Everything we know so far about Sherlock series 4

What to expect from Holmes and Watson’s next Baker Street adventures (and when to expect them)

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Having saved the day in Victorian London in The Abominable Bride, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman will be heading back to the future for the next run of Sherlock.

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But what can we expect from the fabulous Baker Street boys in the fourth series? We’ve run our spyglass over the evidence (and extrapolated a few theories from our personal mind palace) to draw the following conclusions…


There will be three episodes

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Co-creator Mark Gatiss has confirmed series 4 will run to three (presumably feature-length) episodes – the standard Sherlock model. That’s not including The Abominable Bride on New Year’s Day, which is a bonus treat.

Gatiss is scripting the first episode, with Moffat writing one of the others and the pair combining their talents on the third. (Stephen Thompson, who has written for each series so far, is not believed to be involved.)


 Filming starts in the spring

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“It’s taken a little while to get the dates sorted as none of the boys are exactly sitting back twiddling their thumbs,” says executive producer Sue Vertue. But those dates are now in the diary, and Steven Moffat recently told Collider he expected shooting to start “April-ish”.

As for when we might get to see it… it’s too early to talk about airdates, but both series 2 and 3 were broadcast in January (2012 and 2014 respectively), having been shot the previous spring. So the smart money says Sherlock fans might not want to leave the country in January 2017.

(If you’re already out of the country, incidentally, you may not have as long to wait as previously, as Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue have both expressed a desire to reduce the time lag between the series’ UK and international broadcasts.)


It’s going to get darker

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Steven Moffat signaled “a clear shift in tone” for series 4 when he appeared at San Diego Comic Con last summer. “There’s going to be some dark stuff coming,” he said, adding there was “a sense of things coming back to bite you.”

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Moffat said: “We’re going to try to take it somewhere we’ve never been before — a challenging place to go. We might just be going darker. We’ve got a very, very good set of ideas.”

Another key word for the season, according to Moffat in the same interview, is ‘consequences’: “Chickens come home to roost. It’s not a safe, sensible way to live.” Shades of Clara Oswald’s comeuppance in Doctor Who there, perhaps?


Events will be life-changing

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“This is a major, life-changing series for the regulars,” Mark Gatiss told Entertainment Weekly. “The repercussions of Moriarty’s apparent return are far-reaching. It’s very big stuff.”

“We’re certainly going to put them through the mill,” added Moffat. “It’s going to be more of an emotional upheaval. It will be tough at times. A tougher series.”

Piling on the bad omens, Gatiss told RadioTimes.com that viewers “can always expect tragedy as well as adventure” – but wouldn’t be drawn on whether that means Mary is doomed to die, as she does in Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories. “Just because it’s in the stories doesn’t mean it’ll happen in the series because there’s an awful lot of changes and an awful lot of places to go and things to do,” he said. “It should be clear by now that while, of course, Doyle is our absolute god, we have gone quite a long way away as well.”


Will Moriarty be back?

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Despite having apparently shot himself dead at the end of the second series, the cliffhanger to series 3 saw Moriarty’s face being broadcast on every screen in Britain with the taunting question, “Did you miss me?”

As New Year’s Day special The Abominable concluded, with Moriarty having appeared only in cocaine-induced dream sequences, Sherlock said “Moriarty is definitely dead”, which would back up what Mark Gatiss told RadioTimes.com a while ago – that the special would solve the Moriarty mystery “completely”.

However, after confirming Moriarty’s demise, Sherlock also told us enigmatically “and I know exactly what he’s going to do next,” so fingers crossed we can expect some sort of appearance from Andrew Scott’s villain, dead or not…


Expect the pitter-patter of tiny feet

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John and Mary (Amanda Abbington) were expecting a child at the end of the third series, so we assume there’ll be a Watson Jr when we next see them. Will Sherlock be the godfather? Because we’d seriously love to see an episode with him left holding the baby.

Alongside Sherlock, John and Mary, there’s no official word yet on whether regular cast members Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs), Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves), Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey), Jonathan Aris (Anderson) and Mycroft (Mark Gatiss himself) will be back. But we’d be very surprised if they’re not.


Whatever happens, it won’t be the end

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Don’t forget, a fifth series of Sherlock has already been confirmed by Steven Moffat, who says he and Gatiss have it all plotted out. So we can probably rule out Holmes or Watson meeting a grisly end next year. Phew!