Mark Gatiss: I’m proud of binned Sherlock pilot

Co-creator says he and Steven Moffat were "very happy" with 60-minute original

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If you’ve got series one of Sherlock on DVD but have never watched the extras: dig it out and take a look at the original pilot, says co-creator Mark Gatiss.

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Sherlock’s first episode was initially filmed as an hour-long programme directed by Coky Giedroyc, but this was junked and re-filmed as the now-familiar, 90-minute A Study in Pink, with Paul McGuigan taking over as director. 

Hard as it is to believe now, this false start led to rumours in the media and TV industry that the show was a dud – until, that is, the revised Sherlock was shown on BBC1 to massive acclaim.

Asked about this on tonight’s Mark Lawson Talks to Mark Gatiss on BBC4, Gatiss says the reason the original pilot was included on the Sherlock series one DVD was to dispel rumours that it hadn’t worked. 

“The reason we eventually put [the pilot] on the DVD was to stop [speculation that it had been a disaster] because the pilot is very good,” Gatiss tells Lawson during the interview. “We would have been very happy [to air the original version]. It was originally commissioned as six hour-long episodes and then when we’d made the pilot, they asked for three 90s – I think largely because of the success of Wallander in that format. 

“We knew we couldn’t just bolt on another half hour,” Gatiss continues, “so Steve [Moffat] rewrote it and we remade it with a different director. You realise you’ve got absolutely no comeback [to stories saying the show had been in crisis]. What do you do? Because of an internal decision to make it in another format, this gossip got out. I remember thinking: if we don’t show people that it wasn’t a disaster, this will live with us for ever.”

Gatiss concedes that other programme-makers might have been wary of confusing fans by releasing a different version of a much-loved episode. “The argument is that you preserve the final version, sacrosanct,” he says, “but I thought that was an insult to the original director and the production. The second one [ie the broadcast version of episode one] is more stylish, but it’s a different beast.”

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See the full interview with Gatiss tonight on BBC4 at 10:50pm.