Sherlock series 3: Could Amanda Abbington’s character be John’s future wife?

New clues suggest Martin Freeman's real-life partner could end up being his on-screen love interest too

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There’s a strong implication in Sherlock that Dr John Watson is, if not quite a womaniser, then at least a committed serial dater.

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We’ve met his practice manager Sarah – who found herself at the wrong end of a crossbow but still invited him into her bedroom. Then there was schoolteacher Jeanette, who dumped him at the 221B Christmas party for failing to pay attention to her. And, of course, there are the loaded asides from Sherlock (“If I wanted poetry I’d just read John’s emails to his girlfriends”), implying numerous other ladyfriends in the background. 

But all that could be about to change…

Sherlock Holmes fans, who know that the original stories see Dr Watson meet and marry one Mary Morstan, have been having fun attempting to guess who the lucky lady might eventually be in the BBC1 series (one elaborate theory even uses the names of cats and dogs to construct a dubious causal chain that links John to Louise Brealey’s lab technician Molly Hooper).

And recent developments suggest this is another mystery (along with how Sherlock survived the fall) that could be cleared up in season three…

The announcement that Martin Freeman’s real-life partner Amanda Abbington is to appear in the new series is, on its own, hardly grounds to believe that life is going to imitate art. But look a little closer and there are certainly some points of interest…

In the Arthur Conan Doyle tales, Dr Watson meets his future wife during the adventure of The Sign of Four. Their subsequent marriage sees Watson moving out of his Baker Street rooms and having increasingly less contact with his friend. 

So when we hear that filming on series three of Sherlock has involved Abbington’s character running around with the detective – presumably on a case – and then the BBC tells us she will be taking on “a role that significantly impacts upon the lives of John and Sherlock”, well, it all fits together rather neatly…

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Of course, the possibility that co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have deliberately released a red herring should never be discounted – but when the cast list is finally revealed I’ll be checking it immediately to see whether Abbington’s character is called Mary, or has the initials MM…