9 Sherlock/Doctor Who crossovers and connections you might not know about

Did you know that Moriarty once did battle with the Doctor? Or that Peter Capaldi and Benedict Cumberbatch played the same character? Or that the Sherlock credits contain a secret Doctor Who message?

Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch)

Steven Moffat revealed that while he’s not averse to the Sherlock/Doctor Who crossover certain fanboys and girls are dying to see, it’s unlikely ever to happen. Never mind, though – there are plenty of weird and wonderful connections between the two shows already out there…


1. Peter Capaldi and Benedict Cumberbatch played the same character in Neverwhere

The Sherlock star was impressively eerie as the scheming Angel Islington in the recent Radio 4 adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s fantasy drama. But did you know that our new Doctor Peter Capaldi played the same role 17 years before in BBC2’s screen version?

2. Benedict Cumberbatch’s mum was in Steven Moffat comedy Coupling

Of course you know that Benedict Cumberbatch’s mum Wanda Ventham starred as Sherlock’s on-screen mother in series three. But way before Steven Moffat had created the detective drama – or landed the job of showrunner on Doctor Who – Wanda turned up in his quirky BBC2 romcom series Coupling. She played another mother, who was delighted by an unexpectedly saucy gift from her daughter’s boyfriend…

3. Matt Smith auditioned for the role of John Watson

Matt Smith was the first actor to audition for the part eventually landed by Martin Freeman, according to Steven Moffat, who decided he was a little too “barmy” for the role. In fact, Matt might have had a chance of playing Sherlock himself, if a certain Mr Cumberbatch hadn’t already made the role his own.

“We’d already cast Benedict Cumberbatch and the very first person we saw for Dr Watson was Matt, who came in and gave a very good audition,” Moffat told Doctor Who Magazine back in 2010. “But he didn’t have a chance in hell of getting it ‘cos he was clearly more of a Sherlock Holmes than a Dr Watson. There was also something a bit barmy about him – and you don’t actually want that for Dr Watson.”

Of course it wasn’t long before Moffat was putting that barminess to good use, as Matt found himself taking on the role of a different Doctor…

4. Matt Smith’s Doctor battled Andrew Scott’s Moriarty on stage

In the kind of crossover fanboys and girls dream about, the 11th Doctor pitted his wits against evil genius Moriarty in one-off stage production A Curious Night at the Theatre. It saw Matt Smith and Andrew Scott appear in pre-recorded segments as the Time Lord enlisted the help of autistic lead character Boone in an attempt to foil a plot by Moriarty to disseminate a computer virus.

The play was a sequel to West End hit The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, whose title is a quote from original Sherlock Holmes short story Silver Blaze.

5. There was a Doctor Who reference hidden in the Sherlock credits

Stateside broadcasts of Sherlock on US network PBS took to highlighting certain letters in the closing credits in red to spell out significant words. That gave the show’s creators, and professional Doctor Who fanboys, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss the chance to hide a message of their own in one episode. The red letters at the end of series three opener The Empty Hearse combine to spell the name “Weng-Chiang”. And The Talons of Weng-Chiang is a classic Doctor Who episode in which Tom Baker’s fourth Doctor dispenses with his trademark scarf and hat and instead dons a deerstalker and tweed cloak – the iconic outfit associated with Sherlock Holmes…

6. Sherlock’s Lestrade starred in an episode of Doctor Who

Rupert Graves, aka Sherlock’s Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade, played Edwardian big-game hunter Riddell in Doctor Who adventure Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. Bonus connection: Sean Pertwee, son of third Doctor Jon, played Lestrade in US Sherlock Homes reboot Elementary.

7. Sherlock’s Mark Gatiss is the first person to write for Doctor Who and be in it twice

You know Mark Gatiss is co-creator and writer on Sherlock, and that he stars as the detective’s brother, Whitehall grandee Mycroft. You also know that he’s penned numerous Doctor Who episodes including The Unquiet Dead, The Idiot’s Lantern, Night Terrors, Cold War and The Crimson Horror. You probably even remember that he played the monstrous Professor Lazarus in Doctor Who episode The Lazarus Experiment. But after voicing an unnamed Spitfire pilot in his own story Victory of the Daleks, Gatiss reckoned he’d become unique in the history of Who as “the first and only person so far to write for the series and be in it twice!” “Now that’s going on my tombstone,” he told SFX at the time. Gatiss has since reprised his role as the pilot, in A Good Man Goes to War, and popped up again as a character named Gantok in The Wedding of River Song. Not that you’d recognise him – along with the heavy make-up required for the role, Gatiss is credited as an alias: Rondo Haxton.

8. Matt Smith’s Doctor once dressed up as Sherlock Holmes

“Shut up! I’m making deductions. It’s exciting!” Sherlock co-creator Steven Moffat showed he was not beyond a touch of self-parody when he wrote those words for Matt Smith’s Doctor to utter in 2012 Christmas special The Snowmen. They could almost have come out of the mouth of Benedict Cumberbatch’s detective. The fact that the Doctor had turned up wearing a deer-stalker hat and introducing himself as Sherlock Holmes only served to underline the point…


9. But Madame Vastra is really Sherlock Holmes

Despite the 11th Doctor’s best attempts, Moffat says it’s not the Time Lord but his ally Madame Vastra who is Doctor Who’s Great Detective – the Silurian Sleuth even stars in a mini episode called exactly that. And if Vastra is Sherlock, that means her lover Jenny Flint is Watson – a comparison that will please so-called “Johnlock shippers” no end…