Sherlock: Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss reveal which Conan Doyle stories they want to adapt next

The creators have The Speckled Band and The Red-Headed League in their sights

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As well as talking about what to expect in series three, Sherlock co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss also gave a glimpse into what could possibly appear in series four and beyond at San Diego Comic Con.

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Asked by the audience what Arthur Conan Doyle stories they would like to tackle, Gatiss replied that he’d like to try his hand at The Red-Headed League, an 1891 tale centered around a criminal duo who fool a ginger man into allowing them to – elaborately – break into a bank.

Moffat then went on to cite The Speckled Band: a story where a venomous snake is used as the murder weapon. “If you haven’t read the The Speckled Band, go read The Speckled Band,” he told the audience. “It makes no sense at all, but there’s something exciting on every page. I read it when I was very young, and I thought, ‘It doesn’t get better than that.’” 

However, Moffat also admitted that most stoires would only give them 20 minutes of screen time, so they’re more interested in constructing their stories around “moments” from the source material. He cited the moment in Doyle’s story The Engineer’s Thumb – in which a man has his thumb severed by a meat cleaver – as an example.

“We just sort of take the bits from [Conan Doyle] that we like, rather than adapting full stories,” Gatiss added. “We’re always thinking about big storylines and movie-sized stories. We try to think of stories with the sort of scale that deserve that sort of length.”

On the subject of Conan Doyle’s work, the creative team were also asked what they would say to the Sherlock Holmes author if they could talk to him now.

“We owe everything to Conan Doyle,” Gatiss answered. “He’s a genius writer, possibly the greatest writer of short stories that’s ever been, and everything thing we do we owe unto him. So I’d like to say, ‘Thank you but, by the way, spiritualism isn’t true.’”

Moffat added: “He sort of affected to believe throughout his life that he didn’t really matter, that his stories weren’t very good. But his stories are simply the best storytelling of its kind, and you are sort of inventing television, which hadn’t been invented yet. The idea of different adventures for the same characters on a weekly basis is his idea.”

Producer Sue Vertue then revealed that Gatiss and Moffat, when having trouble with scripts, often refer back to their source material for inspiration.

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“I was just trying to write a good entrance for Sherlock in Episode 3, which we’re about to film,” Moffat said. “And I went back to [Conan Doyle’s] stories and found a good entrance for him.”