The following article was written by Chris Eades for Soaps In Depth’s website. To view the original article, click here.
Over the years, Marlena Evans has been through so much on DAYS OF OUR LIVES that it seems like she’s unstoppable. From devil possession to plane crashes to mind control, she’s been through it all and come out the other side even stronger! The character was introduced in 1976 when Deidre Hall joined the soap, and aside from a couple of brief breaks, she has played the role ever since!
Dr. Marlena Evans first appeared as one of Mickey Horton’s psychiatrists at University Hospital in Salem. She fell in love with Don Craig, but her jealous twin sister, Samantha, had Marlena institutionalized and impersonated her to try and steal her man. It didn’t work, and Marlena and Don were ultimately married. Their son, DJ, was born premature and died of SIDS which caused a rift between them that led to his cheating on her and later, divorce.
After starting her own radio show, Marlena was stalked by the Salem Strangler, which led to her meeting Detective Roman Brady. The Salem Strangler killed Samantha, believing her to be Marlena, and Roman put a stop to the serial killer. When the couple became engaged, his estranged wife, Anna, caused trouble but eventually granted him a divorce. Marlena and Roman were married and she gave birth to twins Eric and Sami Brady. Tragically, Roman was believed dead after being shot by Stefano DiMera.
Marlena fell in love with her new patient, an amnesiac named John Black who she eventually believed to be Roman back from the dead. After nearly dying from a fall while trying to talk down a suicidal jumper, Marlena and Roman remarried but the villain Orpheus took revenge on Roman by kidnapping her and faking her death. Roman took down Orpheus, but before he could rescue Marlena, she was killed in a plane crash.
In reality, Marlena survived and was held captive by Stefano DiMera on an island. She found her way back to Salem and reunited with Roman, but then the real Roman returned, and it turned out John Black was a brainwashed pawn of Stefano’s. Although Marlena and Roman reunited, she couldn’t resist her feelings for John, and their affair resulted in the birth of a daughter, Belle. Upon learning the truth, Roman divorced Marlena and left town. Her personality began changing drastically, and it was revealed that Stefano had given Marlena mind-altering drugs and she was now possessed by the devil! John, who was a priest at the time (don’t ask!) helped bring her back to normal. A jealous Kristen DiMera did everything she could to come between John and Marlena, but even bringing Roman back into the picture didn’t work and John and Marlena were finally married in 1999.
John was shocked when the serial killer nicknamed The Salem Stalker was revealed to be Marlena, and she was shot dead by police. Thankfully, she and all her “victims” were found alive on a deserted island and it turned out she had been brainwashed by Andre DiMera into committing the “murders.” Marlena reunited with John, but then learned she was pregnant with Roman’s child, having slept with him while stranded on the island. A fall down the stairs didn’t just cause a miscarriage, it gave Marlena amnesia, and she fell in love with specialist Alex North, who claimed to be her first husband, presumed dead in Vietnam. Thankfully, John discovered the truth that Alex was planning to kill her and rescued his love.
Marlena was devastated when John died after being hit by a car, but it turned out Stefano had abducted him to brainwash him into being a super-soldier. After his rescue, Marlena helped him to remember his past and they discovered that the Brady/DiMera feud was sparked because John is the child of Colleen Brady and Stefano’s father, Santo DiMera. Distressed at John’s obsession with the DiMera empire, Marlena left him. Dr. Charlotte Taylor claimed to be helping John recover his memories, but she really wanted to kill Marlena. In his rescue attempt, John was gravely injured by Charlotte and though he regained his memories, he found he was paralyzed. Marlena reunited with John and they left for Switzerland in 2009 so he could seek treatment.
When John and Marlena returned to Salem in 2011, he was fully recovered but then was framed for embezzlement. Marlena helped clear his name, but then they learned their marriage was invalid because John had married Hope Brady while brainwashed. Marlena was wary when Kristen returned claiming to have reformed and tried to prevent her from marrying Brady. But the tape they played at the wedding of Kristen cheating on Brady revealed the other man was Marlena’s son, Eric!
Marlena reconciled with John but they had some tension when her grandson, Will Horton, cheated on his husband, Sonny, with John’s son, Paul Narita. While in Italy, Marlena ran into Kristen and when the two fought with each other, it turned physical, and Kristen fell out a window to her presumed death. Marlena’s look-alike, Hattie Adams, had Marlena committed to Bayview Sanitarium and tried to take over her life, but thankfully she was rescued before receiving electroshock therapy.
John and Marlena planned to remarry in a romantic ceremony but Sami’s unexpected appearance, followed by that of Kristen, led to a standoff where Marlena was accidentally shot while Eric tried to get the gun out of his sister’s hands! She made it through surgery, but septic shock afterward left her in a coma. When Belle discovered her mother had a DNR, she insisted that despite everyone else’s protests, they honor Marlena’s wishes and take her off the ventilator. Everyone was relieved when they unplugged the machine and Marlena woke up, but only John, Kayla, and Roman knew that they’d swapped Marlena with Hattie to give her time to recover on her own!
While Marlena eventually got better and officially re-tied the knot with John, the honeymoon period came to an abrupt end with the return of his ex, Diana Colville. Determined to get John back, Diana poisoned Marlena and left her to die! After another near-death experience, Marlena bounced back and continued to treat Salem’s troubled like Claire and Ben.
After a year went by in the blink of an eye, she was tired of Hope making moves on John, but then learned that she had been once again brainwashed into being Princess Gina! Worse, Steve Johnson made an unexpected return to Salem, but with Stefano’s brain running the show! Eventually, “Stevano” abducted Marlena and forced Dr. Rolf to install a microchip in her brain so that she would become his willing slave!