Zoe Tate is the second child and only daughter of Frank and Jean Tate, mother of Jean Tate Jr., sister of Chris Tate, half-sister of Liam Hammond and James Tate and legal guardian of Joseph as well as Auntie to him and Noah Tate.
Zoe's family move to Beckindale, while she is at university studying to be a veterinary surgeon. Following her graduation, Zoe also moves to the village and finds employment at a surgery in Hotten. Zoe helps deliver Elsa Feldmann's baby and she becomes involved in a protest march for animal rights. Zoe leaves the village when she gets a job as a flying vet in New Zealand. She returns the following year and helps Frank with his drinking problem, which he developed during the breakdown of his marriage to Kim. Zoe has a one-night stand with Michael Feldmann and a fling with Archie Brooks. Zoe eventually tells Archie that she is gay. Zoe meets interior designer Emma Nightingale and they begin a relationship. Zoe is almost raped by Ken Adlington, but she fights him off and Emma tries to convince her to tell the police. Zoe refuses and Ken denies the attack happened. Frank gets revenge for Zoe by publicly humiliating Ken. Emma and Zoe decide to have a blessing. Emma's ex-girlfriend, Susie Wilde, turns up in the village and Zoe falls for her. Shortly after the blessing ceremony, Zoe leaves Emma for Susie. Zoe and Susie's relationship ends when Susie has an affair with another woman.
Zoe sets up a veterinary practice with Paddy Kirk. She is devastated when she discovers Frank has died. She begins dating Sophie Wright, her half-brother, James' nanny. Zoe resists Becky Cairns' advances and later develops a crush on truck driver, Frankie Smith. Chris is kidnapped by Liam Hammond, who reveals he is Frank's illegitimate child. Zoe rescues her brother and shoots Liam dead. Chris and Zoe try to cover up the crime and a jury reaches a verdict of lawful killing. Zoe then gets together with Frankie. Zoe is not happy when Chris moves Charity Dingle into Home Farm and gives her a job as his assistant. However, Charity and Zoe begin an affair, but when Zoe starts exhibiting obsessive behaviour towards Charity, it ends. Zoe starts blackmailing Charity, who confesses the affair to Chris. He chooses Charity over Zoe and she becomes depressed. Zoe then begins talking to her deceased father and she sets fire to the church. During one of her early schizophrenic episodes she ends up having sex with Scott Windsor but has no memory of the event.
Zoe is sectioned and diagnosed with schizophrenia. She also discovers she is pregnant, with no idea how it happened, and she considers having an abortion. After seeing the baby during a scan, Zoe changes her mind and decides to put the baby up for adoption instead. Zoe later chooses to keep her baby and she gives birth to a daughter named Jean. Zoe returns to work at the veterinary surgery in the village and she hires Chloe Atkinson to be Jean's nanny. When Zoe notices Jean is crying more often, she takes her to the hospital and is told that Jean has a couple of broken ribs. Syd Woolfe eventaully confesses that Jean's injuries occurred when he and Chloe took their eyes off her when they were together. Zoe immediately fires Chloe. Scott realises that he is Jean's father and when Zoe finds out she becomes convinced that he raped her. Ashley Thomas tells Zoe that she had in fact had sex with him before being diagnosed and Zoe accepts that she willingly had sex with Scott, albeit with no recollection of the incident.
Chris commits suicide and frames Charity for murder. Charity becomes aware that Zoe knows the truth and tries to seduce her. However, this does not change Zoe's mind and she testifies that Charity killed Chris. Charity is found guilty and sent to prison. She later gives birth to Zoe's nephew, Noah. Zoe, in her time of loneliness and feeling like her daughter should have a mother and father in her life has a very brief relationship with Scott, she tries to be romantic with him, but since she is obviously not attracted to him, she has an affair with Rachel Whatmore. Charity agrees to give Zoe custody of Noah for the evidence that Chris committed suicide. Zoe tries to adopt Noah, but she is refused permission. Noah is later returned to his mother. Zoe continues to run Home Farm and the businesses Chris left her, aided by estate manager Callum Rennie and nanny Effie Harrison. Zoe plans to emigrate to New Zealand with Jean and Joseph. Zoe takes revenge on Scott after she learns he was going to betray her and lets him think that they are going to reunite and when he proposes, she turns him down. Stating she would, rather "put needles in her eyes". Scott then attacks Zoe and attempts to rape her. Trying to defend herself, Zoe injects him with ketamine. When Scott falls unconscious, she injects him again and is later arrested.
Effie reveals her feelings for Zoe and shortly before she is due to stand trial, Zoe plans to run away with her and the children. At the airport, Sadie King appears and blackmails Zoe into returning home and selling Home Farm to her at a reduced price. When Zoe returns home, Effie pleads with her to understand, but Zoe punches her. She stands trial for attempted murder and is freed when Paddy reveals that Scott was angry on the night of the attack and had threatened him. Zoe packs up Home Farm and plans to leave with Callum, who refuses to stay behind with the Kings. Zoe and Callum break a gas pipe and set a timer to go off just as Tom, Jimmy and Max King arrive. Callum stops the car and he and Zoe watch the house explode before driving away.
- Liam Hammond, 11th November 1999 (accidental) - Fatally shot after revealing that he is Zoe's half-brother.
- Scott Windsor, 21st June 2005 (self-defence) - Stabbed with two needles of ketamine when Scott attacks her. Paddy Kirk prevents her from stabbing him a third time.
- Until her departure in September 2005, Zoe was the longest-serving female character.
- In March 2005, Leah Bracknell announced she was to take a nine month break from Emmerdale. Despite initial reports that it would be a temporary break, Bracknell has since not returned to the soap, and sadly, it's unlikely that she ever will, as she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in October 2016, eleven years after her departure.
"(to Bill Whiteley) 'Scuse me, do you know where Home Farm is please?" (first line)
"I hope the Kings enjoy their housewarming present..." (before blowing up Home Farm)
"Stop the car. Do it Callum." (final lines)