Sherlock - The Abominable Bride: Five Things We Learned
When the news arrived last summer that Series 4 of Sherlock had been pushed back to 2017, there was a palpable sense of anguish among the show's fans, but creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss had an ace up their sleeves in the form of Christmas special The Abominable Bride, which aired on New Years Day on BBC One while also premiering on cinema screens up and down the UK.
One of the key factors in Sherlock's appeal has been the successful transplanting of Arthur Conan Doyle's deerstalker-wearing hero to the modern day, but for The Abominable Bride Moffat and Gatiss flipped the action back to its original setting – for the most part at least – and we get to see Holmes and a moustache-sporting Watson going about their crime-solving adventures on the foggy streets of Victorian London.
For those who didn't catch the episode on TV, or were too busy struggling with New Year's Day hangovers to drag themselves to a cinema, The Abominable Bride arrives on DVD in stores on Monday (you can pre-order it here). Here are five things we learned from Sherlock's time-travelling special...
Warning: The below may contain some spoilers!
Chemistry is chemistry, whatever the era.
If any fans who worried about how the change in setting might affect the chemistry between Benedict Cumberbatch's Holmes and Martin Freeman's Watson, they needn't have; although we get to witness the pair meeting for the first time all over again, the pleasantries are dispensed with fairly quickly and we're thrown straight into the thick of the action, but it's evident from the opening moments that the interplay between the two central characters is as sharp as ever.
Moffat and Gatiss continue to find new ways to infuse Conan Doyle's stories into their scripts.
Several of the episodes in the show's first three series have featured updated versions of the tales from Arthur Conan Doyle's original novels and short stories - such as The Hound of the Baskervilles and A Scandal in Bohemia (changed in the new version to A Scandal in Belgravia) - and this is a theme that continues in The Abominable Bride, which borrows elements of The Five Orange Pips and adds a modern twist that sees the detective uncover a secret society and offers an unexpected explanation the antics of the seemingly immortal bride while also throwing a feminist twist into the mix. Sure, it's a little ripe and the accusations of “mansplaining” are understandable, but elsewhere the weaving together of ideas is ambitious and adventurous enough to suggest there is plenty more in the writers' collective tank, which bodes well for the next series and beyond.
Sherlock's drug use is cunningly repurposed as a means of time-travel.
There gave been countless adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes stories for film and television over the years, many of which have glossed over the character's habitual drug use – usually opiates or cocaine – but while Sherlock has addressed this already in earlier episodes, here Sherlock's habits are utilised as vehicle to link the episode's Victorian setting to the modern day. It could easily have been very clunky, but they've handled the idea with some style and wit here.
Andrew Scott's Moriarty is as brilliantly unhinged as ever.
At the end of the third series, we were left with the idea that Moriarty might not be quite as dead as we had thought, but one of the advantages of setting The Abominable Bride in Victorian times was that it allowed the character to return and we are treated to another appearance for Andrew Scott, who has lost none of the edge in his portrayal of the criminal mastermind. The sequence featuring the man described as “the Napoleon of crime” also offer an insight into just how deeply Sherlock's nemesis is embedded into his psyche, hinting at some unfinished business that points to some exciting developments in series four.
This is Mycroft Holmes as you've never seen him before.
All other plot points aside, one of our favourite aspects of The Abominable Bride has to be the sight of Mark Gatiss playing a Victorian-era Mycroft carrying a little more timber than we're used to, and we find him engaged in a morbid wager with his younger brother based on the expected date of his death from over-eating. Even as he's tackling the next round of plum puddings though, his physical appearance has evidently done nothing to take the edge of his brain, which is as sharp as always and, as usual, a couple of steps in front of Sherlock's.
The Abominable Bride arrives in stores on Monday January 11th – pre-order your copy at the top right of this page