Rat, Wedding and Bow were the three words revealed by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss at this afternoon's Edinburgh TV Festival Sherlock Masterclass, supposedly hinting at the themes of each of the third season's episodes. But what could they mean?
The first thing that springs to my mind when I hear the word Rat in relation to a Sherlock Holmes story is The Boscombe Valley Mystery, in which a young man is implicated in his father's murder, the key to which is the true meaning of a dying reference to "a rat". If you don't know the story, I won't spoil it for you by explaining what the "rat" in question is.
Next we have Wedding, which immediately suggests the marriage of Dr Watson to Mary Morstan, the heroine of The Sign of Four. Could this mean wedding bells for John? And if so, who might be the lucky lady?
Everyone's favourite lab geek Molly Hooper currently has a major crush on Sherlock, but some have suggested she might transfer her affections to John in the future. The argument goes as follows: Molly has a cat called Toby. Toby is the name of the bloodhound used by Holmes to track the villain in The Sign of Four. The Sign of Four is the story that introduces Mary Marston. Mary Marston later married John Watson.
Are these early clues left by Gatiss and Moffat for eagle-eyed fans to discover? Are they coincidences? Or are they the writers' cheeky attempts to throw us off the scent? I don't know, but I could have a good guess...
Finally, we have Bow, and this is the clue that could suggest we won't be seeing any more of Sherlock after series three. Is it a reference to bow-ties? We know from Doctor Who that Steven Moffat has a penchant for them. More likely, that's the wrong pronounciation and we're looking at His Last Bow, Holmes's final case, which sees the ageing detective - codenamed Altamont - going up against German spies as part of the British First World War effort.
There are three reasons why Sherlock fans shouldn't despair just yet.
1. While His Last Bow is chronologically Holmes's final case, Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 12 more adventures pre-dating it after it was published, under the banner of The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes.
2. Moffat and Gatiss have already happily messed around with ACD's stories, picking and choosing bits and pieces and flitting back and forth in the Holmes timeline. They may well do it again.
3. Moffat and Gatiss knew we were poised to analyse the three words as soon as they were revealed. They know many of us are as big Sherlock Holmes fans as they are and they can predict exactly the sort of conclusions we (I) might jump to, so they've deliberately chosen words that send us (me) in completely the wrong direction just for the fun of it.
Having said all that, both Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are spending more and more time in Hollywood or on other projects and getting them together is going to be increasingly difficult...
Of course, this is all wild speculation based on very little rumination. I will be entering my mind palace later to give those three little words the full attention they require. In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Post your theories below and let me know...