Grantchester returns with series 8: new cast, plot details and what to expect amid Tom Brittney's exit

Tom Brittney and Robson Green as Will Davenport and Geordie Keating in Grantchester
Tom Brittney and Robson Green as Will Davenport and Geordie Keating in Grantchester (ITV)

Grantchester returns to ITV on Thursday night with its long-awaited eighth series, which comes almost two years since we watched Will Davenport tie the knot with Bonnie Evans in the dramatic season seven finale. While fans will be overjoyed to see Will and his buddy DI Geordie Keating back on their screens, it's bittersweet as the new series marks Tom Brittney's final outing as the crime-fighting vicar.

As we prepare to revisit the titular Cambridge village, here's all you need to know about the new series, including plot details, cast and what to expect amid Tom Brittney's pending departure.

Series 8 release date

Now that Grantchester is back, consider our January blues cured!

The new series kicks off on Thursday 11 January at 9pm on ITV1 and ITVX, with a running time of one hour.

Series eight consists of six episodes which will air on Thursday nights.

Tom Brittney and Robson Green as Will Davenport and Geordie Keating in Grantchester
Grantchester returns on Thursday 11 January (ITV)

What happens in Grantchester series 8?

Series eight opens with a time jump to 1961, where we find Will blissfully married to Bonnie. Things aren't plain sailing for long, however, as the vicar's world is rocked by a terrible accident that sends him on a dangerous downward spiral of despair.

Tom Brittney and Charlotte Ritchie in Grantchester
Tom Brittney and Charlotte Ritchie as Will and Bonnie in Grantchester (ITV)

As for Geordie, amid his newfound contentment in his relationship with Cathy, the couple are faced with shocking announcements at work that threaten their happiness.

"As Mrs C, Leonard, Jack and Daniel rally around, both Will and Geordie find themselves in unfamiliar, emotional waters and murder is always around the corner," the synopsis continues.

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Fans can expect the "explosive" new series to range from "Speedway to spies, exploring the lives of invisible women and the very visible problems caused by Leonard's new vocation which may, once again, find him battling the law."

ROBSON GREEN as Geordie Keating and KACEY AINSWORTH as Cathy Keating in Grantchester
Geordie and Cathy are faced with shocking announcements at work (ITV)

Expanding on the tragedy that besets Will in the new episodes, Tom Brittney, 33, said: "From the moment we first met Will, he's always been struggling with his demons. What drives him in life is being the best man he can – everything he does, every case he helps Geordie with, every problem that he solves, he feels like he's getting better and better as a person, morally. And then this thing happens that just seems to erase all of that in one instant. Everything he’s worked so hard for is gone just like that.

Tom Brittney as Will Davenport in Grantchester
Will's world is rocked by a terrible accident in the new series (Courtesy of Kudos and MASTERPIECE)

"It just destroys the way Will thinks of himself, because this action, whether it was an accident or on purpose, in the eyes of God and everyone else, he believes it’s unforgivable, and it really sets him down a dark path," the actor told ITV.

Who's starring in the new series?

As usual, Tom Brittney and Robson Green will lead the cast as Will and Geordie. They will be joined by returning stars Charlotte Ritchie as Bonnie, Tessa Peake-Jones as Mrs C, Al Weaver as Leonard Finch, Kacey Ainsworth as Cathy Keating, Oliver Dimsdale as Daniel Marlowe and Nick Brimble as Jack Chapman.

Fans can expect to see some new faces in the upcoming series in the form of special guest actors Shaun Dingwall (Top Boy), Jeff Rawle (Doc Martin) and Jemima Rooper (Gold Digger).

Charlotte Ritchie in Grantchester
Charlotte Ritchie returns as Bonnie (ITV)

MORE: Meet the cast of Grantchester's real-life partners

When does Tom Brittney leave Grantchester?

Series nine will be Tom Brittney's last as Will Davenport, after which he will be replaced by Rishi Nair as the new lead.

Although Tom hasn't given an explicit reason for his departure, he did say that it's "time for the baton to be passed". In a statement released in July last year, the actor said: "I've had the most incredible time playing Will Davenport for the last five years. I got to solve crimes with my best friend, and work with the best cast and crew I could ever ask for. I'll miss it more than anything. But it's time for the baton to be passed, as it once was to me, and I'm so excited for Rishi to join the Grantchester family."

Rishi Nair and Robson Green working on Grantchester
Rishi Nair is taking over as the lead (Instagram)

While we don't know many details about Tom's exit storyline just yet, we do know that Will is approached with a life-changing offer and considers a life away from Grantchester.

But as one door closes, another opens for new vicar Alphy Kotteram, who is welcomed by the village. When he arrives in Cambridge, Alphy has "an instinctive distrust for authority and absolutely no desire to get involved in murder investigations". But he and Geordie soon discover that they have more in common than they think.