It’s the most enchanting season of the year as we return to the sun-soaked Saint Marie to join the police team for a festive, feature-length Death in Paradise Christmas special.

When Gerry Stableforth (Geoff Bell), an entrepreneur and family man, is discovered lifeless in a ravine, his family – consisting of his wife Bella (Patsy Kensit), children Benjamin (Freddy Carter) and Mariana (Amelia Clarkson), and niece Riley (Leila Khan) – are left in a state of shock. DI Neville Parker (Ralf Little), DS Naomi Thomas (Shantol Jackson), Officer Marlon Pryce (Tahj Miles), and Trainee Officer Darlene Curtis (Ginny Holder) embark on the task of unravelling this mysterious demise. However, the situation takes a turn when the family’s visiting digital marketing expert, Debbie Clumson (Bronagh Waugh), suddenly goes missing. Upon hearing the news of Debbie’s disappearance, her determined partner Dave (Youssef Kerkour) is intent on discovering the truth.

In the midst of these events, Neville’s vivacious mother, Melanie (Doon Mackichan), arrives on the island to celebrate Christmas with her son under the sun. Developing a fabulous friendship with Catherine Bordey (Élizabeth Bourgine), the duo becomes the talk of the Saint Marie dating scene. Yet, before Melanie imparts some wisdom to her love-weary son, who grapples with the belief that love may elude him, she sets out to make her mark…

Inspired by Neville’s mother, Naomi endeavours to unwind and focus on herself beyond the confines of work. However, she risks creating an awkward situation with a close friend at the Christmas party. Is Neville inadvertently responsible for putting a damper on Commissioner Selwyn Patterson’s (Don Warrington) grand Christmas lights switch-on?

The Death in Paradise Christmas Special airs on BBC One and BBC iPlayer on 26 December at 9 pm.

Interview with Ralf Little (DI Neville Parker)

There was a lot for Neville to deal with towards the end of last series, how has he coped with moving on from ‘Sophie’?

With difficulty. He’s obviously extremely hurt and bruised by it and mistrustful of people and the concept of romance and love. He’s extremely jaded. He feels like maybe it’s just not for him and that for some people, it just doesn’t work for them. We join him this series very much feeling like he’s one of those people and this is all just something he should give up on or he’ll just get hurt again, over and over. We join him broken by the whole experience and ready to give up on the idea of loving at all.

Neville’s mum Melanie, played by Doon Mackichan, comes over to visit at Christmas and is quite the opposite of Neville. She’s gregarious, fun, loving and seizes the moment and the day. She just lives life to enjoy herself and she’s the first person that gives Neville a bit of a pep talk and says, “Look, don’t give up on something just because it’s hard.” It’s not that he just snaps out of it and that solves everything, but it’s the first time we see him told and that’s sort of the start of his road to emotional recovery.

What can you tell us about this year’s Christmas special?

A man has fallen into a ravine and a witness, Debbie (Bronagh Waugh), who is on holiday from the UK to visit some clients, goes missing. Her partner, Dave (Youssef Kerkour), has stayed home and when he hears she’s gone missing, he’s determined to find her.

What was it like working with some of the guest cast in this special?

I’ve been a fan of Doon Mackichan’s for years. We cross paths with a lot of people in this industry but we never get to spend proper time together. It was weird because, before I came out to Guadeloupe this time, I was watching Knowing Me, Knowing You… with Alan Partridge again. That’s how long I’ve been a fan of Doon’s for. I think I was fourteen when that first came out. She’s always been a hero of mine, so then for her to come out and say, “Oh, I’m so glad to be doing this with you”… I was like, “Are you kidding? This is a dream for me!”.

She was, predictably, absolutely brilliant. I felt like our chemistry on screen was great and her chemistry with Élizabeth Bourgine, who plays Catherine Bordey, was fabulous. She was so fun, lovely, professional, talented… love her! What a joy.

Patsy Kensit is an old mate of mine. We’ve worked together before, and I hadn’t seen her for about twenty years! So, it was really fun to be like, “Hey, how are you doing?” and catch up. And Patsy of course, she’s a legend. Patsy’s had a long career and worked at the very, very top and it wouldn’t be out of the realms of possibility for her to be a bit of a diva, a bit difficult – but not even a fraction. She’s just the loveliest, nicest, easy-going person to work with.

What do you think Christmas with Neville would be like?

I think there’s two versions. ‘Then Neville’ would have said that his favourite Christmas was a couple of pints down the local in the afternoon after a nice Christmas lunch made by his mum or his other half – not that he’s not capable, but that’s probably what he would be used to. Very traditional.

However, there’s a ‘now Neville’ and he’s out here in the Caribbean and has had a couple of Christmases here, spent with people on the beach drinking rum and eating lobster and other traditional Saint Marie cuisine. He’s been on a journey and at first, he didn’t like it, but now I think he loves it. I think his idea of what his perfect Christmas would be has now evolved. He’s legitimately changed. And it’s not just that he can now sort of deal with things, but he’s had his eyes opened to new experiences and with some of them he’s like, “this is who I want to be now”. That’s an incredible journey for a character to go on.

That would be Neville’s perfect Christmas. Spent at Catherine’s bar. Maybe he still wants the same food, but with a few extra Caribbean influences. He wants to be by the beach with a loved one and with friends.

How are you spending Christmas this year?

My family are all over the place – in Liverpool, Devon… Who knows where I’ll be! My brother is a doctor and my sister is a nurse, so it’s dependent on their schedules. If we can all get together, then that’s what we’re going to do and whatever happens, you can guarantee I’ll be doing the cooking. I really enjoy it. It’s a lot. It’s an undertaking, but I love it. I’m like, “I’ll cook as long as you all clean!”.