Sherlock, Doctor Who and Downton Abbey: take a look inside the Radio Times Christmas issue

Benedict Cumberbatch, Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, Olivia Colman, Michael Palin, Danny Dyer, Jenna Coleman, Ian McKellen and Sir David Attenborough all appear in our festive edition...

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Sherlock, Doctor Who and Downton Abbey: take a look inside the Radio Times Christmas issue
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You know it's time to get festive when the Christmas edition of Radio Times arrives on shelves and what an issue we've got in store for you this year... 

The Christmas schedules are packed full of your favourite shows and we have interviews with some of the key players. First up, none other than Benedict Cumberbatch, star of Sherlock, being interviewed by his boss, Steven Moffat. Cumbers' interrogation from the show's co-creator includes details on how he reckons his super sleuth has changed and whether he thinks Sherlock is as vain as a footballer. A must-read for fans of the show...

Next, another fan favourite... it wouldn't be a Radio Times Christmas issue without a dose of Doctor Who, would it? We've already given you Matt Smith, so now we've got his companion Jenna Coleman, in mourning for the eleventh Doctor. She tells us all about an "incredibly emotional" Christmas special (which sees Matt bid farewell) and why bew Doctor Peter Capaldi "certainly makes an entrance". And since we had time with the Moff, he gave us yet more cryptic clues about Capaldi's imminent regeneration...

Speaking of Christmas specials, Downton Abbey will be looking to avoid any more fan outrage when its festive offering airs on the 25th. We took Jim Carter and Phyllis Logan (aka the formidible Carson and Mrs Hughes) for a very Downton high tea at the Waldorf to quiz them on whether we'll be getting the love story we yearn for this Christmas (and no, we're not talking about Mary and her many suitors...)

The Call the Midwife girls are back in their red cardigans for a festive episode ahead of series three next year. The big day doesn't go entirely to plan for the midwives, but Jessica Raine, Miranda Hart, Helen George and Bryony Hannah reveal what makes their Christmas perfect. 

We can all agree it's been a mighty good year for Olivia Colman. The star of Broadchurch, Run and now The Thirteenth Tale tells us about garlanding her Baftas with tinsel, acting opposite Vanessa Redgrave and weeping at Mary Poppins.

Sir Ian McKellen is back playing Freddie Thornhill in Vicious this Christmas and explains why he's sympathetic to stars who feel they can't come out, before responding to Damian Lewis's recent comments about "fruity" theatre actors. 

After we've tucked into our turkeys, we're looking forward to watching Danny Dyer make what is sure to be a gobby EastEnders entrance as the Queen Vic's new landlord – he introduces his character, Mick Carter, his missus Linda and the Vic's new matriarch... Lady Di the bulldog, plus we've got a round-up of what to expect on each soap this Christmas. 

And as if you weren't already in the festive spirit, choirmaster Gareth Malone teaches us how to sing a Christmas carol and our Strictly finalists appear in a Nutcracker-style shoot for our columnist Susanna Reid's final diary entry.

We always imagined Christmas in the Caitlin Moran household to be an entertaining affair so no surprises that "all the rules are suspended" for "random outbreaks of drinking, staying up late and huge quantities of meat". And don't miss her brand new sitcom Raised by Wolves written with sister Caz on 23 December. 

The BBC may have lined up a series of mouth-watering Christmas specials, but there are also some standalone Christmas treats in store. Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss makes his directorial debut with his adaptation of The Tractate Middoth and to celebrate pays homage to Britain's greatest ghost story writer, MR James. Meanwhile, Matthew Rhys, Anna Maxwell Martin and Jenna Coleman lead a glamorous three-part adaptation of PD James's Death Comes to Pemberley. The 93-year-old author profiles one of Christmas's most exciting dramas, revealing why she chose to write a murderous sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. 

David Attenborough is not one to put his feet up, especially this Christmas. He'll be up with the robin on Radio 4's Tweet of the Day at 5:58am on the 25th but in between his ever-busy schedule he found time to sit down for a chat about our favourite festive bird (no, we're not talking turkeys) and explain why cloning the woolly mammoth could cause problems. 

Brendan O'Carroll has certainly created a memorable character in Mrs Brown's Boys – his biographer reveals why it was a legendary Irish radical who inspired him... Plus, lord of the dance, Carlos Acosta – ballet's leading man for the last 20 years – reflects on what first put the dancing fire in his belly and how he feels about the end of his classical career. 

Michael Palin has made headlines recently with the Monty Python reunion, but first he's guest-editing Radio 4's Today. Pick up the mag and you can read about the dead parrots he's received at Christmas and why he rates Mitchell and Webb. 

And it wouldn't be a Christmas Radio Times without a quiz of the year to scratch your head over... Who probed the secrets of the royal bedchamber on BBC4? And which US/UK sci-fi blockbuster was partly filmed at an enterprise park in Sandwich in Kent? Test your knowledge with our TV, radio, film, sport, Christmas AND Eggheads quiz before searching for 50 hidden clues to TV programmes from 2013 in our big picture. 

And last but by absolutely no means least, our regulars Sarah Millican, Barry Norman, Andrew Collins, Jane Anderson and Eddie Mair are all on hand to share their expert knowledge and Christmassy cheer... 

Can you believe all that's packed into one magazine? No, neither can we – and we're the ones who put it together... But you can read every one of those interviews in our bumper Christmas edition. And of course, it wouldn't be Christmas without your full guide to the TV and radio listings from 21 December to 3 January.

Highlighter pens at the ready, everyone...

The Christmas edition of Radio Times is available from Saturday 7 December 2013 in London and the south and will become available nationwide by Wednesday 11 December.