Closer to the Edge: our favourite TV Christmas episodes


What is this madness I hear? It’s Christmas already? Really? But I haven’t bought a copy of the Radio Times, how am I meant to know what to watch? Well, until I work out what’s on to watch this Christmas, the Edge writers have compiled this handy list of their favourite Christmassy episodes in years gone by. From the classy period dramas, to our favourite Welsh comedies, we hope this list is a welcome Christmas present!

Blackadder’s Christmas Carol

Blackadder’s Christmas Carol is by far my favourite Christmas special. Even though it aired in 1988, it’s always on BBC One around Christmas, and in typical Blackadder style, it couldn’t be any less heartwarming. In a reversal of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, all-round nice guy Ebenezer Blackadder is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past and goes on a trip to visit his ancestors, the well-loved Lord Blackadder from Blackadder II, Mr. Blackadder, Esq. from Blackadder the Third, and also the new addition of Grand Admiral Blackadder from a space-age future. As well as being deeply nostalgic, it’s hilarious and a welcome break from jolly TV Christmas fare, as Ebenezer realises that bad guys have more fun and becomes bitter and greedy – inadvertently insulting Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, he misses out on £50,000 and the title of the nicest man in England, and Baldrick is the one to break the unhappy news that perhaps being nice gets you somewhere after all. A total classic and jammed full of famous names, I’ll never get tired of seeing it in the weeks before Christmas.

words by Eleanor Joyce

The X Files– ‘How The Ghosts Stole Christmas’

The X-Files tackled the holiday season three times over its nine-season original run. Luckily, I’m focusing on the more jovial of the three: ‘How The Ghosts Stole Christmas’. ‘Beyond the Sea’ and ‘Christmas Carol/Emily’ are two episodes of television you do not want to watch over the holidays; unless you want your heart pulverised by an avalanche of feels.

In true X-Files fashion, this isn’t your typical Christmas special. Mulder – being the lovable dork he is – decides to drag Scully out on a busy Christmas eve to investigate a haunted house. Mulder tells Scully the tale of a young couple who lived in this house in 1917. During Christmas that year, the lovelorn couple agreed to a lovers’ pact; one offering to kill the other, with the surviving person committing suicide. Mulder explains that the two could not bare to be alone if the other died; they made it their goal to spend enternity together. In turn, the couple now haunt this house every Christmas eve.

In a Twilight Zone-esce turn of events, Mulder and Scully find themselves in the middle of a cataclysm of paranormal events ignited by the haunting couple, who ‘trap’ Mulder and Scully inside the house and cause a whole host of unearthly goings on. The episode ends on a light-hearted (and extremely shippy) moment of Mulder and Scully spending the early hours of their Christmas morning together, exchanging presents and that age old sexual tension.

‘How the Ghosts Stole Christmas’ is one of my favourite episodes of the series; combining the use of one set with only four actors with so much deadpan humour between Mulder and Scully that it will forever be my favourite Christmas special.

words by Sophie McEvoy

Gavin & Stacey

In the immortal words of Smithy…


So how else to celebrate it than with the greatest TV Christmas special with Gavin & Stacey! Not only is this just a great Christmas episode, it’s arguably one of the strongest Gavin & Stacey episodes, end of. As you’d expect from the show, there are a number of fantastic lines; “Oh. Oh. Oh. Merry Christmas”, “You think they’ve thought of it all, you think “Where can they go with this next?” and then they hit you with it. I mean mint Baileys! Whatever will they think of next!”, “Now Pam let’s not turn this into a race issue”… I could go on… But as well there being a number of great scenes, such as Smithy and Gavin’s Band Aid duet, Pete’s mum waking up behind the bar and Bryn’s negotiation with her, the brief fight and the glass of milk, to name but a few, this isn’t a gimmicky episode just centered around Christmas for the sake of it, it’s a great Gavin & Stacey episode. It utilises the natural progression and development of the characters and story from across the show into this episode, as it features many fantastic moments of this, and it integrates Christmas into the episode perfectly.

Whilst the show itself may not be one of my all time absolute favourites, this episode is my favourite one and it’s the Christmas special that I go back and revisit every year.

words by David Mitchell-Baker

Merlin finale

Because what better way to send off a five year long run of a show than the death of your lead character? Merry Christmas everyone. Downton may have killed off Matthew, but before Matthew was Arthur, and let me tell you which was the more engaging character. Once merely a spoilt prince in a kingdom suspiciously close to light BBC entertainment, Merlin’s final season completed Arthur’s transition to a beloved and surprisingly multi-faceted king in a show which mirrored his development. Where the magic itself sometimes failed (because how many times can the most powerful wizard in the world defeat his enemies by flinging them backwards into the air?), the show still achieved the unlikely feat of transforming its annoying traits into classic calling cards (See: Morgana’s evil smirk). Sensibly, however, the finale did not descend into cheap smirks, but focused in on the true heart of the story; Merlin and Arthur themselves. The result? A complex conclusion to an increasingly complex show that managed to transcend the simple ‘Evil Mordred/Morgana’ line and leave us at a point which, while not entirely settled, delivered a fitting end to the famous tale.

words by Sarah Whittington

Doctor Who– ‘The Christmas Invasion’

It was the night of Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, because the first ever Doctor Who reboot Christmas special and first full episode featuring the new, freshly regenerated tenth Doctor, as portrayed by David Tennant, was about to start.

‘The Christmas Invasion,’ which for many was one of the most hotly anticipated episodes of Doctor Who, save for first episode ‘Rose,’ has since become one of the best Doctor Who specials in its eleven-year run. A fresh-faced Tennant bounded out of a crashing TARDIS into the arms of Doctor Who favourites Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler, followed by a bewildered Rose who, like many audience members at home who had never witnessed a regeneration before and were similarly confused by the disappearance of Christopher Eccleston, had little clue what was going on. However, the episode was all it took to cement Tennant’s place as a welcome addition to the Who family.

The episode itself saw the villainous Sycorax take hold of Rose and Mickey, as well as several government officials including Harriet Jones (MP for Flydale North, now Prime Minister of England – Yes we know who you are) and an unconscious Doctor. With a third of the world’s population standing on a variety of the world’s fatal precipices, and one button away from making them jump, it was up to this new, undefined Doctor to save the day, the world, and Christmas – the first of many. And with such a gripping plot, and well-crafted, heart-wrenching climax, it became almost too easy to forget its festive foundation – if it weren’t for that heart-warming final scene showing the Doctor with his companion family over a great big Christmas dinner. Crackers and all.

words by Sophie Trenear

Friends– ‘The one with the Holiday Armadillo’

In one of the most memorable Friends moments ever, the season 7 Christmas episode sees Ross try to introduce his son Ben to Hanukkah in a world where Christmas tradition lies on every side. His method of doing this, in part due to how late he left his trip to the costume shop, is to dress up as ‘The Holiday Armadillo’. It’s truly bizarre, but also truly hilarious, and it actually makes a pretty valid point about the difficulties of preserving Jewish tradition during the festive season. This is pushed even more, and made even funnier by the way in which Ben runs to Santa when Chandler shows up dressed as him.

The other plot of the episode sees Phoebe and Monica trying to separate Joey and Rachel as housemates through various forms of sabotage. Although not as memorable, it does make the episode as a whole a fun and enjoyable one, at a time in the series that really began to see dynamics between characters develop and change.

words by Rehana Nurmahi

Nan’s Christmas Carol

Nan’s Christmas Carol, starring the infamous Catherine Tate as Nan, is everything that is quintessentially right about British comedy at Christmas. It turns tradition on its head but in a laugh-out-loud style. The loud mouthed Nan has you in stitches as she groans at Christmas Carols, bullies the ghost of Christmas present and represents the grouches that the nation can surely become once a little too much food has been consumed on Christmas Day. The special also boasted a stellar cast including David Tennant, Ben Miller, the late Roger Lloyd Pack and Madness. It’s certainly the case that the cream of the crop came together to pull off an iconic Christmas special. Tate managed to take an iconic character and apply our British grump to the merry celebrations of the season. All I can say is Christmas, “what a load of old shit”.

words by Bruno Russell

‘Christmas at Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey‘s first Christmas special, as the conclusion of series two, is the perfect festive episode for this time of the year. It has drama, wit, forgiveness, love, it’s christmassy for both the downstairs and upstairs squad, and there’s even SNOW! Matthew’s proposal to Mary, while it starts snowing, melted everyone’s heart, while Lady Violet’s “Do you promise?” in response to Sir Carlisle’s “I doubt we’ll meet again,” is the ultimate cherry on top that makes this Christmas episode the best of them all. However, it’s not just about the celebration, this Christmas special has a crucial place in the TV show, to which the end of the year gives a light and festive tune to an important plot. Every character has their share of  the spotlight, while Bates is convicted for the murder of his ex-wife and that as his death sentence is altered to life imprisonment, Daisy finds a new family in William’s father. Finally, it is also the perfect reflection of British Christmas tradition.

words by Lisa Veiber


About Author

Philosopher and Historian and major pop-fan. You can find me listening to most pop in the charts (Beyoncé and Sia are most certainly goddesses), as well as some modern jazz and classical and enjoing the occasional trip to the theatre. I'm also interested in the repurcussions of the representation of sex in modern-day media! And I might be a fan of the X Factor. Sorry, I can't help it...

The Edge's Film Editor 2017-2018, David has an unabashed love for all things Dave Grohl, Jack Black and Lord of the Rings. A compulsive liar who shouldn't be trusted, David once beat legendary actor David Hasselhoff in a hot dog eating contest and is best friends with Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, they speak on the phone three times a week.

Third year History student with a flair for the dramatic, generally found writing articles in search of the interesting. Connoisseur of cats, M&M's and quotations. "When people ask if I went to film school, I tell them 'no, I went to films'" - Quentin Tarantino

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