Sherlock creators reveal three mysterious clues for series four

Could we be meeting the third Holmes brother?

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Today’s Sherlock panel at San Diego Comic-con has left us a bit overwhelmed with information about the upcoming series of the detective drama – but perhaps the most interesting nugget revealed (apart from the trailer, of course) was also one of the most subtle.

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As they’ve done in years past, creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (along with producer Sue Vertue), revealed three words that would hint at the new series’ storylines, episode by episode – except that this time round, they’re names.

Hmm – very mysterious. But hopefully we can throw a little light on what these seemingly random monikers could add up to in series 4.

First off, Smith. While this is obviously a pretty common name, some fans have already speculated that it could refer to a character from Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes novels called Culverton Smith, who appears in a short story called The Adventure of the Dying Detective.

In the story, Smith is duped into believing he’s poisoned Holmes and then tricked into confessing that he’s done the same to his nephew, only to find that Holmes was alive and well and had hidden Watson in the room to witness his “confession”. 

Potentially supporting the idea that this storyline is being adapted is a scene in the new series 4 trailer, where John Watson (Martin Freeman) is standing in front of a hospital bed – could this be where Sherlock is faking his illness? Hmm…

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A less usual name to bring up is Sherrinford, which also has a long history in the literary world of Sherlock Holmes – though not directly in Doyle’s novels. Originally considered as a name for Doyle’s detective before he settled on Sherlock, Sherrinford was later taken up by Sherlock scholar William Stuart Baring-Gould to be used in a fictional Sherlock Holmes biography.

In the book, “Sherrinford Holmes” became the eldest brother of Sherlock and Mycroft, who was left behind to run the family estate while the other Holmes men went into crime-solving and government work respectively (solving a plot hole from the books of why neither Mycroft or Holmes looked after the family pile).

Now, in the modern series we’ve only met two Holmes brothers, but in the last episode of series 3, Mycroft hinted that there might have been another, saying “I’m not given to outbursts of brotherly compassion. You know what happened to the other one.”

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Perhaps said “other one” is Sherrinford – and maybe we’ll finally get to meet him next series.

Now, on to Thatcher, the name we know least about. It could refer to Margaret Thatcher, obviously (who cropped up as a secret password in series 2’s The Hounds of Baskerville), or to some sort of reed-based roofer (yes, we’re literally grasping at straws here).

However, one eagle-eyed fan has noticed that an old post on John Watson’s blog (a fictionalised version of the one written by Martin Freeman’s character in the series) is titled The Six Thatchers, which could have something to do with the name’s apparent importance in the new series.

Then again, considering it’s a story all about how clay busts of Margaret Thatcher were used to kill an art student set around the time of series 2’s A Scandal in Belgravia episode, it could just be a coincidence.

So there you have it – a pretend death, a secret brother and some sort of roofing/sculpture/Conservative politician-based mystery. Sounds like another typically unusual series ahead of us. 

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Sherlock series 4 will air in early 2017