Since the series concluded in 2010, regular cast member Margaret John (who played foul-mouthed neighbour Doris) has passed away, leaving a bit of a hole in the Barry Island gang – which is why series creators Ruth Jones and James Corden decided to write a special tribute to Margaret and Doris in the new festive episode.
“She was such a special woman and such an incredibly talented actress and we wanted to make sure that we paid homage to her in the best way possible in this special,” Jones said of the scene, which occurs about halfway through the new special.
Specifically, the tribute comes during a Christmas Eve jaunt to the Dolphin pub, as Gwen (Melanie Waters) encourages everyone to raise a glass to Doris.
“Hang on a minute everyone – can I just say, seven years to the day, and I think it was this time we found out […]we got the phone call we’d all been dreading. To say that our dear friend and neighbour had passed away,” Gwen tells the group.
“And we raised a glass then… and we’ll raise a glass now. To Doris!”
Though in typical Gavin & Stacey style the sweet moment is slightly undercut, with Ruth Jones’ Nessa – who sometimes clashed with Doris in past episodes – still nursing one last grudge and refusing to toast.
“By rights Doris should have left that house to me, not Stacey and Gav,” she says.
“It’s an outrage. They’re lucky I didn’t invoke my squatters’ rights. Anyway, I’ve said my piece. It’s up to the courts now.”
The episode is also dedicated to John’s memory, and according to Jones the tribute was a key part of the episode to get right.
“We wanted to raise a glass to her, but we also wanted to undercut it,” Jones said at a screening of the episode.
“At the end of the day, Doris as a character was very rude, and very upfront, and I think Maggie would have appreciated that Nessa didn’t raise a glass to her, and obviously we were able to dedicate the show to her.
“I hope Maggie, you’re watching up there and having a good laugh.”
“I think they pitched that perfectly. It was enough to have that cheers and then undercut it. That was great,” Waters said.
“Margaret lived quite close to me in Swansea so we met up –not that often, but we met up outside Gavin & Stacey. She was a really wonderful, gentle human being. That scene broke my heart.”
However, the cast did manage to find a way to include John in the readthrough when filming began despite her absence…
“Someone in the art department gave me a picture of Margaret and myself from one of the episodes, of Margaret and I sitting with these huge bright orange coats – and we were sitting reading the paper,” Waters said.
“And she brought me this picture and I put it on the table, between me and Chris, so Margaret was with us for that readthrough as well which was lovely.”
In the end, then, both Doris and Margaret’s memories live on – and given that Gavin and Stacey (Mathew Horne and Joanna Page) have now moved into her old house, if the series does come back again a little piece of her will continue to appear.
Gavin & Stacey is now streaming on BBC iPlayer