Well Christmas is upon us so it is time to take a look at a few Dads Army Christmas specials. Along with other popular comedy series of the seventies, Dad’s Army at the height of its popularity featured a number of special episodes.
Battle of the Giants
was broadcast on 27th December 1971 and is the only Dad’s Army episode to last 60 minutes. The episode bridged the lengthy gap between the fourth and fifth series but in many respects the storyline harks back to the approach of the first two series – with military hierarchy and tests of competence to the fore. The extended format gave them room to explore a more complex storyline than a standard episode with extensive and ambitious location work – in fact relatively little was filmed in the studio in September 1971, with the bulk filmed on location in Norfolk. When first broadcast Battle of the Giants had an audience of 18.7 million. It was repeated for the first time the following year but then was not seen again until 1983.
My Brother and I
followed almost 4 years after the first Dad’s Army Christmas special, broadcast on Christmas eve 1975 to an audience of 13.6 million. Following the slightly disappointing eighth series (by this time James Beck had died and a number of the cast were suffering health problems) this Christmas special was unique in being 40 minutes in length and having Arthur Lowe playing two roles – Captain Mainwaring and the captain’s dissolute brother Barry. Although by this stage Arthur Lowe was visibly suffering the effects of the narcolepsy that blighted his later life, he still puts in a fantastic performance playing opposite himself (in shooting Bill Pertwee stood-in for the second character) and overall this is one of the most successful of the later episodes despite which it is rarely broadcast because of its awkward length – though if you are quick you can catch it on iPlayer.
The Love of Three Oranges
the last of the specials was in fact the next episode to be broadcast after My Brother and I, showing for the first time on boxing day 1976 to an audience of 13.7 million. This is the only Christmas special to be a standard 30 minutes and the slightly thin story revolves around the platoon’s support for a fundraiser and the captain’s determination to win one of three orange’s being auctioned by Hodges (and the warden’s determination to stop him). As with many of the later Dad’s Army episodes Ian Lavender provides a great performance as Pike on which much of the episode centres. Despite this the episode was not repeated, following the initial broadcast, until Christmas bay 1990 – a gap of 14 years.
All three episodes are included in the complete Dad’s Army DVD box-set.