Some of them may have picked up having remembered past character info. But others may have written a script for an episode and forgotten that a past character birthday, backstory etc had already been mentioned and when the scripts were signed off the producer)s) did not pick up on it. Also the production team was not too concerned with backhistory.
Also this is not just historical continuity errors but continuity errors in scenes such as the continuity of someones movements is out of place, see Jackie Merrick and Teddy Hooson fight for an example. And the one underneath. This is so known as bad editing.
Here is a list of continuity errors in Emmerdale over the years, and some of my own theories, which are highlighted in bold:-
- In 1972 when Jack Sugden returned to the village he found a large old mill house outside the village at the bottom of a steep ridge next to a large river and made it his home. He left in October 1973 and when he made a brief return in April 1976 he was saddened to hear that the mill had been demolished. In 1986 builder Phil Pearce took an interest in the old mill and the time when Jack used to live in the mill in 1972 to 1974 was referred to. But in 1976 it was said the mill had been demolished. The surroundings and look of the mill in 1986 did not match that of the 1972 building. In 1995 when Chris Tate and Rachel Hughes moved into it, the mill was said to be just outside the village, and since 1998 the mill has been at the bottom end of Emmerdale Village Main Street. However the look of the mill has remained since 1986 as when the purpose built set was built, the production team copied the real building they had used in 1986.
- In 1984, Alan's wife Jill turned up and it was stated that she and Alan had two children, Terence and Mary, both in full-time education. Jill was concerned that Alan was not paying the education fees of his chldren, and stated that as he never saw them, he could at least pay for their educations. In 1985 Alan Turner's wayward son Terence, an Oxford undergraduate turned up. He stated that he was 20 in a 1985 episode, and both Alan and Jill referred to him being 19 in 1984. He left in 1986. When he returned in 2006 he was meant to be aged about 53 or 54. This was a deliberate continuity error though as in 2002 Alan's daughter Stephanie Stokes nee Turner turned up. Stephanie's full name was Mary Stephanie Stokes, and her age had been altered, too. She turned 50 in July 2003 making her year of birth 1953, so she would not have been at school in 1984, as in the original story-line. If Steph was born in 1953 then Terence was probably born 1952 making him 32 or 33 in 1985 as opposed to 20 which was the age the character originally was back then. Such age tweakings are quite common in soaps, history being rewritten to suit the needs of a new story-line. One theory is Terence was lying about his age in 1985 and pretending to be much younger than what he was to get into uni, but this is highly unlikely as both Alan and Jill mention that Terence was 19 in 1984. And in 2006, despite the age alteration, when Terence returned, the time he lived in the village in 1985 was referred to and his affair with Sandie was mentioned by Jack.
- In 2004 when Tom King made his first appearance he mentioned that he had lived in the village several years before and was keen to return. Charity Tate found a photograph of Tom in 1980 in the village cricket team and had it enlarged. The photo featured a younger Tom King and also Alan Turner and they were holding up a sign saying "Emmerdale Cricket Team, 1980". The younger faces of the actors who play Tom and Alan were superimposed onto the faces of people in the photo as was the sign they were holding up. Funny as Alan Turner did not appear until March 1982 and no mention of him living in the village beforehand was given. And Emmerdale was called Beckindale in 1980. Alan Turner had not visited Beckindale before 1982, and stated that fact when he arrived. The villagers all treated him as a stranger and some were suspicious of this "outsider from down South". However, having looked at the episodes myself I cannot see any indication they were holding up a sign yet there was writing on the bottom which may have been added by Charity for authenticity and she was unaware the village was called Beckindale in 1980 and that Alan Turner did not live there until 1982.
- In 1972 we saw Tom Merrick, his wife Ruth and their children Jackie, Sandie and Tommy for 6 episodes in November 1972. The Merrick's left the village to move to Leeds. In 1980 Ruth, Jackie and Sandie Merrick returned to the village but Ruth was now called Pat which I shall explain in detail in the next paragraph. And there was no mention whatsoever of the youngest child Tommy Merrick. Tommy was said to be 4 in 1972. He was written out of existence. No reference was made to him when the family returned. Tom Merrick returned in December 1980 and he had a full head of hair. When he left the village in 1972 he was balding on top. Although he may have had alopecia in 1972 and his hair grew back in 1980.
- And the personality of Tom had been changed. In 1972 he was seen as a lazy and sly sluggish type character, yet when he returned in 1980 he was a sneering and menacing whirlwind, nothing like the original Tom. And in 1972 he said he moved to Beckindale 8 years ago yet in 1982 Amos said Tom lived in Beckindale when he first arrived in the village (1950s) and Tom and his widowed mother lived next door to the Harkers. However his 1972 duration was referred to a few times. It could be Tom moved away in about 1958 and returned in 1964.
- Pat Merrick returned to Beckindale in 1980 with 2 children, whereas she had 3 in 1972 and no mention or reference was made to the 3rd child. Ruth returned to the village briefly in January 1974 and it was referenced that she only had 2 children, so the 3rd one was forgotten about even just over a year after she left Beckindale. But one of the biggest changes was she was called Ruth Marrick in 1972 and when she returned in 1980 Amos Brearly clocked them getting off the bus and he was surprised to see her and he said to himself "Pat" as he saw her get off the bus, and he mentioned that he had not seen her for 8 years. When Pat Merrick married Jack Sugden in 1982 we found that she was Patricia Ruth Merrick. So she was known as Ruth in 1972 and when she returned in 1980 she was known by her first name yet no indication was made to her wanting to be known by her first name.
- In 1984 Dolly Skilbeck said her illegitimate son would be 12 by now. In 1986 when he, Graham Lodsworth turned up in the village he was 18.
- In a 1973 episode Amos Brearly said he had grown up in Beckindale and went to school with Annie. From about 1976 onwards he said he originated in Bridlington. Amos used to later refer to his childhood in Bridlington. This remained consistent from then on.
- In 1973 Amos mentioned his brother Luke Brearly. Luke died in October that year. Amos mentioned that he was his ony sibling and several years later he mentioned a deceased brother. In 1982 Henry Wilks said to Amos how his brother is now dead. Yet in 1983 another brother Ezra Brearly turned up having never been mentioned before, meaning Amos would have had 2 brothers instead of the one he said he had.
- In 1973 (episode 25) Jack visits his father's (Jacob's) grave and the date of death is stated as 3rd July 1972. However, the official date of death in the programme notes is 10th October 1972. The date of death was subsequently altered to fit in with the transmission date of episode 1 (16th October 1972). Also we have seen a few scenes in the cemetery where we have seen Jacob's grave and it says he died 10 October 1972. Jacob's age had been subsequently altered too. On the gravestone shown in episode 25 he was stated as being 62 years old when he died. The gravestone erected in the Harewood village states him as 56 years old.
- In 1994 when Annie is in a coma following the plane crash, Jack & Sarah take newborn baby Victoria to see her in hospital and Jack, holding Victoria, says to Annie - "Here's your first granddaughter". In fact her first granddaughter was Sally (born in 1973), daughter of Matt & Peggy Skilbeck, who, along with her twin brother Sam, was killed in an accident on a level crossing in 1976. THEORY: Jack may have meant her first granddaughter who was alive at that time. Sally had sadly been dead 18 years and when Jack said that he probably meant first granddaughter in a long time or first one alive at that time.
- In 1978, Rev. Donald Hinton referred to his only daughter by the christian name Christine. However, when she came into the series in 1983, her christian name had been changed to Barbara. She may have been Christine Barbara or Barbara Christine Hinton.
- In a 1982 scene Jackie Merrick was arguing with Teddy Hooson and his hair was windswept. We then switched to a wider angle shot and his hair was neat and as the switch is just a split second there was not enough time for him to flick his hair.
- The 2005 episode featuring the funeral of Seth Armstrong, includes an example of bad edting. Alan Turner gives a speech in The Woolpack and then goes outside. Betty follows him outside. Then when the action cuts back inside The Woolpack, we can clearly see in the background that Alan is back inside the pub. Cut back to the outside of the pub and Alan is still outside with Betty.