Forget Moriarty, there’s a new super villain threatening Baker Street. Mentalist/hypnotist/nefarious gentleman Derren Brown is looking to outwit the entire cast of Sherlock.
In a stunt for Channel 4’s Stand Up to Cancer, Brown baffles on and off-screen couple Martin Freeman and Amanda Abbington with a mind bending card trick. “It’s something I did with my last stage show Infamous,” he exclusively tells RadioTimes.com. “We didn’t include in the televised version of it so that we could do it for Stand Up to Cancer. Cancer is a particularly ugly and prolific disease, I’ve known a couple of people close to me who have died in the last year from different forms of it. It’s hugely important.”
True to their characters, Martin and Amanda were soon trying to apply Sherlock’s deductive methods. “Martin has quite a skeptical, very rational approach to those sorts of things,” Brown says. “Immediately afterwards he was trying to work it out, really trying to pull it all apart. I could hear him discussing it in their little entourage. Amanda has a less cool minded approach, she was just enjoying it. It’s great because they’re very funny together, talking it through.”
Brown is no stranger to Sherlock. He has known the main trio for years (he and Benedict Cumberbatch served as ushers at a wedding recently), and made a brief but memorable cameo in the opening episode of series three. “It did occur to me as I was greeting Martin as I cam up onstage that the last time I saw him I was lowering him gently to the floor in a car park.”
The hypnotist appeared as a fake-out explanation for how Sherlock survived his apparent death at the end of series two: rushing up to place John Watson in a trance. Brown remembers what it felt like to play red herring. “I was at the screening of that episode, it was cast and crew but they had opened it up to fans of Sherlock. But I was very aware of how intense that devotion is.”
As the false explanation unfolded, the excitement kept building. Until Derren appeared. “This room of Sherlock fans, including me, were screaming with delight at this big montage of how it had apparently happened. Then I appear on the screen hypnotising Martin, which of course is a really stupid method. And the whole room just went quiet with a sense of palpable disappointment. And then of course they realized five seconds later it was a joke. So I ruined Sherlock, for a moment.”
Since he has prior experience ruining Sherlock’s day, and since he cultivates a slightly sinister aspect (in the nicest possible way) would Brown ever return as a villain?
“Oh God! I definitely would if I was asked,” he enthuses, “but I think it would be too strange. You’re already in a slightly weird quantum world when a real life TV character like me appears as himself on a show like Sherlock. But yeah, God, if they asked of course I would do it. It would be hilarious.”
So if it came down to it, who would win? “Could I outsmart Sherlock? It’s weird, one of the things we slightly share is that part of what you are doing is you throw a dart at the wall and then you draw a target around it.”
Sherlock might object to this description of his talents, but carry on.
“The deduction that is going on is farfetched, and the reason for that is that he’s fictional, someone’s writing it so the conclusion is already there and you work out a way of getting there. It’s not real deduction. But it’s difficult to compare the two, because he’s real fiction, and I’m only half fiction.”
Stand Up to Cancer 2014 will be shown on Channel 4, Friday 17th October. Donate here at standup2cancer.org