On Friday afternoon, Sherlock creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss will share three important words. Three words which could reveal exactly which original Conan Doyle adventures will form the new series of the show. But three words which are far more likely just to keep us guessing...
Moffat, Gatiss and actor Andrew Scott – aka Jim Moriarty – will treat delegates at the Edinburgh International Television Festival to a Sherlock Masterclass, explaining how the show was conceived, produced and cast and how the brand is being handled. But they’ll also give us three one-word clues to the new episodes of Sherlock.
“Last year it was Woman, Hound, Fall,” tweeted Moffat earlier today. “This year's three words revealed tomorrow at#MGEITF #Sherlock Master Class.”
But what might those words be? We know Sherlock will be back from the dead following his plunge from the roof of St Bart’s Hospital at the end of last series. And Mark Gatiss has already confirmed that the opening episode of series three will be at least partly based on The Adventure of the Empty House, the Conan Doyle story in which Sherlock Holmes returns after cheating death at the hands of Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls.
So the first word might well be “Return”. It could also be “Rise” – the antonym of last season's "Fall" – or even “Revenge.” Sherlock surely owes Moriarty’s organisation payback for threatening his friends, and Empty House introduces the criminal consultant's second in command, Colonel Sebastian Moran, who is himself seeking vengeance for Moriarty's death.
The other two words are far more difficult to predict.
Series two's "Woman" – aka A Scandal in Belgravia – was Moffat's version of the first ever Sherlock Holmes short story, while "Hound" was Gatiss's take on the only remaining marquee adventure. With those out of the way, there's not much to go on. We can't rely on the original ACD chronology, since previous episodes of Sherlock have seen Gatiss and Moffat combine elements of various stories from throughout the canon – cases that took place both before and after Holmes’s "death".
What about the writers' own predilections? Last year, Gatiss told us his favourite Holmes adventures included The Bruce-Partington Plans and The Final Problem – elements of which have already been used in Sherlock – along with The Red-Headed League, The Man with the Twisted Lip and The Musgrave Ritual. So if any of the words revealed tomorrow include Musgrave, Twisted or League, we’ll know where we stand...
Of course, that's not going to happen. Even if Steven Moffat wasn't notorious for teasing-but-never-spoiling, Gatiss has said that the "overall feel" of the third series is more likely to dictate which Conan Doyle tales make up the remaining episodes: “Steven and I have our all-time favourites, but it's really a question of what will fit into the structure."
All we can do until tomorrow afternoon is to wait with bated breath for those three little words to be revealed. See you back here then, as we begin our attempts to decipher what they might mean...