Steven Moffat reveals secrets of the Sherlock special

"You’ll have to wait and see who’s in it. Not everyone makes the transition of the years..."

What can you tell us about the Sherlock special, The Abominable Bride?
It’s set in Victorian times. It’s our chance to do our Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson in the right year.


Have you chosen a particular Arthur Conan Doyle story?
It’s a new story but if you know the original stories, you’ll see that it’s fashioned out of quite a few others. As ever with us we’ve chosen several and there are loads of references. One of them you have to be able to speak Chinese to get. 

So you’re having a bit of fun for Christmas.
Hopefully, there’s more than that. We couldn’t sustain 90 minutes on just having a bit of fun. Our ambition was that, explicitly, the first 15/20 minutes is the fun of seeing our version of Sherlock Holmes transposed back to its original setting. Then we’ve got to get on with the story. It’s a proper scary mystery. I think it’s quite a good mystery with quite a good solution, but there’s also the ongoing tension between the version of the characters we developed to accommodate the modern setting now sitting in Victorian times. There’s quite a lot to be said about each of the characters and how they survive that time travel. 

Is it all the same cast?
You’ll have to wait and see who’s in it. Not everyone makes the transition of the years. 

Wasn’t it filmed a long time ago?
Yeah, January. We filmed Toby [Whithouse]’s two-parter of Doctor Who at the same time we shot the Sherlock special, so it feels like 100 years ago.

Are you also gearing up to do more Sherlock?
Yes, I’m writing Sherlock right now.

When do you go into production?
I try not to know what my deadlines are. 

Three again as usual?
Yes, three again and it’ll just be me and Mark [Gatiss] writing them this time. One each and one together.

At the London Film Festival I saw the recently discovered 1916 silent movie of Sherlock and noticed that you, Mark and your wife [executive producer Sue Vertue] had invested in the preservation.
Yes, starring William Gillette. He’s so good, and handsome, and he’s a film star you’ve never heard of. A huge missing chapter in Holmes because he was the man on stage who turned Sherlock into a sex symbol – and he’s never ever not been a sex symbol since. He was the first to say, “He can be sexy and suave.” He had the gravitas to carry that off and that’s where you get Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett and Benedict Cumberbatch. The sudden decision that Sherlock is a matinee idol and therefore handsome. He was not seen that way before then.


The Sherlock special will be on BBC1 in the UK on January 1st 2016. It will be shown in cinemas worldwide.