Sherlock series 3: BBC1 to air two episodes in four days as show returns to Sunday slot

Less than 96 hours will separate The Empty Hearse from The Sign of Three as the series returns to its traditional Sunday berth following the New Year's Day opener

This morning brought us the news that Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes will return to our screens on Wednesday 1 January 2014, revealed to fans in the flowers of a funeral hearse driven through London – a nod to the title of the first episode, The Empty Hearse. 

Advertisement can now confirm that instead of airing a week after the New Year’s Day premiere, the following two instalments of Sherlock series three will switch to the show’s traditional primetime Sunday evening slot. That means fans will have to wait just four days for the second feature length episode, The Sign of Three, on Sunday 5 January, with the third and final part, His Last Vow, set to air on Sunday 12 January.

In fact, stats fans, the 90-minute running time of each episode means the closing credits of The Empty Hearse and the opening titles of The Sign of Three will be separated by just 94 hours and 30 minutes.

The news confirms that instead of stretching the long-awaited third run over three weeks, the entire series will instead air over a relatively short 12-day period. 

The events of the third season are being kept under wraps by co-creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat but episode one will explain how Sherlock survived his plummet from the roof of St Bart’s Hospital at the hands of Andrew Scott’s criminal genius, Moriarty.

The last we saw of the super sleuth he was observing his faithful companion John Watson (Martin Freeman) as he stood in the graveyard mourning the loss of his friend. 

Watch the trailer for Sherlock series three here