Forget big budget films, the 'real' drama has played out across our TV screens in fabulous fashion throughout 2012.

The nation has paused, rewound and recorded the best bits and spent hours discussing the highs and lows, no longer by that once overcrowded water cooler, but by the modern day equivalent - Twitter.

Here we look back at the most memorable, brilliant and shocking small screen moments of the year, when drama writers proved beyond any further doubt that the small creen is no longer cinema's poor relation...

DRAMA

'Downton Abbey' has been crowned the highest-rating drama of the year so far, with 10.7 million viewers tuning into watch the finale of the third series. And it's no surprise really as Lord Fellowes has provided plenty of emotive story arcs to keep viewers glued to their screens.

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Married at last: Matthew Crawley and Lady Mary

The series kicked off with the long-awaited and oh-so-beautiful wedding between Matthew Crawley and Lady Mary, and saw the addition of a character whose wit could rival the Dowager's, in the form of Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson, a widowed American heiress and mother of Cora Crawley.

However, it was Lady Sybil's untimely and disturbing death that stood out at as Downton series three's finest moment.

Sybil's baby was on its way, but complications over the birth ignited a clash between old - the traditional administrations of Doctor Clarkson (David Robb) - and the new-fangled ways of purse-lipped surgeon Sir Philip (Tim Piggott-Smith). As the Dowager explained, "the decision must lie with the chauffeur" - but poor old Branson bowed under the weight of Sir Philip's arrogant complacence, disaster struck that even the tartan warrior Dr Clarkson was unable to prevent and the house was plunged into mourning.

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Damian Lewis as Brody, back in captivity and very, very stressed

Also making Sunday night's on the sofa irresistible was Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning 'Homeland'. There was Brody's suicide tape and Carrie's vindication but the most unforgettable stand-out moment of the series saw Brody back in captivity and under the interrogation light bulb - again - but this time on US soil.

And in a mirroring counterpoint to his ordeal in Iraq, there was a very bad cop to kick off proceedings - a menacing Peter Quinn (Rupert Friend), culminating in an uncontrolled stabbing.

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Carrie admitted her feelings to Brody - but was it all a ruse, or honest, or both?

But his rage left the door open for good, understanding, soft-eyed, seductive cop Carrie - who knew every Brody button to press. This set piece brought the best out in both Claire Danes and Damian Lewis - already both Emmy winners, but proving to any doubters just why they got them. By the end, all had been confessed, much seemed forgiven, and the battle lines had been redrawn.

Then there was Sean Bean in a dress for 'The Accused', showing a vulnerability and complexity many miles away from his usual tough-man roles.

We ended up caring deeply for his characters, both as the brave, indomitable Tracie, and as the heartbreakingly lonely Simon, in the first of Jimmy McGovern's four-part drama examining the British justice system.

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Sean Bean as indomitable Tracie

Meanwhile, 'Doctor Who' fans waved a tearful farewell to two great characters, Amy and Rory Pond.

Steven Moffat did what he does best, and brought everything full circle to a satisfying whole, as Amy left the lonely Doctor a note reminding him to look after the little girl we met all that time ago - the one who sat on her suitcase, dreaming about a strange man who likes fish-fingers and custard, and waiting for her time-travelling adventures to befall her.

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Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill on a rooftop

And finally, who can forget the time Benedict Cumberbatch as the eccentric detective Sherlock jumped off a tower block and somehow managed to survive?

Viewers tweeted their theories furiously after they saw him apparently jump to his death at the end of the second series, much to the shock of his sidekick Watson (Martin Freeman), only to re-emerge in the shadows of the graveyard where Watson was grieving over his freshly-dug grave.

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Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) jumps

'Sherlock's' co-writer Mark Gatiss has revealed that fans will not be disappointed by the revelations of how the stunt was achieved when the third series finally airs.

What was your favourite TV drama moment of 2012? Let us know in the comments below and take a look at some of our readers' suggestions...

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  • 56 Up

  • Sherlock and GBBO

  • Britain's Got Talent

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  • Downton series 3 episode 1

    Downton's new footman Alfred Nugent

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    Lady Mary, Lady Sybil and Anna

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    Earl Of Grantham, Robert

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    Mrs Hughes

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    Mrs Hughes and Mr Carson

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    Dinner downstairs

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    Mrs Hughes and O'Brien

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    Alfred Nugent

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    Mr Carson

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    Mr Carson

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    O'Brien

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    Tom Branson

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    Anna Bates and Thomas Barrow

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    Carson and O'Brien

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    Daisy

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    Thomas and Daisy

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    Alfred Nugent

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    Robert

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    Robert and Carson

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    Robert and Carson

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    Lady Edith

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    Anthony Strallan

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    Lady Edith and Anthony Strallan

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    Lady Edith

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    Anna and Bates

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    Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson

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    Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson

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