Sherlock and the mystery of #221back – some theories

Something's coming, but what? Moriarty? A mini episode? A convention? Or a Christmas special sooner than we think...

“It’s all gone dark… Something’s coming… Or someone…”


Last night Mark Gatiss and BBC1 got together on Twitter to send Sherlock fans into a frenzy.

Using the hasthag #221back, accompanied by a picture of Jim Moriarty, they teased an imminent announcement about the show, which will come at 2:21pm today (see what they did there?).

But what will it be? Something’s coming, something’s back and Sherlock’s supposedly dead arch-enemy is somehow involved. But is Moriarty really alive, as the final frames of the series three cliffhanger suggested? And if so, what form might his return take? Here are some theories…

We all know how hard it is to get Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman together to film Sherlock (not to mention writers Gatiss and Steven Moffat, who also has the small task of running Doctor Who on the side). So what do you do when you do have them in the same room? Film more Sherlock of course!

Could we be about to find out that there’s something already in the can, waiting to be broadcast? And if so, what?

At the end of last year a Sherlock webisode, Many Happy Returns, showed fans predicting and reacting to the return from the dead of Sherlock Holmes. Could we be about to see something similar but with Moriarty at its centre? Or perhaps this is a way to let fans down gently and reveal that Moriarty is not in fact the latest Sherlock character to be resurrected. After all, we only saw what amounted to an animated gif at the end of the last series – and that final frame in which he turns to face the camera could easily just have been a red herring.

But if that’s true, what about those words: “It’s all gone dark… Something’s coming… Or someone…”? Well, wouldn’t it be just like Moriarty to have set up some kind of doomsday programme that let him taunt Sherlock even from beyond the grave? The video that took over screens around the world could have been ready to go for six months – and the darkness? Well perhaps the lights are about to go out across London, or even the globe, thanks to Moriarty’s fabled universal key. Sherlock may find himself racing against time, through the dark, to restore electricity to the western world.

This could be a one-off or the set up for a new series.

On the other hand, perhaps the news is that they didn’t just film a short but a whole extra episode…

Martin Freeman has said on more than one occasion recently that a Christmas special is in the works and will arrive in December 2015. But could his “They’ll fire me for telling you this!” shtick actually have puppet masters Gatiss and Moffat behind it? Could the announcement be that a Christmas special is coming this year?

A tweet yesterday from Sherlock insiders Sherlockology suggests that could be the case. They’ve spoken to the show’s producer, Moffat’s wife Sue Vertue, and tell us news is coming soon that will clarify Freeman’s comments.

If and when we do get a Christmas special, which original Sherlock Holmes story will it be based on? The obvious answers is The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, a festive tale of a stolen gemstone and a lost Christmas goose.

Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss has made no secret of his affection for the tale – he once told “I love, love, love Blue Carbuncle!” – and although he and Moffat tend to blend elements from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, rather than dramatising them wholesale, it seems likely they would want to pay tribute to it in some form.

And finally… what about forthcoming Sherlock convention Sherlocked? Remember, its official Twitter account was the first to weigh in yesterday, posting the enigmatic message “LAZARUS IS GO”. Fans (including me) are currently on a mailing list waiting for further details of this but we do know it will be taking place across Europe and the USA, so a Twitter announcement is the perfect way to reach everyone at once.

I’m wondering whether #221back could be a specific reference to the fact that a recreation of Sherlock and John’s Baker Street flat will be part of the exhibition. After all, who wouldn’t want to sit in John’s armchair or run their hands along the sofa once inahabited by Benedict Cumberbatch and his sofa…


Is that the news we’ll get at 2:21pm today? Only time will tell…