'Doctor Who' Christmas special 2021 release date, cast, trailer, plot and more

Doctor Who Christmas Special 2021 key art
The official poster for the 2021 'Doctor Who' Christmas Special. (Image credit: BBC Studios/James Pardon)

The Doctor Who Christmas special 2021 is sure to be a cracker and is a key part of the BBC's Christmas TV line-up. It's always something for all the family to enjoy.

Now that Doctor Who season 13 has come to an end, the BBC has revealed some more info about the upcoming special. We've now got an episode title, a teaser trailer and some details about the plot!

Titled Eve of the Daleks, the upcoming episode sees the Doctor's archenemies back for another adventure. This time, the Daleks will be terrorizing two unfortunate people who've found themselves stuck in a time loop on New Year's Eve... how will the Doctor manage to save the day this time?

Here's everything we know so far...

'Doctor Who' Christmas special 2021 release date

The Doctor Who Christmas special 2021 will air on New Year's Day, the BBC has confirmed. Eve of the Daleks is currently set to air at 7 pm on BBC1. Check out our Christmas TV guide for info on everything else that's on on the big day.

The New Year special will be shown on BBC America and the AMC+ app in the US.

Amazingly, Jodie Whittaker is still to enjoy a Doctor outing on Christmas Day; the last episode of Doctor Who that was actually broadcast on Christmas Day was back in 2017. That episode, titled Twice Upon a Time, saw the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) teaming up with the First Doctor (played by David Bradley). 

Christmas Special Peter Capaldi final

There hasn't been a Doctor Who Christmas Day special since 2017. You can watch the 2017 special on iPlayer right now!

'Doctor Who' 2021 Christmas special cast

Dan, Yaz, and Jodie Whittaker's Thirteenth Doctor will all return for their next adventure, but there are some special guest stars lined up for the Doctor Who Christmas special, too.

Those stars are Aisling Bea (This Way Up, Living With Yourself) as Sarah, Adjani Salmon (Dreaming Whilst Black, Enterprice) as Nick, and Pauline McLynn (Father Ted, Shameless) will be making a cameo appearance as well.

The Daleks are also back, sporting a rather menacing new weapon in place of their 'manipulator arm' attachment. Speaking to Doctor Who Magazine, Chris Chibnall explained: "I think it's always good to delineate and make specific the Daleks we meet at any point", adding "these are the bronze Daleks, which we've only really glimpsed in recent years. 

"But in this episode we have an execution squad, armed with rapid-fire, multi-blast weapons that make them even deadline than standard Daleks. This is the ultimate New Year's countdown - while you're stuck somewhere, with Daleks coming for you!"

Sounds like these Daleks will be even more dangerous than usual...

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'Doctor Who' 2021 Christmas special plot

The BBC promises that "The Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and friends will kick-start 2022 with an action-packed spectacular".

Now that the Flux is dealt with, the BBC has revealed more detail about the plot of the upcoming special. Their plot summary reads:

"Sarah (Aisling Bea) owns and runs ELF storage, and Nick (Adjani Salmon) is a customer who visits his unit every year on New Year’s Eve. This year, however, their night turns out to be a little different than planned as they find themselves joining forces with the Doctor, Dan, and Yaz in a fight against the Daleks. 

"The trailer for the special, which aired following the series thirteen finale, finds the cast trapped in ELF storage and stuck in a terrifying time loop with the Daleks. Will the gang manage to avoid extermination and escape the storage facility in time to see out New Year’s Day?"

Sarah (AISLING BEA), Yasmin Khan (MANDIP GILL), Dan (JOHN BISHOP), The Doctor (JODIE WHITTAKER) in the 2021 Doctor Who Christmas Special.

How will the Doctor save Nick, Sarah and her gang from the Daleks? (Image credit: BBC Studios/James Pardon)

Showrunner Chris Chibnall said: “We all need a little romance in our lives around New Year. Less so, Daleks. But Aisling Bea and Adjani Salmon’s characters will have to deal with both in a New Year’s Eve from hell. 

"Together with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, it’ll hopefully prove the perfect New Year’s Day tonic.”

In Doctor Who Magazine, Mandip Gill suggested that this new story might be a bit tricky to follow. She said: "We did a lot of running, and it got quite confusing at times. Being trapped in a time loop, repeating the same scenes as it gets closer and closer to midnight."

She continued: "But Annetta [Laufer], our director, was amazing. I kept having to ask her, 'Which version's this again?' and she just knew straight away. I'm excited to see it. When you read it on paper, it's hard to imagine what it's going to look like. But it was good fun to film."

Does Jodie Whittaker's Doctor regenerate in the New Year's Day episode?

No. The New Year's day episode is the first of three Doctor Who specials airing in 2022. Jodie Whittaker's Doctor will regenerate in the third special, which will air in autumn 2022 as part of the BBC's Centenary celebrations.

Is there a trailer?

Yes! A teaser for the New Year's Day special aired at the end of the recent season finale, offering up our first proper glimpse at what to expect from the new episode.

At Sarah's business, ELF Storage, Nick arrives on cue for his annual visit to the facility. Shortly thereafter, Nick encounters (and is swiftly exterminated by) a Dalek armed with that menacing machine-gun attachment.

The Doctor arrives with Yaz and Dan, and Dan asks if anyone else is feeling "proper déjà vu". From that point, it's clear that no one is safe and that all five are at risk of extermination over and over again...

You can watch the trailer below:

David Hollingsworth

David is the What To Watch Editor and has over 20 years of experience in television journalism. He is currently writing about the latest television and film news for What To Watch.

Before working for What To Watch, David spent many years on TV Times magazine, interviewing some of television's most famous stars including Hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland, singer Lionel Richie and wildlife legend Sir David Attenborough. 

David started out as a writer on TV Times before becoming the title's deputy features editor and then features editor. During his time on TV Times, David also helped run the annual TV Times Awards. David is a huge Death in Paradise fan, although he's still failed to solve a case before the show's detective! He also loves James Bond and controversially thinks that Timothy Dalton was an excellent 007.

Other than watching and writing about telly, David loves playing cricket, going to the cinema, trying to improve his tennis and chasing about after his kids!