As 2017 was just getting underway, Sherlock's first proper season premiere in three years delivered a twist that equaled the mystery series' most jarring moments. And now that everyone is coming to grips with how the Rachel Talalay-directed episode left things, the real world has dropped its own shocking turn of events on fans (and everyone else, really). It turns out Sherlock's titular star Benedict Cumberbatch has been legitimately connected to the family lineage of one Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the wordsmith behind Sherlock Holmes' creation. The link is a tad more than elementary, but it's real.
In a discovery that absolutely deserved to be revealed in time with Sherlock's dark Season 4 premiere, Benedict Cumberbatch is apparently the 16th cousin, twice removed, of the knighted author. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a descendant of the first Duke of Lancaster, named John of Gaunt, who was born somewhere around 1340. The Duke is the 15th great-grandfather of Doyle, and two generations later, Cumberbatch is John of Gaunt's 17th great-grandson. (Note to schoolchildren, be sure to write out all that "great-great-great-great..." business when mentioning this in book reports.)
The non-twist side of this is that Ancestry.com's crack team of sleuths were the ones who tracked down the tie between Benedict Cumberbatch and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. According to CBS News, Ancestry historian Jennifer Utley thought it was fitting for the link to exist, but she didn't explain if this was something they'd been working on for a while specifically to find a link, nor if any other cast members from the show were also being researched. As any fan of Sherlock knows, it's way better to have all the facts.
John of Gaunt has quite a lineup of notable family members, as his father was King Edward III, and some of his male heirs included similar names like Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI; all went on to become kings. He was also reportedly a compadre of Geoffrey Chaucer, author of Canterbury Tales. (Doyle and Cumberbatch also made a few famous friends, thanks to their respective professions, including Iron Man.)
Knowing that Benedict Cumberbatch and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are related adds an even more significant subtext to the proposed ending for the series that co-creator Mark Gatiss recently revealed, in which the current TV series would produce episodes (sporadically, it's assumed) until the point that Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman would reach the ages that famed film duo Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce were when they first started playing the pair. It's all connected!
Considering Sherlock was created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, it wouldn't be out of the question for Doctor Who's Time Lord to be the source behind this crossroads of coincidence at fate. And for Martin Freeman's Arthur Dent (from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) to have been his companion on that adventure.
Sherlock, which sadly only has two episodes left, will return to audiences on PBS for those installments on Sunday, January 8 and Sunday, January 15. To see everything else that's coming to the small screen in the near future, head over to our midseason premiere schedule.