotton, the widow of both Charlie Cotton and Jim Branning and the grandmother of Charlie, Ashley and Dotty Cotton. Dot was a long-standing Albert Square resident. The character is portrayed by June Brown and made her first appearance on 4 July 1985 and her last on 21 January 2020.

Backstory

Dot was born in Walford, and was evacuated to Wales as a child during the Second World War. Her guardians, Gwen and Will, wished to adopt her, but Dot returned to Walford after Will's death and spent the remainder of her childhood helping her neglectful mother care for her younger half-siblings: Gerry, Tim and Rose Cotton.

At the age of eighteen, Dot married Charlie Cotton. The following year, Charlie forced her to have an abortion; threatening to leave her if she did not - but ended up leaving anyway. She told Pauline Fowler that she had a name ready for her daughter, Gwen, which is presumably after her guardian during the war. While Dot was giving birth to their son, Nick Cotton, Charlie was having an affair with her sister, Rose, in Liverpool. She raised Nick alone, with Charlie making unannounced returns and departures sporadically, and although Dot doted on Nick, she was not an affectionate mother.

Storylines

1985-1993: Life in Albert Square and trouble with Nick

Dot is introduced as the gossiping, chain smoking, Christian friend of Ethel Skinner and Lou Beale who works with Pauline Fowler at the Launderette on Bridge Street.

Dot was responsible for the break-up of Saeed Jeffery's marriage to Naima Jeffery. Due to the lack of lust in his marriage to Naima, Saeed begins visiting sex workers. After continual pressure, Naima relents and finally consummates her marriage to Saeed, improving things between the couple (their marriage was arranged to begin with, much to their disliking), but their marital bliss is short-lived. Naima receives an anonymous letter from Dot, who has discovered Saeed's sordid exploits. Dot feels it is her Christian duty to inform Saeed's wife and, when Naima confronts Saeed, he does not deny it so she leaves him.

Dot often endures the troubles of Nick. He is involved in drugs, robberies and murder and tries to cheat Dot out of her money. He attempts to poison her to inherit her bingo winnings, but is unsuccessful. Despite Nick's deeds, Dot believes he can be redeemed.

Dot also associates herself as Walford's Good Samaritan, often taking in residents when they are homeless. Amongst these include Colin Russell and Donna Ludlow, who becomes addicted to drugs. Dot believes that she can help Donna change for the better, but comes home one day to find Donna dead in her lounge. It is concluded that she died after choking on her own vomit and Dot is devastated.

In May 1989, Nick tells Dot during an off-screen prison visit that he is married to a woman called Hazel and that the couple have young daughter. Nick had avoided telling her due to their strained relationship. Hazel visits Dot with the baby, Dorothy Nicola, and revealed that Nick got 240 hours of community service instead of a prison sentence. However, this is revealed to be a lie as Charlie follows Hazel and finds that the baby is actually her niece, Katy Joanna. Dot refuses to believe him at first but Hazel is forced to admit she has been lying.

In 1993, Nick's girlfriend Zoe Newton arrives in Walford and introduces Dot to their nine-year-old son, Ashley Cotton. Dot becomes close to Ashley and eventually Zoe asks her to move to Gravesend with them. Dot then leaves Albert Square.

1997-2002: Return, helping Ethel and marrying Jim Branning

Dot returns nearly four years later when Nigel Bates tracks her down. She reveals that Nick has been arrested for drugs possession and Zoe and Ashley have moved away. After being held hostage by a convict friend of Nick, she returns to the Square and is shocked when Nick returns unexpectedly. He tries to steal her money again by claiming he has AIDS and needs money to pay for illegally imported medication. Dot believes him, but later discovers it is a lie and he is on the run from the police. She contacts the police and he is arrested a week after his return.

Dot moves in with fellow senior citizen Lilly Mattock and is arrested for the illegal use of cannabis - which she confuses for herbal tea. When Lilly leaves after she is mugged, Dot moves in with Pauline.

In 2000, Ethel returns to Albert Square and stays with the Fowlers for a time, having become terminally ill. Ethel begs Dot to help her end her life. Torn between her Christian beliefs against euthanasia and her best friend's wishes, she helps Ethel to die, but later feels she should be jailed for murder. When the police do not believe her story, Dot demands retribution in another form and she ends up in court for shoplifting. She initially avoids a prison sentence but is imprisoned for 14 days for contempt of court following an outburst in the courtroom.

When Dot reappears from the Square after serving her sentence, she learns that Nick has also been released from prison. She goes to stay with Pauline's son Mark Fowler for a while and at some point encounters Ashley after he runs away from home.

Eventually, Nick himself returns and reunites with Dot – who is shocked to see her son once more. Initially sceptical over Nick's previous criminality, Dot is pleased to have her family around and moves out of the Fowler household to live with them. Mark, however, is unimpressed due to his longstanding feud with Nick and the two end up clashing with each other on multiple occasions.

On New Year's Day 2001, Mark spikes Nick's drink and causes him to fall off a railway bridge in revenge for the trouble he has caused to his family. Nick vows revenge and calls the police on Mark, before telling Dot about the incident. At first she accuses Mark, but later believes his story and the pair work together to deal with Nick's temporarily paralysis. Months later, Nick's feud with Mark leads him to cut the breaks on Mark's motorbike in an attempt to kill his rival. However, Ashley unknowingly takes the bike instead and ends up crashing the motorbike at the launderette in front of his family and the Fowlers. Ashley is confirmed to have died and Dot is devastated. On the night before Ashley's funeral, Dot is horrified to learn that her son is responsible for Ashley's death upon overhearing Nick telling Mark about this during another confrontation between them. The following day, Ashley's funeral takes place and Dot later confronts Nick over the fact that he caused Ashley's death. She then disowns Nick, telling him that he is no longer her son, and he leaves Albert Square in disgrace.

By then, Dot has been establishing a relationship with her neighbour Jim Branning, who had become close to her after Ashley’s death. He soon proposes to her, but she is overwhelmed and leaves Walford in response to this. Jim perseveres and when they go on the London Eye one Christmas Eve, he proposes again and she accepts. They decide that they will have a platonic marital relationship.

2003-2009: Married life, health problems and meeting Dotty

Dot is diagnosed with kidney cancer and decides not to tell anyone except her friend Dennis Rickman. She initially refuses treatment and plans to die quietly, but is eventually persuaded to undergo chemotherapy and makes a full recovery.

In 2007, Dot finds an abandoned baby, Tomas Covalenco, in a church, she takes him home, leaving her contact details at the church and subsequently Tomas' mother Anya Covalensco arrives in Walford, revealing that she is an illegal immigrant. Jim anonymously reports Anya and when she is deported, Dot hides Tomas from the authorities, vowing to take care of him. Dot and Jim struggle to look after the baby and, after talking to the local vicar and her old friend Doctor Harold Legg, Dot decides to hand him over to Social Services.

Jim suffers a stroke, leaving him seriously ill. Jim is placed in a nursing home, but Dot struggles with this decision and tries at a later date to care for Jim at home. However, she finds being a full-time carer exhausting and lonely. Eventually, after Dot experiences ill-health brought on by stress, Jim moves back to a nursing home.

At Christmas 2008, Nick turns up, claiming that he has changed and is now a plumber. Dot ends up believing Nick when he introduces her to his six-year-old daughter Dotty Cotton, thus disclosing that his mother now has a granddaughter. Although Dot promptly bonds with Dotty, she continues to remain apprehensive towards Nick and quickly learns that he is once again exploiting their reconciliation for her. She refuses to pay him, so Nick responds by telling his mother that she either relents or cannot see Dotty again. This causes Dot to give Nick the money and he in turn allows her to look after Dotty. It soon transpires, however, that Nick is plotting to kill Dot for her life insurance – and that Dotty is secretly involved with her father's plan. They convince Dot that she has symptoms of dementia but their plan backfires when Dotty exposes the plot. In a rage, Nick holds various members of the community hostage in the café, resulting in an explosion. Nick survives and heads back home to find Dot expecting his arrival. She renounces Nick as her son and orders him to leave for good. Nick does, but not before informing his mother that Dotty had masterminded the murder plot in the first place.

2010-2012: Friendship with Arthur Chubb and reunion with Rose Cotton

In February 2010, Dotty is retrieved by her mother, Sandy Gibson, following various devious deeds – such as accusing Dot of beating her that leads to Dot getting arrested and being questioned by the police for child abuse. Dot is released without charge and is distraught to see Dotty leave Walford.

Dot develops a friendship with fellow church choir leader Edward Bishop, who develops romantic intentions towards her. Dot turns Edward down, remaining loyal to her husband. She also strikes up a friendship Arthur 'Fatboy' Chubb and lets him lodge at her house.

In 2011, Dot takes a trip to Southend and reunites with her half-sister Rose. She discovers that Rose has a son called Andrew Cotton. After a frosty reunion, the sisters make up and Rose moves to Albert Square with Dot.

After the death of her friend, Heather Trott, Dot leaves Walford in May 2012 to stay with Dotty and Sandy for a while.

2013-2015: House, meeting Charlie, Nick's return and death and Jim's death

Dot returns home in January 2013, promising Jim that she would look after the family. Dot faces problems with the council for failing to pay the rent, leaving her in arrears. Dot is taken to court but manages to persuade the judge to allow her to keep her home and avoids a prison sentence. Fatboy later allows his girlfriend Poppy Meadow to move in with him and Dot and Dot forms a close bond with Poppy. When Fatboy and Poppy break up and Poppy moves out, Fatboy gently assures Dot that she and Poppy are still friends. Fatboy continues to live with Dot and they enjoy a great friendship.

In 2014, Dot receives a police visit, informing her that Nick has died. One of the police officers returns later to tell her that he is actually her grandson Charlie Cotton, whose existence she never found out about. A devastated Dot holds a funeral for Nick and grows close to Charlie in the aftermath as he moves in with Dot, causing Fatboy to move out. However, it is later revealed that Charlie is being dishonest and although he is Nick's son, he is not a policeman but a caretaker and that he has helped Nick stage his own death to avoid being arrested following a robbery. Nick reappears in Walford to Dot's shock and persuades his mother to hide him at her house. Although horrified that Charlie and Nick lied to her, she forgives Charlie and agrees to aid Nick's escape from the UK, this time for good. However, Nick later realises that he does not want to leave and gets embroiled in a feud with Charlie's fiancée, Ronnie Mitchell, who tries and fails to ensure his departure. This leads to Nick tampering with the brakes of Charlie's car and the resulting crash leaves a pregnant Ronnie comatose in hospital. When Charlie discovers this, he demands that Nick leave, and as Charlie moves out to live at Ronnie's flat, Fatboy moves back in with Dot.

Dot is unwilling to give up on her son and hides Nick in a derelict neighbouring house. Unable to leave the premises, Nick starts using heroin again but cannot feed his drug addiction and asks Dot to obtain drugs for him. Dot purchases the heroin but Fatboy catches her and urges her to cut ties with Nick. Dot urges Nick to confess to the police, but when he tells her he is unwilling to take responsibility for Ronnie's injuries, she gives him the drugs and storms out. Dot later finds Nick unconscious, having had a bad reaction to the drugs, and it soon becomes clear to her that Nick is dying. Once he awakens, Nick accuses Dot of raising him wrong and the pair start recapping on his role behind Ronnie's injuries – before bringing up his past misdemeanours such as when Nick killed Eddie Royle and later caused Ashley's death whilst trying to kill Mark. Despite these facts, Dot remains adamant to see the best in Nick until he confesses to the one crime he never told her about - the murder of her old friend Reg Cox, who was alleged to have died by accident nearly three decades ago. Horrified to have learned that it was Nick who killed Reg Cox all along, Dot brands her son evil and slaps him when he insults her. Nick then endures another affect of his drugging and requests his mother to phone an ambulance, to which she appears reluctant to do. Dot nonetheless complies, but stops at the last second and again contemplates on her decision.

Dot admits to Nick that she does feel responsible for making him the monster that he is and starts lecturing over the trouble he caused in Walford ever since he killed Reg Cox. It is then revealed that Dot never called the ambulance in the end, but instead prayed to let the circumstances decide whether Nick should live or die. As he takes his last breaths and accepting his fate, Nick apologises to Dot for all the trouble he caused for her and asks her to forgive him. Dot tells Nick to seek Jesus for forgiveness and watches as Nick ultimately succumbs to the overdose and dies in front of her.

When Nick's dead body is later discovered, Dot wishes to accept punishment for this decides to confess to the police. She is later charged with Nick's murder and subsequently imprisoned. Dot initially decides to plead guilty, believing she should atone for her sins in prison, but when Jim dies, she attends his funeral and realises how much her family needs her. She changes her plea and is cleared of murder at the court hearing. However, she is found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to prison for 14 months.

Four months later, Dot is released and shares her regret with Ian Beale that she did not report Nick's crimes earlier in life. Fatboy tells Dot that he is spending Christmas with his father but later Vincent Hubbard discovers Fatboy's belongings amongst some blood in the boot of a crushed car and tells Dot that Fatboy is not coming back because of a job abroad.

2016-2019: Retirement, loneliness and returning health problems

Dot takes salsa classes and works with Patrick Trueman to prepare for a salsa show, who mistakenly thinks she wants a relationship, but she actually sets him and Claudette Hubbard up on a date.

Dot receives a wedding invitation from her old friend, Colin, but she does not want to attend because she does not believe in homosexual marriage. Colin visits her on his wedding day to persuade her to come, which she does.

Dot discovers the launderette will become a dry cleaner and is interviewed for her own job - she struggles with the technical terminology but defends herself as a people person. However, she is told that she will not be kept on after the launderette is refurbished. She tries to contact her boss by telephone but when she finally gets through, he hangs up.

Ricky Mitchell learns about the harvest festival and leaves a box of food on Dot's doorstep, which offends her as she does not believe she is poor or lonely. However, she realises just how lonely she is when Abi Branning is unable to have dinner with her.

Dot and Kim Fox-Hubbard are involved in a car collision, but they both blame the other as Kim has no licence but Kim accuses Dot of being too old to drive. Dot then locks her car key away. After Patrick and Dot go to the cinema together, he convinces her to see an optician because she was squinting throughout.

Dot is seen hiding away in her house on Halloween and Patrick comes to talk to her. Dot says her hatred of Halloween is due to awful things happening on Halloween, such as Stacey Fowler getting electrocuted and Max Branning getting run over. She then tries to read the Bible to Patrick but cannot see the words. Patrick tells her that she isn't scared of Halloween, but of the world. Dot reveals that she thinks she is going blind but then kicks Patrick out of the house. When he leaves, it is revealed that Dot cannot see anything clearly. Patrick books Dot a doctor's appointment; the doctor suspects age-related macular degeneration, which is later confirmed. Dot starts treatment but she is annoyed that her eyesight does not improve much. She turns down Ronnie's offer of paying for surgery to permanently fix her sight.

Abi invites Dot to spend Christmas in Exeter but Dot insists that she has plans of her own. The launderette closes on Christmas Eve, but everyone is too busy to visit her. She finds a Christmas mixtape recorded by Heather and she takes in a stray cat, which she eventually names Dave. She spends Christmas Day alone, but when Patrick realises she has not gone to Exeter, he invites her to the Queen Vic where everyone is celebrating Christmas. Her neighbours present her with the gift of a washing machine.

When Ronnie and her sister Roxy Mitchell die on New Year's Day 2017, Dot explains to grandchildren Amy Mitchell, Ricky and Matthew Mitchell-Cotton that Ronnie and Roxy have gone to heaven. She tries to help them understand after widowed Jack Branning struggles to find an appropriate way to tell them.

When Jack is unable to take Dot to the garden centre, she decides to drive herself with Matthew but drives through a no entry sign into oncoming traffic and ends up in the verge. Dot is surprised when Charlie returns but he is only back for his son and she is upset when he leaves again with Matthew.

Dot trips over Dave and falls awkwardly onto a chair. Nobody knows she is injured until her step-granddaughter, Sonia Fowler, finds her. Dot is then taken to hospital and Sonia blames her neighbours for not looking out her and scolds Sharon Watts and Ian. Dot is worried when the doctor tells her that she will need an operation on her hip but she refuses physiotherapy.

Dot goes to stay with Dotty for three months, returning to Walford in January 2018 when she hears that Abi is brainstem dead after falling from the roof of the Vic on Christmas Day 2017. Dot is surprised to see the launderette had reopened, with Karen Taylor now working there. After attending Abi's funeral, Dot goes to stay with Charlie, Liz and Matthew in Ireland.

Dot returns several months later. She is worried about her health and, despite being told by her doctor that she is fine, she visits Doctor Legg. He confirms that she is in good health and reveals that he is dying of pancreatic cancer. Dot is shocked that he is refusing treatment but eventually accepts his decision and decides to make the most of the time they have left together. Dot cares for Doctor Legg in her home until his death in February 2019. She inherits his entire estate and goes away to visit her family.

2020-2022 Final return, Saying goodbye, Mentions and Death

Dot returns with Dotty and she buys her council house with her inherited money. She later discovers that an attempt to take £5,000 out of her bank account has failed. It is revealed that Sonia tried to take the money. Sonia is later blackmailed after Martin Fowler is involved in a hit-and-run and she successfully steals £8,000 from Dot when Dot signs a blank cheque for Sonia to pay for some baby clothes she bought for the baby that Charlie and his wife are now expecting. Dot tells Sonia that this money was stolen and when Sonia tells Martin what she did, Martin tells Dot that he took the money. Sonia convinces Dot to visit Charlie again in Ireland. Dot leaves Walford in January 2020 and decides to stay in Ireland.

In November Dotty goes to Ireland to visit Dot. In January 2021 Sonia struggles to cope with work and decides to take time off and stay with Dot for four months.

On 1 December 2022, Sonia finds out that Dot had passed away the day before, aged eighty-six. Dot's funeral is held on 12 December 2022 attended by many including family and friends, including some old faces such as Colin, George 'Lofty' Holloway, Mary Smith and Disa O'Brien.

Kill count

Connected murders and deaths

  1. Ethel Skinner (7 September 2000) (Assisted suicide) - Reluctantly helps her dying best friend commit suicide by drug overdose.
  2. Nick Cotton (13 February 2015) (Negligent homicide) - Accidently gives him impure heroine, However upon discovering just how evil Nick is, she leaves him to die.

Resident history

Address Years
Walford Towers Unknown to 1986
23A Albert Square 1986-1987
25 Albert Square 1987-1993; 2001-2012; 2013-2020
43A Albert Square 2000-2001
Galway, Ireland 2020-2022

Quotes


  • Voiceover (last lines in the show): I read this thing in the paper. It said that if the whole of the time since the world began was a toilet roll and anyone who rolled it and laid it out, your life would be less than the width of a hair, right at the very end. Shows you where we are in the scheme of things; less than a width of an hair. And how do we spend that time? So, I reckon Ethel had the right idea. Enjoy the time you’ve got; it’s over in the blink of an eye." (12 December 2022)

Notes

  • Although Dot had been referred to since the very early episodes of the programme as the mother of villain Nick Cotton, she did not actually appear on-screen until Episode 40 (broadcast on 4 July 1985). 
  • Dot was conceptualised by show creators, Tony Holland and Julia Smith, along with the other original characters.
  • June Brown was offered the part of Dot Cotton for a period of three months initially and in her own words, she was brought in "merely to be Nick Cotton's mother because Nick was coming back again". Brown has told Decca Aitkenhead of The Guardian in 2009 that she was wary of joining a soap opera as she had seen EastEnders once on television, "and there was an argument going on, and I thought, 'Oh, I don't want to watch all that,' so I switched it off. I didn't watch it again until I was asked to be in it." The role was extended and the character has become one of the longest-running to have featured in EastEnders.
  • To become the character of Dot Cotton, Brown was required to wear a wig to replicate Dot's 1950s "Italian Boy" hairstyle that had remained in a largely unchanged style when she first appeared in 1985. Originally, the hair sported by Dot actually belonged to the actress, but Brown later started wearing a wig. Brown stated that as soon as Dot's hairpiece is on, she becomes the character. The unchanged style of Dot was deemed so important by the programme makers, that when Brown requested to have dental work carried out to improve her prominent front teeth, the producers refused to allow it, arguing that Dot could not afford expensive tooth capping. Brown was not permitted to alter her teeth until early 1991 when they became loose. Brown indicated that she didn't want Dot's style altered. She claimed in 2002 that Dot had the same coats in her wardrobe that she was given in 1985. The fur-collared coat Dot wears for special occasions was donated by the character Angie Watts (Anita Dobson) in 1988 when she left the serial. Brown commented, "I like the older clothes [...] I don't want new clothes, I'm happy the way she is. She thinks she looks really smart. She's got a terrible opinion of herself that woman!"
  • Describing Dot, Brown had said, "I love playing her – she's a strong character. Dear old Dot, she's got strong moral views and odd religious beliefs, but her heart's in the right place. She has that awful worried expression on her face the whole time". Brown noted the changes within Dot since the show's inception, saying that initially Dot was sharp and selfish, but when her character remarried in 2002, she had gained security and had "no reason to have the hypochondria she had in the past [...] She's become more caring over the years. She enjoys the company of young people. She loves her church. She can get in an anxious state – I like it when Dot's hysterical! She's also amusing, mostly because she doesn't realise she is".
  • As well as being tragic, Dot is scripted as a comic character. Brown has discussed the humour she incorporates into her performances: "I think Dot would be awfully boring if she weren't a bit comic [...] I always thought I had to put an edge on it, an edge of comedy, which just means doing it more seriously than you would do. If you want to play comedy then you have to be very intense about it [...] very, very serious."
  • Some of Dot's catchphrases are used for humour, such as, "Ooh I say!", uttered when she is "stuck for words". In 2004, Brown discussed the origin of the saying: "It was written once in the script and I quite enjoyed it, so I used to say it occasionally when it wasn't in the scripts. It was useful because it could be said in all different ways. Dot's very straight-laced, so it helped to express her horror at what went on." Brown revealed in 2008 that she has tried to cut down the use of this, along with the mispronunciation of her employer, Mr Papadopoulos, as she has become a little embarrassed by them now they are so known. Mr. Papadopoulos is the owner of the launderette where Dot works. In a long-running joke, Dot has difficulty pronouncing his surname, and for much of the show's history he has been referred to as Mr. 'Oppodopolus', 'Oppydoppy', or varying other mispronunciations. Brown has said she enjoys playing the comical aspects of Dot, stating, "She's not dreadfully funny but she's amusing and I like that because it lightens it up a bit."
  • Smoking cigarettes has become synonymous with Dot, and Brown has suggested that the habit is "intrinsic" to the character. Following the 2007 England smoking ban, it was reported in the Daily Mail that the BBC were refusing to prohibit the character from smoking on-screen despite the act being banned in workplaces, as they have "to portray real life – and people smoke". Dot's smoking was criticised by private healthcare company Bupa in 2008, when they rated her television's most unhealthy character. They suggest that, in order to spread a public message, Dot should appear breathless, not with "implausibly good health". They added, "Though Dot Cotton has a smoker's voice – deeper than you might expect, she does not seem to be short of breath or wheezy" and that viewers would be influenced by this. However, Dot's smoking has been described by broadcasting watchdogs Ofcom as "justified in the context of the programme as a representation of an East End character" and they therefore stipulate that enforcement of broadcast smoking-sanctions would be unlikely on EastEnders.
  • Although originally having homophobic views due to her Christian beliefs; she later softens and becomes more accepting to the LGBT community. June Brown, herself an ally to the LGBT community, stated Dot’s views were similar to hers before she began to be more supporting. She was also amused by the fact that Dot had become a popular gay icon, as well as a popular drag queen choice.
  • Upon her arrival, Dot was quickly established as the gossip, whose purpose, as author Anthony Slide sees it, was "that of a Greek chorus, commenting on the foibles of her fellow residents of Albert Square, from her vantage point as manager of the local launderette".
  • An enduring friendship featured in EastEnders was the one shared between the characters Dot Cotton and Ethel Skinner, first shown on-screen in 1985 and ending with Ethel's death in 2000, though the characters shared a backstory set prior to 1985 and were scripted as neighbours who grew old together in East London, along with Lou Beale.

See also

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