The Sherlock special reveal – what does it mean?

We have lots of questions about the photo and script that have just appeared on Twitter - and one or two answers...

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BBC1’s Sherlock and John! But dressed like they’re in Victorian times! A new Sherlock script! The first in literally years! And the return of the #221back hashtag! All shared on Twitter by the show’s producer Sue Vertue! Sherlock fans haven’t been this excited since… well, that last Sherlock reveal

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But what does it all mean? Here are some ideas (and some questions) below. And before you start judging, remember that when the special was first announced, Steven Moffat told us “we’re reasonably confident that the very next thing to happen to Sherlock and John, is the very last thing you’d expect…” #notkidding

Is this the Blue Carbuncle?

Ever since there’s been talk of a Sherlock Christmas special (pretty much since the series began) there’s been talk of The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle. Not only is it the only of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes stories set at Christmas, it’s also an incredibly Christmassy Christmas tale, and one that Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss adores.

The problem with dramatising The Blue Carbuncle is that much of its intense Christmassiness (did I mention that?) comes from the fact that it’s set in the most Christmassy place in space and time* – Victorian London. Modern Sherlock could manage a snowy capital of course, but what about that Christmas goose that’s inherent to the plot? It’s all turkey and Quorn these days. What about gangs of “roughs” being chased off by Bobbies on the beat? What about tallow drips on felt hats? Wagers of a gold sovereign made with uppity market traders? What about the open fire in those cosy Victorian rooms? The Blue Carbuncle needs all of this.

So when we see Sherlock and John dressed like the original Holmes and Watson, it feels like we’re one step closer to fulfilling that Christmas dream…

Is it a Sherlock-Doctor Who crossover?

…then again, how exactly would Sherlock and John find themselves in Victorian London? Two words: The Doctor. Or one, if you prefer conciseness: Tardis*. #221back in time, anyone? Yes, surely this has to be a signal that this time next year we’ll be awaiting the much debated Sherlock-Doctor Who crossover that Steven Moffat has said he’d be up for. Doesn’t it…?

Are Sherlock and John cosplayers?

If, however, Moffat and Gatiss decide for some crazy reason to keep time travel out of Sherlock for now, perhaps Sherlock and John are about to start hanging out with exactly the sort of geeks who read (and write) articles this – perhaps they’re about to go under cover at a convention

What about Moriarty?

Don’t forget (as if) that the Sherlock special is when we’ll finally discover once and for all what that surprise last-minute appearance by Sherlock’s arch-nemesis actually means. Yeah, you missed him, but is Moriarty really back from the dead? Mark Gatiss tells me that, one way or another, this episode will solve that mystery “completely“. So will we get to see Andrew Scott wearing a frock coat and a top hat and carrying a cane? We can only hope… 

Maybe it’s a dream sequence

The last we saw of Sherlock, he was heading off into exile on board one of Mycroft’s private jets. But then Moriarty made his unexpected ‘reappearance’. As the plane turned around, perhaps the pilot got into some trouble (maybe that Moriarty gif took over his flight instruments) causing a crash and sending Sherlock into a coma in which he had an extended dream about solving mysteries with John in Victorian London. A kind of Sherlock-meets-Life on Mars affair…

When does the special start filming?

Gaps in the schedules of Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss will finally line-up – like some portentous celestial convergence – in January (and a bit of February). Cue more #Setlock.

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When will we get to see the special?

Martin Freeman told us a while back that he expects it to be a Christmas special. Mark Gatiss tells us that it could be, but that it’s up to the schedulers. But, seriously, when else would they show a festive Sherlock special but Christmas? Unfortunately, though, that means Christmas 2015…