When is the Doctor Who special on TV this Christmas? What’s the plot and who are the guest stars?

The BBC have confirmed the usual Doctor Who Christmas special is being moved to New Year's Day - but what can we expect?

BBC, TL

For the past 13 years, fans around the world have enjoyed specially themed festive adventures from Doctor Who, with the ancient Time Lord teaming up with Santa, battling deadly Christmas trees and snowmen and even visiting a Christmas-themed town over the years.

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However, it’s now been revealed that this year the sci-fi series will abandon its 25 December time slot for a New Year’s special, with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor set to take on an alien threat in a snazzy new scarf as the calendars change to 2019.

But when exactly will we be able to watch this new adventure? What’s going to happen in it? And why has the episode moved from Christmas in the first place?

You can find answers to some of those questions, and a few others, below…


What time is the Doctor Who New Year’s special on TV?

Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor in Doctor Who series 11 (BBC, HF)

The BBC has now revealed that the New Year’s special will air on BBC1 at 7.00pm on Tuesday 1st January, aka New Year’s Day. The hour-long episode will conclude at 8.00pm, and is reportedly named Resolution.

While that timeslot is fairly average for the most recent series of the sci-fi drama (episodes tended to start between 6.25 and 7.05pm) it’s a bit later than the old Doctor Who Christmas specials tended to air – last year’s special, Twice Upon a Time, aired at 5.30pm on Christmas day.


Why isn’t there a Doctor Who Christmas special any more?

Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor in Doctor Who (BBC, HF)

No reason has yet been given for the episode moving, but it could just be that the BBC fancied a change. As noted above, there has been a Doctor Who Christmas special every year since 2005, and former showrunner Steven Moffat had suggested that he thought they were running out of ways to tie sci-fi adventures into the Yuletide spirit.

“I think it was a brilliant idea [in 2005] and it lasted a very, very long time,” he told RadioTimes.com in 2017 from the set of that year’s Christmas special Twice Upon a Time.

“I sort of think we might have mined and possibly over-mined every single thing we could about Christmas in Doctor Who and the last time [in 2016’s The Curse of Doctor Mysterio] we more or less ignored it.”

Perhaps a New Year’s Day special allows the Doctor Who team a fresh start, dropping the tired Christmas elements while still bringing some seasonal fun to viewers?

Alternatively, it could be that the BBC didn’t have room for Doctor Who on Christmas Day among its other shows (we won’t know what’s taking its place until the schedules are released, but it could be the remake of Watership Down), and so the move to New Year’s Day was a necessity.


What’s going to happen in the Doctor Who New Year’s Day special?

Doctor Who New Year's special, BBC Pictures

Doctor Who New Year’s special, BBC PicturesWhile much of the story is under wraps, the BBC has released a couple of images from the episode and this official synopsis:

As the New Year begins, a terrifying evil is stirring, from across the centuries of Earth’s history. As the Doctor, Ryan, Graham and Yaz return home, will they be able to overcome the threat to planet Earth?

However, despite the reference to it being set at New Year the story might not actually involve that time of year specifically, with a couple of the actors hinting that there were no significant New Year traditions included in the episode.

“When we were filming, we didn’t know when it was going to air,” Mandip Gill told Radio Times when asked about possible New Year references.

“We found out the same time as the rest of you!”

Series boss Chris Chibnall also revealed that the Doctor will face a “terrifying alien threat” in the special, which he described as “an action-packed, hour-long special adventure for all the family.”

At the moment we don’t know what the episode is called, but we’ll let you know when that changes.


Who stars in the Doctor Who New Year’s special?

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 17/07/2018 - Programme Name: Doctor Who Series 11 - TX: n/a - Episode: July Preview (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: **Strictly Embargoed until 17/07/2018 00:00:01** Ryan (TOSIN COLE), The Doctor (JODIE WHITTAKER), Graham (BRADLEY WALSH), Yaz (MANDIP GILL) - (C) BBC / BBC Studios - Photographer: Sophie Mutevelian

It’s been confirmed that Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole will be reprising their roles as the Doctor, Yaz, Graham and Ryan respectively.

It’s also been revealed that Charlotte Ritchie, Nikesh Patel and Daniel Adegboyega will guest star in the episode as Lin, Mitch and Aaron.


Who are the monsters in the New Year’s Day episode?

Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh, Jodie Whittaker and Tosin Cole in Doctor Who series 11 (BBC, HF)
Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh, Jodie Whittaker and Tosin Cole in Doctor Who series 11 (BBC, HF)

All we know is that the synopsis describes them as a “terrifying evil” stirring “from across the centuries of Earth’s history,” while Chris Chibnall noted the threat was alien so frankly it could be anything.

So far, Whittaker and Chibnall’s run on the series has tended to produce new monsters, so we should probably expect something we haven’t seen before – but who knows? Maybe we’ll finally get the return of the Daleks we’ve all been waiting for


Has the Christmas special been scrapped for good?

Peter Capaldi and Jodie Whittaker in the Doctor Who 2017 Christmas Special

Never say never. While there’ll be no Christmas special in 2018, it may be that in future years Chibnall and Whittaker fancy bringing the Thirteenth Doctor back to 25th December.

After all, they may come up with a brilliant Christmas idea for Whittaker’s incarnation, and conjuring a New Year’s-themed story every year could be even harder than keeping the Christmas theme going.

On the other hand, it might be that the BBC won’t fancy returning the series to Christmas Day after a year off – and it’s possible that coming up with New Year’s storylines won’t be an issue.

After all, most New Year’s specials don’t have particular attachment to the day itself – just look at Sherlock’s the Abominable Bride, as a random example – meaning that Doctor Who could be free to just keep coming up with hour-long standalone episodes to air on January 1st for as long as they want.

Still, we can’t help but hope that ONE day we’ll see Jodie Whittaker get a Christmas special all of her own – even if we have to wait a little longer to unwrap that particular present.

This article was originally published on 15 November 2018

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