sherlock benedict cumberbatch martin freeman

The BBC series Sherlock became a huge hit on both sides of the pond when it debuted back in 2012, and fans are just as rabid for new episodes nowadays as they were all those years ago, especially since we haven't seen a full season since January 2014. For many, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are the definitive Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, and it's hard to imagine them ever giving up the roles forever. Still, the series will have to end some time, and co-creator Mark Gatiss already has a crazy idea of how to craft that conclusion. He had this to say about the eventual Sherlock finale:

Right at the beginning, we said, wouldn't it be fun - because we start with the first meeting, which is very rarely dramatized - if we actually ended up with them at the same age as Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce? That would be a really interesting place to be with Benedict and Martin, having started so early in their careers as young men.

Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce starred as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in a hugely popular series of films based on the stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. The duo teamed up for a whopping 14 movies between 1939 and 1946, and they were the actors most widely associated with the characters of Holmes and Watson for many years in any medium. A Sherlock series finale that features a nod to the actors who really started it all could be the perfect way to wrap up a fantastic reimagining. Fans might not like to think about Sherlock coming to an end any time soon, but Mark Gatiss' reveal to TVLine proves that the team behind the scenes has always been thinking way ahead.

sherlock holmes basil rathbone nigel bruce

The big question is how many more seasons of Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman could realistically bring to the small screen. At 40, Cumberbatch still has another 14 years until he reaches the age Rathbone was for his last Holmes portrayal, while Freeman has 11 until he hits Bruce's age for his last Watson performance. Ideally, that would indeed offer up several more seasons of intricately detailed mysteries, but that's also in a world where these two leads aren't nearly as popular as they are.

Both actors' careers took off in big ways between seasons of Sherlock. Cumberbatch has done films that have ranged from projects like Academy Award-winning The Imitation Game to the blockbuster Star Trek Into Darkness, and he recently joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the lead of Doctor Strange. Martin Freeman spent an awful lot of time in the realm of Middle Earth in the Hobbit movies, and he also spent some time on the small screen in roles other than John Watson. He also recently joined the MCU as Everett Ross in Captain America: Civil War in a role that he'll reprise in future MCU films.

The boys are keeping plenty busy with projects other than Sherlock, and we can probably bet that their schedules won't free up enough to let them do a season of Sherlock per year or anything regular. We can't even say for sure if the upcoming Season 4 will be the last, since neither Mark Gatiss nor Steven Moffat know.

Sherlock Season 4 premieres in the U.S. and U.K. on January 1, 2017. The new episodes will evidently be the darkest of Sherlock to date, so there should be plenty to keep us on the edges of our suits with the new episodes. Check out our midseason TV premiere schedule to see what else will hit the airwaves in the new year.

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