- In a close-fought final, bookies' favourites Joe McFadden and Katya Jones are crowned Strictly 2017 champions
- Alexandra Burke dropped a single point across three dances to top the judges' scores, just ahead of Joe
- Debbie McGee in third place on scoreboard, Gemma Atkinson brought up the rear
- Music came from Ed Sheeran. This year's celebrities all returned for a farewell group routine
The winner was outscored by the runner-up, it was perfect 10s aplenty and a rousing climax to an eventful contest.
Here's all the talking points and social media reaction from the grand glitterball final of Strictly Come Dancing 2017...
Joe McFadden was a predictable (and slightly dull) winner
Last man standing Joe McFadden was widely tipped to win, having crept up on the rails to go from dark horse to thoroughbred bookies’ favourite. He wasn’t just a consistent performer but a popular one too, as the only finalist who had never been in the bottom two.
Joe turned into a thoroughly charming hoofer, hot on details, strong on musicality and characterisation, full of the sheer joy of dance. His not-so-secret weapons, though, were the bold routines choreographed by pro partner Katya Jones, full of daring lifts and creative touches. Joe partnered her perfectly, as demonstrated by his three dances suring this final: a divine Doctor Zhivago Viennese waltz, a quirky toy soldier charleston and a magical fairytale showdance.
No ordinary Joe, he is Strictly’s first ever Scottish champion - indeed, the first Scot to progress beyond the quarter-finals - and the second Holby City actor to lift the glitterball trophy, after Tom Chambers in 2008.
However, it must be said that McFadden wasn’t the most exciting champion in Strictly history. He's nice-but-bland, with little to say for himself and relatively few memorable moments. As odds-on favourite, his win felt surprise-free. Joe was marginally outscored by Alexandra Burke on the night and his win was announced, it seemed like a slightly flat, apologetic air in the studio, with Tess Daly quickly going to Burke for a congratulatory comment.
He was no dance novice either, possessing as much West End experience as certain rivals, but McFadden somehow got away with it Scot-free (pardon the pun). It’s almost as if he won partly by default, due to viewers’ reservations about Burke and Debbie McGee.
He becomes the third male winner in a row, following Jay McGuinness and Ore Oduba. Across 15 series, it’s now 9-6 in favour of the boys. Let’s hope a female celebrity can close the gender gap next year.
Congratulations Joe & Katya....you were A...MAZ...ING!! See you in the bar �������� https://t.co/J6ZyfSpbMk— Ruth Langsford (@RuthieeL) December 16, 2017
Joes winning face on @bbcstrictly was nearly as adorable as my 3yr old dressed as an angel in her 1st ever nativity yesterday! Although, @mrjoemcfadden didn't spend the whole show with a finger up his nose… #StrictlyFinal#StrictlyComeDancing2017— Me, Myself, & Ernest (@memyandernest) December 16, 2017
Really enjoying that Katya is trending rn but not Joe.— Light the lamp not the rat (@Scriblit) December 16, 2017
Voted for Katya twice. She dragged a non-dancing Scottish man to four 10s. Truly impressive. #StrictlyFinal— Matt Rooney (@mattrooney11) December 16, 2017
Hopefully Joe will get some work in musicals after this. Well, some *more* work. #StrictlyFinal— Ian Hyland (@HylandIan) December 16, 2017
Congratulations @Mrs_katjones for winning that mirrorball well deserved!!!— GLEB SAVCHENKO (@Gleb_Savchenko) December 16, 2017
Unpopularity was downfall of best dancer Alexandra Burke
Force-of-nature Alexandra Burke can count herself extremely unlucky. She looks set to go down in Strictly history as one of the winners who never was.
After suffering weeks of unjust criticism, social media trolling and tabloid smears, Burke topped the scoreboard for the third consecutive week. Across three dances with mild-mannered Spanish pro partner Gorka "The Corka" Marquez - a flowingly floral American smooth, a jumpin' disco diva jive and a Hollywood starlet-themed showdance - she dropped just a single point, notching 119 out of a possible 120.
"The A-Girl" was also the top scorer in the contest overall, notched the most perfect 10s and the most near-perfect 39s in Strictly history. However, Burke also appeared in more dance-offs than any of her fellow finalists, meaning she endured a series of highs and lows.
Ultimately, she missed out due to her failure to truly win over the Strictly audience. Whether racism played a part is a contentious subject but Burke certainly suffered from suspicious sniping about being insincere, having too much prior experience and previous links with judge Craig Revel Horwood, which led to unfair accusations of favouritism. All of the above are debatable and some also applied to other, less vilified contestants. Yet when the result relies solely on viewer votes, Burke was at the mercy of public opinion.
However, the runner-up should hold her head high. She bounced back bravely whenever she looked down, exploded into life on the dancefloor and silenced the naysayers with stunning performances, both in the semi and this grand final. Alexandra did her mother Melissa Bell - who died just a week before the series began - very proud indeed.
Alexandra has really done her mum proud. I can’t imagine enduring such vitriol from the press just for doing excellently, and so soon after losing a parent. What a superstar ⭐️ #scd— Calum Sherwood (@CalumSPlath) December 16, 2017
So for me Alexandra based on the night, Debbie overall, Gemma on the JURNEE (and also I picked her as the winner out of the cast list), Joe on...erm...it'll come to me. #scd— Chris Rubery (@Chrisrubery) December 16, 2017
I actually don’t think Alexandra Burke’s colour played a part in her not winning but being a woman subject to negative headlines recently, might have done. Just my opinion! #SCD— Al Sarpong (@albsar1970) December 16, 2017
#SCD That jive should remind everyone just how fabulous Alexandra has been from the start. My head says she should win this, but people have been so awful about her— Lisah205 (@lisah205) December 16, 2017
Debbie McGee was a marvel but just fell short
How we would have loved to see Debbie McGee become Strictly’s oldest winner - and by a stretch too, since she’s 21 years the senior of that record’s current holder, Chris Hollins.
Sadly, the glitterball trophy proved a step too far for the inspirational 59-year-old. Her spicy salsa, stunning Argentine tango and balletic music box showdance fell a mere two points short of the scoreboard's summit and viewer votes didn't arrive in quite enough volume.
McGee was increasingly niggled by a back injury and battled a nasty flu bug this week. Trying to learn three high-energy dances, her fatigue wasn’t helped by going back and forth to York for panto rehearsals, plus snow interrupting her training schedule. Debbie was extraordinarily fit and flexible but her age seemed to slightly catch up with her towards the contest's climax. Grumblings about her ballet background also grew louder in the home stretch, even though it was three decades ago.
Still, the self-styled "grandma of the show" had a terrific and transformative Strictly journey. Shirley Ballas bestowed Debbie with her “Queen Of Latin” crown, Craig Revel Horwood came out from behind the judges' table to bow down at her feet and she gained the nickname “Flexy McGee”, which might just stick. She also formed an affectingly close partnership with Italian pro Giovanni Pernice. Debbie emotionally confessed that Strictly had helped her recover from her grief for late husband Paul Daniels and restored her sparkle. Now that’s magic.
No rest for the wicked, though. Debbie’s debut panto performance is at 2pm on Sunday. Oh yes it is.
Debbie finishing on a high with her Argentine Tango. Good to see Giovanni getting credit for all his hard work too. #scd— Chris Wills (@crispeater) December 16, 2017
35 year old Siân after watching Debbie do the splits 'how can she do the splits? I can't even finish a sentence'. 26 year old me 'I could do that, but wait until I finish this domino's' #StrictlyFinal#StrictlyComeDancing2017— Cash Boyle (@cashboyle) December 16, 2017
<3 Debbie being a proper Older Woman using her final speech to have a whinge that she wasn't given enough tickets <3 #scd— Chris Rubery (@Chrisrubery) December 16, 2017
EVERY TIME DEBBIE TALKS ABOUT PAUL IT MAKES ME WANT TO CRY #scd— Susie Verrill (@susiejverrill) December 16, 2017
Novice Gemma Atkinson made up the numbers
Soap siren Gemma Atkinson only just scraped into this final after surviving the semi-final dance-off. She always seemed the odd one out behind “the big three” and so it proved. The down-to-earth actress performed solidly with a fierce paso doble, stylishly elegant American smooth and burlesque-tinged showdance, but was a rung below the front-runners.
However, Gemma has improved hugely from total dance novice ("baby elephant", as her mum put it) to impressive all-round hoofer. The judges couldn't praise her progress highly enough and Atkinson can deem it a twinkle-toed triumph to get this far: fourth out of 15 ain't too shabby. She was also extremely likeable and formed an entertaining partnership with smiley Slovenian pro Alijaz Skorjanec.
However, you couldn’t help feeling that Aston Merrygold or even Davood Ghadami might have made a more worthy finalist. And Susan Calman would certainly have been a more entertaining one.
“Thank you for having us” ������. Good on ya Gemma.— Catherine (@strictlycad) December 16, 2017
I LOVED that. Brilliant, Gemma. A proper show dance. #strictly— Gill Alexander (@gillalexander) December 16, 2017
Amid joyous group dance, Aston’s comeback was bittersweet
It was a treat to see the 11 eliminated celebrities return to the ballroom for one last group number, sporting outfits from earlier in the series and busting out familiar moves. Susan Calman reprised her Morecambe and Wise skip. Ruth Langsford and Anton Du Beke dusted down those preposterous frilly pink samba outfits. Reverend Richard Coles descended on a cloud, strumming a harp.
The likes of Simon Rimmer, Brian Conley and Charlotte Hawkins hadn’t improved as dancers but gamely mugged to camera in the midst of the chaos. Jonnie Peacock and Mollie King wowed with lifts and leaps. It was a celebratory highlights reel of Strictly 2017, a glitter-dusted greatest hits, and reminded us why this show is so infectiously joyous.
Some of the biggest, most knowing cheers were reserved for Aston Merrygold. Eliminated far too early, the former JLS frontman was arguably the missing ingredient in this final and showed what we were missing as he casually threw Janette Manrara around. Had he been competing - instead of Gemma Atkinson, say - it would have been an even higher standard and more closely fought. Aston’s week seven exit wasn’t just a huge shock, it was a great shame.
I'm still annoyed Aston got kicked off so early on. He could have been in the final #scd— Jennifer Canesten♠ (@Neev_ie) December 16, 2017
That group dance was so joyous and good-natured and sweet I feel quite choked. #strictly— Dan Rebellato (@DanRebellato) December 16, 2017
Was that the last live show for head judge Shirley Ballas?
In her debut series, head judge Shirley Ballas had big dancing shoes to fill as the replacement for much-loved Len Goodman. The Queen Of Latin was a qualified success: warm and knowledgeable but occasionally too technically detailed in her critiques. Some viewers also believed she marked contestants too harshly.
She delivered another opinion-splitting performance here. Ballas over-used the word "magnificent", stumbled over her words, was cloyingly sentimental and seemed to be trying too hard. She marked all dozen dances a perfect 10, somewhat devaluing the maximum scoring paddle. First final nerves, perhaps?
Rumours have been mounting that Ballas will bow out now the series is over. Tabloids have hinted at tension with colleague Darcey Bussell, claim Ballas is missing her family in America and that she’s undecided about whether to return next autumn. This week’s announcement that she won’t be joining the other three judges on January’s Strictly live tour further fuelled speculation that she’ll be a one-series wonder.
Viewers now await with intrigue news of whether the panel will remain the same next year. As, I’m sure, will other senior figures from the worlds of ballroom and Latin - not to mention certain ageing pros (we mean you, Anton Du Beke, but not you, Brendan Cole).
"The judges scores are just for guidance" - what sort of guidance am I getting from Shirley and Bruno giving literally everything a 10? #scd— Chris Rubery (@Chrisrubery) December 16, 2017
Theory: the 10 button on Shirley and Bruno's keypads got stuck at the start of the show and they're just styling it out #scd— Steven Perkins (@stevenperkins) December 16, 2017
The best thing about this series was the addition of Shirley Ballas - an inspired choice of judge. The worst thing was Aston's early exit. #scd— Laura Slattery (@LauraSlattery) December 17, 2017
Craig and Bruno were on cartoonishly fine form
In contrast to Nervy Ballas, the two men on the panel had a whole heap of fun. Like Shirley Ballas next to him, Bruno Tonioli flogged his "10" paddle to death but also gesticulated wildly, shouted, pouted and purred as per usual - even throwing in a comedy pratfall off his chair for posterity.
Craig Revel Horwood was even better value. He smiled for a change, gave one-man standing ovations and encourged the audience to join in with his one-word, three-syllable verdict of "fab-ew-lous!" The panto villain played to the gallery superbly and stole the show behind the judges' table. Bravo, dah-ling.
Feelgood finale to a milestone series
The 2017 series saw its fair share of controversy but ultimately goes down as a roaring success. Strictly broke its own ratings records and once again trounced arch rival The X Factor, frequently being watched by double the viewers. Around 14m were expected to tune into this grand final and they wouldn't have been disappointed.
The dozen routines were big on cute choreography, Disney fairytale storytelling, old-style Hollywood glamour and spectacular trickery. It was magical, wholesome, feelgood, family-friendly fun like only Strictly can deliver.
The pace may have flagged in the padded-out half-hour while we waited for votes to come in and be counted - the running time could surely have been trimmed from 150 minutes to a tighter 135 - but after a year of shocks, twists and secret showmances, this was a rousing, crowd-pleasing climax.
And what a momentous contest it has been. We were inspired by the second oldest finalist ever in Debbie McGee and saw Alexandra Burke beat the bullies, while lesbian Susan Calman and amputee Jonnie Peacock both represented Strictly firsts. We also had the the first 50-50 gender split judging panel in Strictly history, joining the only all-female presenting duo on Saturday night TV.
This 15th series was a victory for positivity, diversity, tolerance, team spirit and all-round good eggs. What could be more cheering a week before Christmas?
Now we dance onto the Christmas special
That might be it for the main series but Strictly Come Dancing will be back at 6.30pm on Christmas Day, when six contestants from past series return to the ballroom to perform festive-themed routines, competing to win the glittery star trophy.
The seasonal special also features a guest appearance from the Duchess of Cornwall. Presumably she won’t be dancing, although we’d pay good money to see that. Bet she’d get paired with Anton du Beke.
Until then, as always: keeeeeeep dancing! Merry choreographic Christmas and a happy hoofing New Year.
Grand final in full
Here's your full routine-by-routine recap of Saturday night's series-closer...
Credits roll on Strictly 2017
A rather rushed, chaotic ending there, as everyone crowded in to congratulate Joe McFadden and Katya Jones to the strains of Celebrate by Kool & The Gang. That concludes the action on-screen but please stay with us for analysis and social media reaction.
Joe McFadden and Katya Jones win
The triumphant couple leap around. Glitter cannons fire. Tickertape falls. Everyone shrieks or claps or both.
Time to reveal the result
Who will be the winner of Strictly 2017? Cue tension-building music and lighting. Long dramatic pauses. This is it, sequin fans.
And another VT montage
Anyone else thinking "For goodness sake, just get on with it"?
Strictly class of 2017 return
It's that time of the series we all secretly look forward to: the slightly chaotic group dance as the eliminated celebrities return to the dancefloor once last time and desperately try not to bump into each other. Here come the leggy 11. Reverend Richard Coles descends on his cloud, strumming a harp and the nation's heartstrings. Aston Merrygold flings Janette Manrara around. Ruth Langsford and Anton Du Beke are back in those hot pink comedy samba outfits. Jonnie Peacock's had a smart haircut and is back bouncing on his blade. Susan Calman and Kevin Clifton do their Morecambe and Wise tribute. Mollie King leaps into AJ Pritchard's arms. Frankly, it's all happening. Confetti falls. And breathe.
Ed Sheeran sings, Pash 'n' Karen dance
usical interlude now from ginger troubador and renowned Prince Harry/Ron Weasley lookalike Ed Sheeran. A suitably big name musical guest for this grand final. He's even scrubbed up and put on a suit for the big occasion. He's singing Perfect, his soppy current single and hot favourite for Christmas number one. Choreographic accompaniment comes from pros Pasha Kovalev and Karen Clifton.
Montages, recaps and vox pops currently filling the time while we wait for the public votes to roll in. The glitterball could go one of three ways. Surely not four. Sorry, Gemma.
All dozen dances done
Phew. Well, just two points separate the top three. It's all down to viewer votes now.
Joe and Katya’s charleston
They're reprising their week seven stunner, where they're wooden soldiers emerging from a cuckoo clock and coming to life. Drum-ography and a visual effect to open, then they go kooky, comedic and bouncy. Fast track, high-energy, loads of content, crammed with character and that crucial swivel. Great timing and demanding, intricate choreography. A real ragtime, silent movie feel and full of charm. Impossible not to grin at that.
Music: Alexander's Ragtime Band by Ella Fitzgerald
Judges’ verdict: Darcey says "such a natural dancer now, you express joy, precision lifts, the perfect end to a great final". Shirley says "way to close the show, you've nailed the details and lifted your levels". Bruno says "clever, exciting, original, it's been a fantastic final". Craig concludes "only one word, three syllables: fab-ew-lous!". What a panto crowdpleaser.
Judges’ scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 40 points. Their first maximum. Just a point behind Alexandra and one ahead of Debbie. It is officially tight. Over you you, public vote.
Gemma and Alijaz’s American smooth
They've chosen their highest-scoring dance, perhaps unsurprisingly - their Blackpool breakthrough routine, hence the tram and B&B theme. Easy grace, Hollywood glamour, leggy lifts and lovely shaping. Flowing around the floor with big smiles. They've got nothing to lose, so are enjoying themselves - and it's infectious.
Music: Downtown by Petula Clark
Judges’ verdict: Craig says "simple, understating, elegant - everything Blackpool is not, darling". And Bruno falls off his chair yet again, then larks around with a sound wire. Darcey says "clean, serene, graceful, an assured performance". Shirley says "musical extravaganza from a young lady who's constantly improved and turned into a beautiful dancer". Gemma concludes "you bloomed like a rose, still flowing and glowing". Then he strikes up a song. Oh, that embarrassing Uncle Bruno.
Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 39 points. Her highest yet. A fine way to bow out.
Debbie and Giovanni’s Argentine tango
They've picked their week 10 Argentine tango, set to traditional music. A sensual yet elegant routine, electric connection but has she loosened those legs like Craig demanded last time around? Chairography to open, with flexy legs and pointy feet, then they launch into the lifts, tricks and fancy flicks. Spectacular details and smouldering connection. Olé!
Music: Por Una Cabeza by Carlos Gardel and Alfredo Le Pera
Judges’ verdict: Bruno says "sublime, set the benchmark, even better than before - you've exceeded my expectations and been a source of inspiration, getting better with age, go 60-year-olds!" She's 59, mate. Craig drawls "62 in your case, Bruno. I totally agree, this isn't the end for you, it's a new beginning". Darcey says "stunningly fearless, finesse, strength, balance and control, you blow me away". Shirley concludes "you're brilliant, Giovanni is so sensitive and caring". Debbie says "He put me first and let me shine". Aww.
Judges’ scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 40 points. Her third perfect 40 of the series.
Alexandra and Gorka’s jive
The couple's favourite is their week four roof-raiser. Alexandra channeling Diva Turner in a tasselled silver dress and big hair. Stamina, sky-high energy, disco flavour, high-octane lifts, high-risk lifts, sharp leg action and more bounce than a kangaroo on a pogo stick. One helluva routine, I'm breathless just blogging about it. Gorka's on the floor. Alexandra is tearful.
Music: Proud Mary by Tina Turner
Judges’ verdict: Shirley says "correct posture, great leg action, sparkly character, you've done magnificent this season". Bruno says "an instant classic, my favourite of the season, in the Strictly jive hall of fame alongside Jill Halfpenny and Jay McGuinness". Stop saying 'season'! We call them 'series' here. No words from Craig, just a standing ovation. Darcey concludes "you're shining so bright and outdoing Mr Gorka, such a performer". Alexandra is "totes emosh" up on the Clauditorium.
Judges’ scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 40 points. She's dropped just a point across three dances.
Joe and Katya’s showdance
The bookies’ favourites blaze away to some upbeat, blue-eyed 80s soul. A fairytale prince and princess theme, beneath a chiming clock with a sparkly slipper. Broomstick-ography. Outfit changes. All very Disney. Magical mood, quickstep-style footwork, spinning lifts, charleston flourishes, cute crowd-pleasing choreography and crammed with content. And a proposal to finish. Katya says yes. NB: probably not legally binding.
Music: You Make My Dreams by Hall & Oates
Judges’ verdict: Darcey says "dreamy Prince Joe, a snappy mover, I didn't want the fairytale to end". Shirley says "magical, magnificent, a true Prince Charming, you've made Katya's dream come true". Bruno concludes "played to your strengths and entertained us perfectly". Criag says "that shoe might fit me, darling. You're complete and absolute showbiz, just great".
Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 39 points again. Just a point behind Alexandra.
Gemma and Alijaz’s showdance
Gutsy, glam showdance from the rank outsiders, to a rollicking riot of a tune from 2010 film Burlesque. Aptly, Gemma’s clad in a black burlesque-influenced frock. Opens on her name in giant letters, then it’s charleston-inspired and Chicago-flavoured with touches of foxtrot, quickstep, rumba, jive and lindyhop. There are flames and it's suitably fiery. Fast, fruity, full of energy.
Music: Show Me How You Burlesque by Christina Aguilera
Judges’ verdict: Craig says "I liked it but didn't love it, you daringly danced outside the box and you've really grown". Darcey says "sassy, selling it, loved the staging, great work". Shirley says '`you were a beginner but gave it 1000%". That's a lot of per cent. Bruno says "less a quickstep, more a quick-sexy, sultry and stunning".
Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 10, 10 for a total of 37 points. Still bringing up the rear.
Debbie and Giovanni’s showdance
This is likely to be all legs and lifts, soundtracked by Randy Crawford’s jazzy 80s hit, which more recently appeared in film musical Moulin Rouge and a festive John Lewis ad. Debbie starts as a clockwork fairy ballerina atop a music box before leaping into Giovanni's arms for a floaty spin. It’s a more elegant, emotional and story-led take on a showdance, similar to the one which helped win the glitterball for Caroline Flack three years ago. The odd hesitant transition but light as a feather and rather beautiful. Splits, spinning lifts, romantic finish. A fitting swansong to Ms McGee’s Strictly journey.
Music: One Day I'll Fly Away by Vaults
Judges’ verdict: Bruno says "angelic, ethereal, like a little girl's dream". Craig says "brave to do ballet when you have old Darcey Bus-stop here but you pulled it off". Darcey says "you're perfectly petite, like a magical sparkle, incredible balance, extraordinary work". Shirley's quite emotional and says "it shows your growth, you dared to dream and they've come true, amazing".
Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 10, 10 for a total of 38 points. Still in second place at the moment.
Alexandra and Gorka’s showdance
This should be a cracker - a Hollywood extravaganza, set to the classic Irving Berlin showtune from Annie Get Your Gun. Clapperboard and dressing table section to open, then Alexandra whips off her flowing green gown for a short-skirted charleston-cum-Latin section. It’s a greatest hits of their routines, with added lifts, tricks and use of props. Black-and-white camera effect. Elements of quickstep, American smooth and Argentine tango. Lots of side-by-side, trotting and skipping. Huge fun, like a classic movie. Aaaaand cut!
Music: There’s No Business Like Showbusiness by Ethel Merman
Judges' verdict: Shirley says "fun, bright, boundless energy, you've come into your own and feel every step you take". Bruno says "Top Of The Pops, hit after hit, 20 dances crammed into one, wrapped into a beautiful tribute to the movies, pure showbiz, loved it". Craig says "natural ability oozes out of you, showstopping steps, brilliant energy and full of surprises". Darcey concludes "versatile, exuberant, unfailing focus - you're a real artist". I smell more 10s.
Judges' scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 39 points. Her sixth 39 of the series.
Joe and Katya’s Viennese waltz
The panel have picked their turning point dance from week three. Window-ography to start. Joe hasn't donned his Movie Week moustache to be Dr Joe-vago this time but it’s suitably festive with snow and a sleigh. Lots of travel across the floor and Russian revolutions. He got all the eights for 32 points last time. If he gets rid of rise and fall, plus nails the footwork and posture, those could turn into nines and 10s now. Sweet, spinning and full of charm.
Music: Somewhere My Love from Dr Zhivago
Judges’ verdict: Darcy says "you rose to the challenge, improved your posture, one of my favourites of the series". Shirley says "big, bold and beautiful and if I had one, you'd get an 11-paddle for that professional-standard fleckerl". Bruno says "from Russia with love, romantic storytelling and effortless flow, like skating on a frozen lake". Craig concludes "I loved to see a non-nonsense proper Viennese waltz, superb". Could we see another perfect 40?
Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 39 points. Joint second with Debbie.
Gemma and Alijaz’s paso doble
The judges have chosen their contemporary, creatively choreographed paso from way back in week four. Coldplay are Alijaz’s favourite band (no accounting for taste) and this was Gemma’s breakthrough dance. Skirt-swishing and a long leg lift to start, then into stomps, spins, impressively flexible lifts and drops. Strong senorita attitude from the soap siren. Powerful, intense, muscular shapes and fierce faces. It scored 35 points last time. Gemma has only scored two 10s in the series so far but could add to that here, if she can nail the Spanish lines, angles and rotation. Sparkly confetti handclaps to finish.More of a nine for me, though.
Music: Viva La Vida by Coldplay
Judges’ verdict: Craig says "fantastic focus, strong lines, the dance really suits your frame". Darcey says "drama, determination and you held the passion to the last beat". Shirley says "you've mastered your craft, had an open mind, taken criticism on the chin and been amazing". Bruno shouts dementedly, then concludes "you've grown so much and peaked at the right time".
Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 10, 10 for a total of 38 points. Third place so far.
Debbie and Giovanni’s salsa
“D-E-B-B-I-E... Debbie!” Good spelling, Gio. The judges have picked their optician-themed routine from week eight, to the song made famous by Frankie Valli, then Andy Williams and Pet Shop Boys (delete according to your generation). Will they play a blinder or be a sight for sore eyes? It got 35 points last time and if Debbie can correct the mistakes she made, she should top that.She just needs to sell it and refine it. A spicy scarlet-clad salsa with fluidity, fast feet, fancy armography and spectacular lifts, including a daring one-armed spin. Still not quite perfect for me but much better.
Music: Can't Take My Eyes Off You by Boys Town Gang
Judges’ verdict: Bruno says "You've got to be kidding me - you're like the Tardis, you defy the laws of physics and the concept of time, brilliant". Craig says "lovely rotation, spectacular lifts". Craig says "your partnership gels to perfection". Darcey says "Whatever you've got, I want to bottle it". Shirley "We all agree, you are brilliant, Debbie McGee". She's caught Len's random rhyming disease. Must be the chair.
Judges’ scores: 9, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 39 points. Just a point behind Alexandra.
Alexandra and Gorka’s American smooth
The judges’ pick for the series’ top scorers is their Movie Week routine from way back in week three. She's a flower girl, he's a cheeky Lahndahn geezer and it’s all very Mary Poppins. Class, elegance, Hollywood glamour, plenty of glide and cutely choreographed by Gorka The Cockney Corka. Spring-heeled lifts too. No celery to finish this time but rose petals fall and Alexandra gets a marigold. This got 33 points first time around, with the judges warning Alexandra to watch her free arm, keep it light and finish her expressive movements. I suspect this upgrade will score at least five points higher - if not the full seven. Blooming lovely.
Music: Wouldn't It Be Lovely from My Fair Lady
Judges’ verdict: Shirley says "you captured the essence, gorgeous extensions, so feminine and ought out your softer side, exquisite". Bruno purrs "more fragrant than the blooms, it had love, truth and honesty". Craig says "dreadful - because I couldn't find a single thing wrong with it". The big tease. Darcey concludes "musicality, sensitivity, wonderful to watch". I'm feeling 10s a-coming.
Judges’ scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 40 points. What a way to open the final.
Strictly stars arrive
After a quick outfit change, the final foursome arrive in their finery. Sartorial clues as to their first dances, which are chosen by the judges.
And here come the judges
There are Quality Street frocks (for Darcey). There is an official New Zealand all Black gown (for Shirley). And there are, of course, sequins (on Bruno's jacket).
Time for our last co-presenter couture clash of the series. Sob. Claudia Winkleman's in a black lacy off-the shoulder boho number. Tess Daly's in a red shoulder-less jumpsuit. I think it might be a rare win for Tess.
Pros open proceedings
We start with a hip-wiggling, gold-and-black-clad Latin routine from the Strictly pro troupe. And here come the four finalists, sashaying down slightly phallic catwalks.
15 celebrities, 141 dances, a lot of training hours and only one winner. Let's go.
And roll clapalong credits
Our last chance to savour Chizzy's head duck, Susan fanning herself, Davood's eyebrow-waggle and Brian Conley thumbs-up. My, how we'll miss them all.
And we're off!
A full two minutes late by my reckoning, roll the repetitive flashing images, Oh, and the tension-building VT montage.
Tapping my watch
Come on, so-called Auntie Beeb. It's ballroom o'clock.
See ya, Celebrity Pointless
Last knockings of the quiz show on BBC One right now. Last chance for this liveblog to marvel at the sheer majesty of host Alexander Armstrong's ears. Nearly time to go over to the Elstree Studios ballroom...
Susan's back! Aston's back!
And so, God help us (literally), is Reverend Richard Coles. Yes, the Strictly Class of 2017 all return tonight for one last farewell group number. Expect new haircuts, old moves and total dancefloor chaos. Five minutes until showtime...
On the sequin-spangled jukebox tonight
A typically eclectic playlist in tonight's final, ranging from West End showtunes to Coldplay, Randy Crawford to Christina Aguilera - plus a bonus dose of 80s yacht-rockers Hall & Oates. And not forgetting musical guest Ed Sheeran. Ten minutes until the final ba-ba-da theme tune of the series...
Why four finalists, not three?
A few viewers have asked why there are four couples in tonight’s showpiece final, whereas there were only three last year. Well, the 2016 field was reduced after Will Young’s unexpected mid-series withdrawal, leaving the finale one couple short.
Otherwise, we’ve had a four-finalist format since 2012. Just fifteen minutes until the grand glitterball final...
Four couples, three dances
Tonight, our final four will perform three full routines apiece: the couples’ favourite from the series so far, the judges’ choice and the anything-goes showdance, which is always a series highlight.
And the big glitterball decision is all down to us viewers. The judging panel will mark the couples as normal but their scoreboard is just for guidance. The winner will be decided solely by the public vote. Twenty minutes to go...
No early elimination this year
In a revamp of the grand final's format, no-one will be knocked out midway through proceedings this year. Instead, all four finalists will dance to the very end.
Conspiracy theorists claim this is to restore the show’s feelgood factor after a series plagued by nasty trolling and tabloid coverage, along with the usual groundless “fix” and “favouritism” grumbling.
However, the BBC insists that has been the plan since the start of the series. Right then, 25 minutes until showtime...
It's nearly time to staaaaart showdancing
Who’ll be naughty? Who’ll be nice? And who’ll find a glitterball trophy in their stocking? It’s the last Saturday before Christmas weekend and that can only mean one thing. Yes, tonight sees the grand final of Strictly 2017, as our four surviving pro-celebrity pairs make their bid for ballroom glory.
Last week’s semi-final saw comeback queen Alexandra Burke top the scoreboard with a near-perfect 79 points out of a possible 80, with bookies’ favourite Joe McFadden and 59-year-old dancefloor phenomenon Debbie McGee tied in second place.
After dance-off defeat to Gemma Atkinson, popstrel Mollie King was knocked out and narrowly misses out on tonight’s razzle-dazzle finale. Like the entire class of 2017, though, she’ll be back for one last group number, alongside such eliminated fan favourites as Susan Calman, Jonnie Peacock and Aston Merrygold.
Tonight, our final four will dance three full routines apiece and the big decision is all down to us viewers. The judging panel will mark the couples as normal but their scoreboard is just for guidance. The winner will be decided solely by the public vote.
It’s showtime at 6.30pm on BBC One. I'm Michael, the Telegraph's spraytans and sequins correspondent, and I'll be liveblogging tonight, providing build-up, rolling coverage, analysis and glittery gags, so please do join me and watch along with this blog.
And please join in too - you can email me on michael.hogan@ telegraph.co.uk, tweet me on @michaelhogan or leave comments at the bottom of this blog. I'll keep an eye on them all and report the highlights right here.
It’s been a 13-week rollercoaster of shocks, spectacular lifts, snug-fitting Lycra and secret showmances but Strictly 2017 is about to go out with a ballroom bang. Nearly time to staaaaart showdancing!