Novels (and a comic) that made the jump from words to wow in movies and TV
The creation of Doctor Who scribes Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss, this update on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective series revamp benefits from both extremely clever writing and the undeniable chemistry between Benedict Cumberbatch’s laser-focused Holmes and Martin Freeman’s dogged Dr. Watson. Also? Awesome coat. —Clark Collis
Image Credit: BBC
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Period installment of the Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman favorite has the highest audience share for a Sherlock episode ever
Sherlock has cracked it. The New Year’s Day special The Abominable Bride was the most watched program over the Christmas period with a total of 11.6m viewers.
The consolidated viewing audience for the Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman spectacular proved to be the most popular program shown between December 21 and January 1 but it is not the most watched episode in the show’s history however. It was pipped by the first episode of series three, The Empty Hearse, which achieved a consolidated audience of 12.7m in 2014.
But The Abominable Bride – which had an overnight rating of 8.4m before the figures were consolidated – did have the highest ever audience share for a Sherlock episode, at 40.2%.
The production team said it was very pleased with the figures for the episode which appeared to take the sleuthing duo back to Victorian London as Cumberbatch’s Sherlock was engaged in a reverie involving a case of vengeful wives and another deadly battle with arch enemy Moriarty (Andrew Scott).
Producer Sue Vertue said: “We are thrilled to be a hit in both 2016 and 1895.”
BBC1 controller Charlotte Moore added: “After a two year wait, it’s incredible to see the indisputable power of Sherlock bringing the nation together to make it the biggest show of the festive season. It’s a tribute to the talented team behind this much loved show.”
The next biggest program of the festive season was the New Year’s Eve London fireworks display which had a consolidated audience of 11.4m.
‘Sherlock’ premiere date: Production gets underway Spring; there may be a crossover and character death
“Sherlock” won’t begin production until this spring, as Kpop Starz reports, which was also mentioned by show creator Steve Moffat, though he did not give any specific date when it would begin production.
“I think we’re starting next year, April-ish,” Moffat said to Collider last year, which would make sense as the show will premiere in 2017.
“We do have the next ‘Sherlock’ announced, that is coming about a year from now,” PBS President Paula Kerger said as a confirmation when the show will come out. She has also said that Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Sherlock Holmes, wants to continue working on the series.
Kpop Starz also said that a possible crossover with “Doctor Who” has been stated by Moffat, but no further information have been given about it.
With “Sherlock” still a year away from its next season premiere, there are speculations as to what might possibly happen in it. One involves the death of Watson’s (Martin Freeman) wife, Mary (Amanda Abbington), which was speculated on in this Parent Herald post.
Show creators Steve Moffat and Mark Gatiss have hinted season four will be dark and will involve much emotional upheaval. It’s also known that in the original books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that Watson had a short-lived marriage.
This has fueled fan speculation that Mary will die somewhere along the series, and season four might be the time it will happen.
Freeman himself has stated that somewhere along the way, Mary will die as the show, even though it is set in modern times, still follows the stories as it was written back then by Sir Conan Doyle.
Still another speculation has been brought up by Cross Map, as it says that there might be a third Holmes after Sherlock and Mycroft. This is based on Mycroft mentioning about what happened to “the other one.” The third Holmes is said to be Sherrinford and he might possibly be played by Tom Hiddleston.
The speculations may or may not be true, and as there is still no official word yet on what would be coming for season four, most of these rumors still have no basis as of yet.
Just three months ago, Benedict Cumberbatch shocked a London theater audience when he delivered a four-letter word rant after playing Hamlet, begging theater-goers to donate to Syrian refugees.
But this week it’s his loyal fans who have been left flabbergasted, as they learn they are expected to fork out a staggering £3,000 to meet the actors from his BBC Sherlock drama series at the annual Sherlocked convention.
The three-day event, being held at London’s ExCel Centre, offers varying levels of access depending on how much you are willing to pay. But the only ticket that grants direct access to the main players is the ‘VIP package’, which costs £2,999 and an extra £1 transaction fee.
Fans of Cumberbatch, who attended last year, wasted no time when the tickets were announced on Wednesday to vent their anger via social media.
‘Shouldn’t Benedict be asking his fans to donate that money to the refugees?’ one asked, while another wrote: ‘The VIP pass for Sherlocked is 3000 pounds? WHO PAYS THIS MUCH???’
Cumberbatch and his co-star Martin Freeman’s attendance this autumn has not yet been confirmed, so anyone paying the full whack might not even meet them. If this happens, they will not get a refund.
This caveat is not good enough for disgruntled fan Marie Garner, who explains on the event’s website: ‘I want to buy a ticket, but coming from the U.S. I would want to know that Benedict will be there.’
The September event’s marketing director, Jill Ubdegrove, says: ‘All the money from ticket sales goes back into the event. It will go towards things like the venue and catering and the cost of hosting the actors.’
A spokeswoman for Cumberbatch adds: ‘Benedict is filming [Marvel Comics superhero] Doctor Strange, so it’s unlikely he is aware of how much the tickets cost. He attended last year but I don’t know if he will this year, because of work.’
Following last year’s first ever official Sherlock convention, a new 3-day event has been announced today.
Organised by Massive Events in association with Hartswood Films and Showmasters Ltd, Sherlocked will feature an array of Sherlock themed activities, star guests from cast & crew, talks, photoshoots, autograph opportunities and more.
Sherlocked will take place in both the UK and the US.
The UK event will be held on Friday 23 September, Saturday 24 September and Sunday 25 September 2016. More information on the UK event will be released at midday on Wednesday 20 January.
Dates for the US event will be announced later this month.
Sign up here and be the first to know when tickets for Sherlocked go on sale.
The recent Sherlock special has enjoyed multi-million dollar box office success around the world. ‘The Abominable Bride’ aired on New Year’s Day in the UK, where it attracted 11.6 million viewers to BBC One.
**This review of STAB is my opinion and mine alone. It contains lots of spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it…
Turn Back!!!! Spoilers Ahead!!
Now… I have to admit; I was intrigued at the idea of Sherlock set in the Victorian era and what exactly Sherlock would be like residing in the past instead of the more modern era and I think that the creators of the series strived to give fans something unusual without exactly continuing the series altogether.
Well, unusual it was.
First, you have a recap of all the previous Sherlock seasons, which leads into an “alternative” recreation of Sherlock & Watson’s first meeting through their friend, Mike Stamford. This was very clever. It recreated John’s war experiences, their first introduction to each other and my personal favorite, Sherlock beating a corpse with a whip.
Afterwards you are thrust into the world of Victorian England in the 1800’s. The scenery is quite beautiful with carriages, velvet covered chairs and top hatted Londoners walking about, and we are taken to 221 B Baker Street and meet Mrs. Hudson, who is very funny, telling John that she detests his stories in the paper as she never has anything to say in them. The dialogue is funny and fast paced, however, it is somewhat unnerving to see Sherlock behaving in a more theatrical way that we are used to. It was almost as if he were performing on a stage, rather than in a movie. John is as funny as ever, if not a bit thickheaded at times (the man didn’t even know his own wife’s perfume).
When Lestrade arrives and very fearfully relates to Holmes & Watson the case of the Abominable Bride, a Gothic tale of tragedy involving an unhappy bride, shooting away at men from a balcony only to take her own life later. Holmes is uninterested until he learns that the bride was spotted by a police officer the next night, shooting her own husband. Sherlock takes the case and he and Watson head to the mortuary, leaving a very angry Mary behind. She is clearly unhappy with her life as Mrs. Watson and grumbles about it to Mrs. Hudson, until a mysterious message lures her away.
At the morgue, Holmes and Watson greet the mortician’s assistant, Anderson, who dislikes Sherlock as much as the old Anderson did. Holmes then greets the mortician, “Hooper” who is clearly Molly Hooper in disguise as a man, a fact realized by Watson, but not Holmes (I will get into my feelings on this story line later). Hooper is clearly hostile towards Sherlock and begrudgingly shows the brides body to the group. She shows Holmes the woman’s finger that is covered in blood with the words “You” written on the wall. This was a message the Bride had shouted before killing herself. This stumps the men. Earlier, Lestrade tells Sherlock that the “Bride” has killed five separate men.
Later, Sherlock & John visit someone who he clearly loathes at a Gentleman’s club. After a bizarre exchange with the butler there (some sort of sign language was spoken, but I am not sure) they are sent in to see… Mycroft. This is one of the funniest, if not one of the most bizarre moments of the movie.
Mycroft is supremely obese, surrounded by food. After making a bet with Sherlock on how quickly he could die, Mycroft tells Sherlock that he would like him to meet Lady Carmichael, a woman who fears her husband might be murdered soon. Later she tells Holmes & Watson about her husband’s strange behavior of late and that he was being targeted by the “Abominable Bride”. Holmes agrees to help and tells the woman to sleep separately from her husband that night and that he and Watson will be nearby.
During all of this Watson has his own set of troubles as Mary has been spending a lot of time away from home. Sherlock in the meantime seems haunted by “Ghosts” from his past.
That night he and Watson lie in wait after the Carmichael’s have gone to bed for the night. In a private moment, they have a heated exchange (this is one of my favorite parts) in which John points out not only Sherlock’s admiration for Lady Carmichael, but that he keeps a picture of Irene Adler in his pocket watch as well. Sherlock tells Watson that love is a distraction and Watson reminds him that he is a man, and not a machine. The two are interrupted at the sight of “The Bride” who appears as a ghostly apparition outside the Carmichael home. The two give chase, but Sherlock is too late to save Mr. Carmichael.
This is where the story begins to get weird, and confusing. While trying to get into his mind palace (through a very cool CGI effect of Sherlock looking at swirling scraps of paper) Sherlock is suddenly transported-to the future, via some very strong drugs that he has taken. He wakes up the modern day Sherlock we all know and love, thrust into the ending of Season three, where he is returning from banishment because of Moriarty. He is confronted by John, a pregnant Mary and Mycroft who angrily demands Sherlock tell him of all the drugs he’s taken. Sherlock admits to it but insists he needs them and must return to his mind palace to solve the case of the “Abominable Bride”.
This is where I will end my synopsis I don’t want to spoil the entire movie, but needless to say, Holmes spend the rest of the movie transporting back and forth between the present and the past, trying to solve the murder.
What I loved about the movie the most was seeing the cast together again. Whether it’s modern day or Victorian England, these people work well together. Benedict Cumberbatch is splendid as ever, astonishing the audience with his brilliant interpretation and the speed at which he is able to deliver his lines. He plays Sherlock with a bit more vulnerability this time around than in previous versions I’ve seen and Martin Freeman, well, he just is Watson.
The other thing I loved was the inclusion of past Sherlock characters such as Mike Stamford, the little boy Sherlock impressed at John and Mary’s wedding, Janine and, yes Moriarty as well. It was fun to see them all return, especially Andrew Scott who plays Moriarty with his usual lunatic dramatics. This is clearly a man who haunts Sherlock’s mind palace and torments him. Another particularly touching scene was the present day Mycroft asking the present day Watson to watch over his brother. This was a sweet reminder of the fact that while extremely competitive with his brother, that Mycroft truly loves him as well. It would have been nice to include Benedict’s parents in there; it was still fun to see the bond between the brothers.
What I didn’t love about the movie was the serious feminist attitude that permeated the story. Don’t get me wrong, I am a woman, and I realize this was during the days of the Suffragette’s, where women were fighting for equality and the right to vote. While I applaud the writers for showing how lowly women were treated in the past and also the present, it dominated the story and there was no real resolution. Did the women all go to jail? Were they sorry? I wasn’t sure. But I felt the subject was way too over the top for my taste and I found myself rolling my eyes at times. Plus, they likened the cause of women’s rights to that of some sort of evil cult made up of vengeful women. The actual women of the time chained themselves to fences and spent time in prison, sacrificing their freedom in order to win the right to vote, not gain revenge on all the men who’d done them wrong.
However, the part that supremely disappointed me was the story of “Hooper”. As a total Molly Hooper fan, I wondered why there wasn’t much in the trailer or promos that showed the character. I knew she was in it, but why not show any of Molly’s scenes at all? So needless to say the introduction to “Hooper” was surprising and sad at the same time. I understand that Molly is a secondary character and not a lead in the series, however, Molly Hooper endeared herself to fans by very shyly and quietly showing her love for Sherlock and her support of him as well. Molly is a very kindly character and seeing her so openly hostile was unpleasant. I realize that she is supposed to be a Suffragette but to make Molly the bad guy just felt wrong. It could have been Sally Donovan or Janine for that matter, someone who had a grudge against Sherlock in the regular seasons but instead they showed Molly as a character who truly hated Holmes, and that I didn’t like at all. It was a sad part of the Sherlock/Molly story that could have been done better.
As a Sherlock fan, I was prepared to accept anything that they could give us, as it could be a long time until the next installment, and for the most part, this was a fun and quite enjoyable chapter in the Sherlock story, if not a bit chaotic and confusing in parts.
So next will be Sherlock 4 and it will be interesting to see if any of this will be used in future story lines. Until then, I will be pondering the question Mycroft posed at the end of season three, “You know what happened to the other one…”
Article from tomorrow’s The Times:
Benedict Cumberbatch tells Damian Whitworth why he’s happy that Sherlock Holmes is returning to Victoriana
There have been suggestions that Benedict Cumberbatch has of late lost all his mirth. First, after one of his nightly post-Hamlet appeals to help Syrian refugees, he called on the audience to “f*** the politicians”. Then he enhanced the impression that he was taking himself a touch too seriously by calling for a meeting with the home secretary about the refugee crisis.
And now, as we discuss the Sherlock Christmas special, The Abominable Bride, he objects to the use of “bromance” to describe the relationship between his Holmes and Martin Freeman’s Dr John Watson.
We are sitting in a shabby room, heated by a small electric fire, in the Bottle Yard Studios, a former factory in Bristol where the set has been built for The Abominable Bride. For the one-off special the creators have abandoned the modern-day setting in which Cumberbatch made his name as Sherlock and taken the world’s most famous detective back to the Victorian era in which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced him.
Cumberbatch is on a break from filming and arrives in Victorian waistcoat and starched collar, his hair slicked back. “What a handsome man,” mutters another (male) journalist as he enters the room. While Freeman — who had been in a few minutes earlier, huddled in an enormous parka — was so low-key that you’d walk past him in the street, Cumberbatch glows like a full moon on a cloudless night.
Of course, we all want to know if Sherlock and John are still the same back in the 19th century. “Is there still the bromance?” I ask.
“You just really want to write the word bromance,” says Cumberbatch to a little peal of sycophantic laughter from some of the journalists gathered around him. The word bromance may be overused in connection with Sherlock, but the nuances of the relationship are a subject of endless fascination to Sherlockologists. I try to keep it light: “There can’t be an article without it in there,” I joke. “There can,” says Cumberbatch. “You can be the first. Strive for change in the press.”
This is starting to feel like it could be hard work, but fortunately Cumberbatch warms up. The essence of the modern-day Sherlock has been maintained in this new departure, he says, so we can expect a rollicking pace, crackling wit and the sparky Holmes-Watson relationship. “It’s a companionship that has evolved in our version, so we are not regressing to ‘Wow!’ or ‘Golly, Holmes!’ or some sort of Nigel Bruce-esque kind of adoration. [It is] more complex than that, which is great.”
This Victorian version will not be a pastiche. “We don’t want to make it into a sketch. We don’t want to make it into something ridiculous or comic,” Cumberbatch says. “We want to be true to the original; at the same time we want to be true to our version. So it’s a very delicate balancing act.”
How did he react when the show’s creators, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, told him that Holmes was going home to 1895? “I was thrilled. I went, ‘At last I can have a f***in’ haircut. [Instead of] that ridiculous bouncy lot of curls on my head.’ And then I went, ‘You are mad. What?’ I genuinely didn’t understand how they were going to get away with it. And then the more detailed pitch came and I went, ‘OK, this is going to be great fun.’ And it really is. It is so nice to play him in his era. Some of the weight is taken off you and [you are]not trying to establish this man in the 21st century. When he is in full Victorian swing it’s a really lovely feeling.”
Playing Holmes in the modern era can sometimes feel like heavy lifting, says Cumberbatch. He is “a man clearly slightly out of his time. To put him back in the era that he’s written in is a joy. It feels easier to a degree. Things that I try to impose a little bit on the modern version, like his physicality, stature, a lot of that is done by the body of the clothing and collars, the deerstalker and cape and all those sort of things. That’s an absolute delight and yet it doesn’t feel like cliché because you are functioning in them rather than quoting them.”
Victorian Sherlock smokes two types of pipe and instead of the Belstaff coat worn by the modern incarnation, he has an inverness cape that echoes the coat, and is worn with matching deerstalker. No doubt they’ll be producing cheap knock-offs in China within hours of transmission.
Gatiss gave Cumberbatch the Belstaff coat after recording the first series and he wore it for a bit before the show was aired. He was not famous then and there was no reason to be concerned about having his picture taken in it. But he worried. “What if someone did accidentally [take a picture] and then says, ‘Seen walking around Hampstead Heath in his f***ing costume.’ Seal my reputation as being a dick.”
Gatiss describes this Victorian Sherlock as “The Adventure of Having Your Cake and Eating It. It is still our show. It is essentially Sherlock as if we have always done it, period. So it hasn’t suddenly become very dusty and slow.”
The 90-minute special is about having fun, chips in Moffat. “Fun for us and fun for the audience. Benedict and Martin are the Holmes and Watson of their age. They own those roles. Wouldn’t it be awful if you never saw them do it properly? Wouldn’t you like to see them in the deerstalker and bowler hat?”
Freeman says he doesn’t feel as though he is playing a completely different character, although “it does tighten you up slightly physically and vocally, I think, so there is slightly less overly casual modern speak”. Once Watson is back in the Victorian era he is a little more in awe of Holmes than in the modern version. “The original Watson was much more outwardly generous in his thinking that his friend is a genius. Modern Watson definitely thinks his friend is a genius but also an enormous pain in the arse.”
The Victorian Watson comes with a magnificent Victorian mustache. Freeman also had a ’tache in series 3 of the modern Sherlock. “I’ve got to try and rein that in, not let Steven and Mark think this is an ongoing thing now and end up as Robinson Crusoe.”
The Abominable Bride is based on a passing reference to a case made in Conan Doyle’s story The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual. The producers tell us that the story begins with a man seeing his wife in her wedding dress shortly after she killed herself and the trailers suggest a gothic adventure with clattering hansom cabs and spooky locations. No preview tapes have been made available.
On set, the actors and production team give little away, although we are allowed to venture into Holmes’s bachelor flat, which is set up exactly like his slightly squalid pad from the first three Sherlock series but filled with Victorian furniture and paraphernalia. A table is jumbled with scientific experiments, a skull, microscope and typewriter. The bison skull on the wall is still there, but instead of headphones it has an ear trumpet.
Una Stubbs will be there as Holmes’s landlady, Mrs Hudson. The Victorian Mrs H is a little rattier than the modern one, says Stubbs, who adds that Sherlock is the biggest success that she has been involved in during her long career. “I have been lucky to be in some series that have been a success — nothing like this. I am stopped in the street by groups of Russians, Chinese. It is quite extraordinary.” She recalls walking along the street the day after the first Sherlock aired. “I could hear, ‘How do you say it? Benedict Cumber . . ?’ I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s a success.’ ”
In the subsequent five years, Stubbs has watched Cumberbatch being catapulted to global stardom. “Can you believe how it’s changed? Really incredible. From being this young actor and suddenly this superstar. But it sits well on his shoulders.”
After three Hobbit films Freeman is a similarly big name worldwide. “I was dreading in a way that they would change but they haven’t,” says Stubbs. “You just don’t know if they’d be big-headed because it is a phenomenon, how they have both been drawn up and given all these wonderful opportunities. Well, they’ve earned them,” she adds quickly.
For Freeman, Sherlock is an opportunity to work with his partner, Amanda Abbington, who plays Mrs Watson. These days he is away from Abbington and their two children a lot. “There is no way round it. Well there is — I could stop acting. It would mean not taking interesting opportunities. And even though it’s second in importance to my family, it’s a close second because I was doing it before I met Amanda and before I became a dad. I am very, very passionate about my job but I have to really want to do something to go away.” Work and family life mean that he and Cumberbatch tend to see each other only on Sherlock shoots. “We don’t hang out an awful lot.”
Most of the time he is grateful for the constant flow of work. “I am thinking mainly ‘Thank God’ but with moments of ‘I wish it would ease up.’ You want to have your cake and eat it in life. We are reasonably selfish creatures, I guess. I try not to look at the diary, that way I end up in trouble. Amanda says, ‘Please look at your schedule.’ I say, ‘Yes,’ but it’s boring. I just go where I’m pointed. I can’t think of things too far into the future, my brain does tend to shut down.”
Freeman’s future, he says, will continue to include Sherlock. A new series of three dramas will be filmed next year and is expected to be broadcast in 2017. “I have always believed in doing things as long as one wants to do them and as soon as you don’t want to do something you should stop.” He will work on Sherlock “as long as we are free and enjoying it. I know it’s a good show. The truth is, though, it has got more and more difficult to factor in.”
Gatiss says: “We have accidentally cast the two biggest stars in the country.” Moffatt says: “Everybody else pays them more than we do’
Cumberbatch says he is “pretty determined” to keep playing Sherlock in the modern day and maybe even as a Victorian sleuth in more specials. “I’m still enjoying it and we’ll see how the next series goes. I would love to keep ageing with him. Martin and I started this relatively young compared to a lot of Holmes and Watsons, so why not?”
Sherlock: The Abominable Bride, BBC One, New Year’s Day, 9pm
**I wonder why there aren’t any pictures of Mycroft or Molly?
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are turning back the clock to Sherlock’s origins, finds Tim Martin
In the sitting-room of 221B Baker Street, where Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have jostled and bickered as Holmes and Watson since their modern-day adventures began in 2010, something is different. Watson’s chrome MacBook has been replaced by a clunking manual typewriter. The bison skull on the wall no longer wears its ironic headphones and the view from the window shows a dour set of 19th-century tenements instead of the bustling north London of today.
For the one-off episode of Sherlock, the show’s creators, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, have set their sparkling contemporary adaptation spinning back in time to the era of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in a special installment filled with Gothic stylings, gas-lit intrigue, luxuriant mustaches and one very famous deerstalker.
“I thought, at last I can have a f—— haircut. We could get rid of that ridiculous bouncy lot of curls on my head,” says Benedict Cumberbatch, beaming with amusement in a dressing room under the Bottle Yard Studios in Bristol. That wish, at least, came true: today Cumberbatch’s hair is slicked back, Victorian-gent-style, and he wears a stiff collar and dapper tweeds. “Then I went – you’re mad,” he continues. “I genuinely didn’t understand how they were going to get away with it.”
Like his colleagues, he is allowed only to expand on the most uncontroversial Sherlockian topics. A fourth season is coming (“I’ve said we’ll go into production on it in a year, not any specific year,” Gatiss has said) and Cumberbatch deploys his most diplomatic smile when quizzed on how this slice of Victoriana ties into the show’s present-day setting – or how it resolves the desperate cliffhanger at the end of the last season. “Nice try, nice try,” he mutters wryly, conceding only that while the trip into the 19th century “is a great deal of fun, it does advance things. It’s not just on its own.”
He’s far more comfortable when describing how it feels to explore the character as Conan Doyle originally wrote him. “In the sense that he’s a man slightly out of his time,” he says, “to put him back in the era that he’s written in is a joy. Things I tried to impose a little on the modern version – his physicality, his stature – are done by the costumes: the collars, the deerstalkers and cape. It’s a delight.”
The transition to a more polite age, however, hasn’t affected Sherlock’s ruthless bluntness. “He’s a meritocracy,” says Cumberbatch. “He cuts through mediocrity. It doesn’t matter if you’re a lord or a lady, if you’re driving a hansom cab or if you’re one of the Baker Street Boys: it’s purely about what your worth is and your quality, not your social standing. So, yes, he’s still rude. He’s rude to idiots and people who are pompous or sexist. He’s quite a crusader in that regard.”
Freeman, who, as Watson, sports a great caterpillar-like false mustache for this episode, says, “We’re trying not to be too winky about it, and too self-knowing. Sometimes when things are set in, say, the Seventies, it’s our way of laughing at people from the old days. I don’t find that very interesting.”
Instead, he says, the period setting “makes you amend what you’re doing very slightly. The plan wasn’t to suddenly present a whole different character, or a pastiche, but it does tighten you up physically and vocally.”
The surprising tenderness of the Holmes-Watson relationship – the bromance that launched a thousand overheated fan fictions – survives the transition to a starchier age. “I guess the difference is that Victorian Watson’s got more patience,” says Freeman. “He’s much more generous with his outward thinking that his friend’s a genius than modern Watson. Modern Watson definitely thinks his friend is a genius, but he’s also an enormous pain in the a—.”
Upstairs, and back on set, Moffat and Gatiss are pacing around preparing for the next scene. Theirs is a scarcely less fascinating double act than Holmes and Watson’s: Gatiss is willowy, blond and cheerful, Moffat short, dark and brooding, but they finish each other’s sentences with the ease of long friendship and collaboration.
A Victorian episode, Gatiss carefully explains, doesn’t represent a long-held dream, because “that would imply we’d been begrudgingly making it modern to get to this. We’ve joked about the idea for a long time, but it’s just so massively appealing to do both. The only other people who’ve ever done it” – played Sherlock, he means, in both a period and a modern setting – “are Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.” Moffat nods. “The show had to be as big as it is now,” he interjects, “for us to do something this mad.”
In fact, says Moffat, the elaborate Victorian trappings of the set represent the “lazy version” of the screenwriter’s task. “The one we put all the thought into,” he says, “was finding the equivalents for the modern day.” Transposing Cumberbatch and Freeman’s relationship to the past was actually “exactly the same trick as we did a few years ago with [the first Sherlock episode] A Study in Pink. We said, look, it’s still Sherlock Holmes, isn’t it? Even though we’ve changed everything.”
Around the corner in the editing suite, a quick glimpse of a rough cut proves that beneath its period trappings this is, recognisably, the same Sherlock. Strand Magazine in hand, a harried-looking Watson is trying to defend himself against slights on the veracity of his casebook from his landlady Mrs Hudson, played by Una Stubbs. “According to you I just show people up the stairs and serve you breakfast,” she complains. “I’m your landlady, not a plot device!”
“You’re not the only one, Mrs Hudson,” remarks Cumberbatch’s Sherlock. “I was hardly in the one about the dog.”
Nearby is Amanda Abbington, Freeman’s wife both on and off-screen who, at the end of the last season, was shown to be an assassin with a deadly past. “We’ve kept Mary’s sparkiness and her glint,” she says firmly. “She’s got a bit of scrappiness about her and we don’t want to lose that.”
She laughs when asked if she and Freeman enforce a no-Sherlock rule in their household. “Definitely not!” she says. “We sit together as a family and watch it. My son knows a few of the scenes and does them with my daughter. Grace is usually the assassin shooting Joe. But, no, there’s no embargo on Sherlock. We love it!”
As Cumberbatch and Freeman prepare to return to set, they mutter about the show’s excursion into period drama. Freeman laments the fact that he can’t get dressed by himself, while Cumberbatch has period arcana to deal with, including a fancy meerschaum that is, he notes darkly, “a pyrotechnic pipe. That doesn’t mean it blows up in my face. I’m just not smoking.”
It is widely believed that the fourth season of Sherlock may be its last, and although Gatiss cheerily acknowledges that “making people wait is all we do: whole civilizations have risen and fallen between seasons of Sherlock”, the snowballing fame of its actors has made synchronizing diaries more and more difficult. Neither of the two leads seem worried, however. “I’ve always believed in doing things for as long as one wants to do them,” says Freeman.
And if that sounds ever-so-slightly cryptic, Cumberbatch is more definite. “I don’t know any other actor that’s been so spoilt with this role,” he says. “I’ve said many times I’d love to keep aging with him. And Martin and I started this fairly young compared to a lot of Holmes and Watson pairings. So why not?”
Sherlock is on New Year’s Day at 9pm on BBC One