Sherlock: 10 of the best fan theories
Ever since the final climactic episode of Sherlock's fourth series aired last weekend, the internet has been abuzz with chatter about the revelations in the latest three episodes of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss' hit show about Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective.
Series four began its run on New Year's Day and the latest three episodes have been packed with drama, twists and conundrums for fans to get their heads around, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman reprising their roles as Sherlock Holmes an John Watson and facing down some new villains, including a brilliant appearance from Toby Jones in the second episode as the villainous Culverton Smith.
Sherlock has always had a knack for creating discussion online and this series has done so more than ever, with contrasting opinions on some of the show's revelations and plenty of talking points including revelations about Sherlock's past, as well as that of John Watson's wife Mary Morstan. But on top of that, as always, the events played out over the three new episodes have brought as many questions as answers and this has fuelled even more fan theories about Sherlock, Moriarty and plenty more besides.
The new series arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday (January 23rd) and if you have yet to watch the new episodes then be warned: the rest of this article contains spoilers from series four.
For those who are already up to date however, we thought we'd explore and assess 10 of the wildest and most outrageous fan theories about the world of Sherlock. Enjoy...
All Sherlock's cases are fakes, orchestrated by Mycroft to keep him off drugs
One of the more bizarre theories out there is the idea that all of Sherlock's cases are in fact fakes, created by his elder brother Mycroft to keep him sane – or, more specifically, to keep him away from drugs. It's a fairly well-known fact among fans of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories that Sherlock Holmes is a heroin user, with the detective known to favour injecting a 'seven percent solution' of the narcotic, and it's a theme that Moffatt and Gatiss have raised more than once over the course of Sherlock's four series, with Sherlock usually lapsing into drug use when he gets bored.
The idea is that John Watson is an actor employed by Mycroft to play along with the ruse and some of the show's fans have pointed to things that support this, such as Watson checking Sherlock's wrist for a pulse after his fall from the roof, rather than checking his neck, indicating that he may not be a real doctor. There's also that fact that we only ever see John in a clinic once, where he falls asleep, leaving another doctor to handle his patients. Where this theory starts to unravel a bit though is all the other actors who would need to be involved, not least literally everybody at New Scotland Yard. Yes, Mycroft is clearly a powerful figure, but getting the entire Metropolitan Police Force to spend their time keeping his junkie brother occupied is a bit far-fetched for us.
James Moriarty has a twin brother
One of several theories that have been doing the rounds these last few years that concern Sherlock's nemesis, the criminal mastermind Professor Jim Moriarty. Ever since Moriarty blew his own brains out on a rooftop at the end of the third series, fans have been speculating whether or not Moriarty, just like Sherlock, had also faked his own death.
It looked pretty final to our eyes, but one theory that has emerged is that Moriarty is one of two twin brothers. In the original stories, Moriarty does indeed have two brothers – a station master and a colonel – the latter of whom, confusingly, also appears to be named James, but they are never referred to as twins. The idea of a twin would leave the door open for the show to bring Moriarty back in any future series without having to create the kind of convoluted explanation that was required after Sherlock's reemergence, but it does seem too straightforward and boring for a Moffat / Gatiss storyline. Also, as Sherlock himself has pointed out: “It's never twins.”
Mary Morstan is / was Sebastian Moran
For anyone that doesn't know, Colonel Sebastian Moran was, in Conan Doyle's original stories, the second-in-command to Moriarty, described as 'the second most dangerous man in London'. Given that Mary met her unfortunate end in the fourth series' opening episode, we think we can safely rule this one out from the get-go, but we've included here because of the bizarre way this theory started. In a children's colouring book published in 2015 and featuring the show's characters, somebody spotted Mary's wedding ring lying beside the swimming pool in an illustration of the scene in which Sherlock and Moriarty first meet, leading some to make the connection between her and Sherlock's nemesis.
However, aside from Mary's death and the fact that we have now learned the truth about her past, Mark Gatiss has also said that they decided not to include the Moran character thus far because “he's just one step down from Moriarty, and therefore not as interesting”. So no, this one's not happening.
Andrew Scott's character isn't the real Moriarty
Some fans have provided another possible route for Moriarty's return with the theory that Andrew Scott's character is not in fact Moriarty at all, but a stooge hired to play the part to keep Sherlock from discovering his real identity. This one does have some plausibility based on Conan Doyle's original stories, in which Moriarty only meets Sherlock face-to-face when absolutely necessary and is much more guarded and secretive than Scott's extroverted portrayal in the BBC series suggests.
Fans might feel a bit cheated if this turned out to be true, not least because Scott has been brilliant in the role, but it feels a bit more like the sort of thing Moffat and Gatiss might do. The question is, if that's not Moriarty, then who is? Well, there are theories to cover that too...
The real Moriarty is journalist Kitty Riley
One of the more plausible theories concerning the identity of Moriarty is that Kitty Riley, the journalist who appears in 'The Reichenbach Fall', is actually the real Moriarty, using the actor Richard Brook – who you'll remember from the same episode as Moriarty's fake identity – to do her dirty work. There are several clues to support this theory, some of which prove just hawk-eyed die-hard fans can be.
There's the scene in which Moriarty is in court and looks up at Watson in the gallery, but Kitty is sat right in front of him, causing some to believe that it's really Kitty that 'Moriarty' – or Brook – is looking at. There's also the similarity in handwriting styles between a note that Sherlock is sent by Moriarty and Kitty's handwritten notes on a draft or her story about Sherlock being a fraud. There various other clues in 'The Reichenbach Fall' too, but none of them really explain why an actor hired by a criminal would agree to kill himself. There is however another candidate...
The real Moriarty is Sherlock's mum
OK, this is probably the least plausible theory of the lot, but it's also one of our favourites for precisely that reason. Could dear old Mrs. Holmes really be behind all of Moriarty's crimes?
Almost certainly not, but the idea isn't completely baseless. In the original stories, Moriarty is a professor and a mathematical genius and we learned in 'His Last Vow' we learn that Sherlock's dear old mum is also something of a maths prodigy. The similarities don't end there, either. Moriarty authored a book called The Dynamics of an Asteroid and in that same episode we also learn that Mrs. Holmes is the author of a book called The Dynamics of Combuston.
Janine is Moriarty's sister
Remember Janine? Sherlock's 'girlfriend' from the final episode of the the third series 'His Last Vow'? We use the term 'girlfriend' in inverted commas here because, as fans will know, it turned out that Sherlock was merely using Mary's maid of honour to get close to the nefarious media mogul Charles Augustus Magnussen.
The reasons for the theory range from the fact that they both have Irish accents to her brief reappearance in 'The Abominable Bride' as one of the 'fake' versions of the murderous Emilia Ricoletti, which some had speculated could mean a return for the character in future episodes. It hasn't transpired as yet – and with the future of the show uncertain, we're not sure it ever will – but Gatiss and Moffat have already introduced a surprise sister for Sherlock himself, so who's to say they wouldn't do the same for his arch-enemy? The jury remains out on this one...
There will be another Christmas special set a future, dystopian London
This one was posed directly to Mark Gatiss in a Rolling Stone feature, in which Sherlock's co-creator debunked some of the theories around the show. He had this to say: “Er, no. However, as we're now living in a dystopian future, maybe we'll just do a documentary where we walk around crying about the fact that we're now living in the plot of The Man in the High Castle.”
I think we can safely say this one is a non-starter.
Sherlock and John Watson are secret lovers
Known in Sherlockian circles as “The JohnLock Conspiracy” (think Brangelina, Bennifer etc.), this one has been doing the rounds almost since the show's inception and argues that Sherlock and his trusty sidekick are more than just friends who are destined to end up as a couple. There are quite a few fan-fiction stories on the subject too.
Completely insane? Probably, but again, it isn't entirely without foundation. Some eagle-eyed viewers have pointed out that there are often visible hearts in shot when the two are alone together, such as the scene in 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' in which a heart-shaped wreath hands above the fireplace between them. While you could definitely argue that there's genuine love in their relationship, we think it's likely to remain the platonic variety.
Series 4 has a 'secret' fourth episode
This got fans very excited after the third episode had aired on BBC One. Some have theorised that a line in the fourth series' second episode, 'The Lying Detective', might have been hinting at a secret fourth episode in the series. When Sherlock reveals to Toby Jones' villain Culverton Smith that he has in fact brought four recording devices into the hospital rather than three, he delivers this teasing little line: “There must be something comforting about the number three. Everyone always gives up after three.”
This sparked the theory that the series could include a 'secret' fourth episode, with some even speculating that the show scheduled in the same time slot for the following Sunday, Apple Tree Yard, might be a false name to wrong-foot viewers (one post on a Reddit thread pointed out that 'Apple Tree Yard' is an anagram of 'Reappeared', which it isn't). However, Steven Moffat has already poured cold water on this theory, and Apple Tree Yard is indeed a real new show starring Emily Watson. Sorry to disappoint.