It’s a good time to be a Doctor Who fan. Following the departure of “The Ponds,” the cult-favorite show went on pre-holiday hiatus (with the exception of a must watch mid-season 7 finale epilogue) with a planned eight episode return in Spring 2013. Since that time, we’ve heard plenty of encouraging news about what’s to come – including an appearance by the Cybermen in an episode penned by acclaimed author Neil Gaiman. However, before the series returns for weekly episodes, The Doctor will make his usual holiday season appearance in a Christmas Special.

Past Doctor Who Christmas Specials are among the most beloved installments in the series (especially 2010’s “A Christmas Carol”) – so it’s not surprising to hear that the BBC is already drumming up buzz for the episode entry with the release of an official synopsis and new image – along with a prequel minisode during this year’s annual Children in Need telethon.

In addition to the normal excitement for Doctor Who‘s holiday entry, the 2012 Christmas Special has the added pressure of introducing The Doctor’s new companion, Clara (played by Jenna-Louise Coleman) – marking the first time modern series showrunners have intentionally introduced a new companion mid-season. Anyone familiar with the series will be quick to remember that eventual season 4 companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) is actually introduced in a pre-Christmas cliffhanger back in season 2 and the focus of the 2006 holiday special, “The Runaway Bride” – even though Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) served as the season 3 companion. However, Russell T Davies had initially conceived of Donna as a one-off character – it wasn’t until a year later that he decided to bring her back as a full-on companion. As a result, Steven Moffat has his work cut out for him with this year’s Christmas Special – balancing the Clara introduction with an equally engaging standalone Doctor Who holiday adventure.

Check out the synopsis for the episode below:

Following the epic mid-season finale, the Doctor gets in the holiday spirit in the all-new Christmas special written by lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat (Sherlock). Accompanied by his newest companion, played by Jenna-Louise Coleman, the Doctor’s latest adventure through space and time sees him once again crossing paths with the homo-reptilian Silurian Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh) and her cohort Jenny (Catrin Stewart). The Doctor Who Christmas Special premieres December 25, 9:00pm ET.

Adding to the official synopsis, Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith previously summed up this year’s special by saying, “We’ve got the wonderful Richard E. Grant who’s brilliant as a sort of villainous role. We meet the new companion. We’ve got Vastra, Jenny and Strax making a return appearance which is terribly exciting. And it does the sort of wonderful Doctor Who-ey Christmas things – you know, snow, aliens, good will, good cheer, someone trying to take over the world.

Here’s Matt Smith as The Doctor in the 2012 Christmas Special (click to enlarge):

Images from the Doctor Who set had previously outed appearances by Vastra, Jenny, and Strax but it’ll still be fun to see how the characters are implemented along with the introduction of Clara – all in a Christmas-themed episode.

While Coleman made an interesting surprise appearance in the Doctor Who season 7 premiere as Oswin Oswald, it’s still unclear (like most wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff) how that character’s introduction, not to mention resulting outcome, plays into the larger chronology of series. Given the reverse-love story between The Doctor and River Song, it’s certainly possible that when we first met Coleman (as Oswin) at the beginning of season 7 she’s already traveled with The Doctor (as Clara) but, due to her connection with the Dalek prison (not to mention The Doctor’s success at erasing his own name from history), she might no longer remember the adventures.

We can only speculate exactly how Moffat intends to reintroduce the Coleman and establish Clara as a full-fledged companion but fans who tune in for BBC’s 2012 Children in Need telethon (airing Friday, November 16, at the time of this writing) will not only see a sneak peek of the season 7 Christmas Special, they’ll also get to check out a prequel episode featuring “familiar faces” – one that, presumably, will end with a Clara introduction cliffhanger (similar to Donna’s appearance at the end of the season 2 finale, “Doomsday”).

You can have a look at the 2012 Christmas Special teaser (which aired after the season 7 mid-series finale) below:

We’ll be sure to provide further updates when the Christmas Special trailer as well as prequel video go live online and as further season 7 details surface. In the meantime, check out our Doctor Who Viewing Guide: Tips, Suggestions & Complete Episode List!

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future updates on Doctor Who as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Doctor Who returns Tuesday, December 25, 9:00pm ET for the 2012 Doctor Who Christmas Special.

Source: BBC