One of the most frustrating yet wonderful shows of recent years is definitely BBC’s Sherlock. With dialogue smartly written, characters finely crafted, and mysteries deviously constructed, it’s hard not to want to marathon a dozen episodes at once…and therein lies the problem. There just aren’t nearly enough episodes of this modern retelling of the story of Sherlock Holmes. Before Season 4 gets here, there will be a holiday special, but the retelling this time won’t be quite so modern. In fact, it will be Victorian, and it turns out star Benedict Cumberbatch was not always a huge fan of the idea.
Benedict Cumberbatch shared his initial thoughts about the Victorian special in an interview with The Guardian,:
I thought they’d finally lost the plot, jumped the shark…then they expanded the idea and pitched it to me properly and I think it’s fantastic, absolutely brilliant.
It’s hard to blame Cumberbatch for an incredulous reaction at first. He certainly wasn’t the only one to be surprised by the turn of events. Sherlock has always set itself apart from previous adaptations with the modern setting, even going so far as to having the detective himself poke fun at Sherlock Holmes’ iconic deerstalker hat. Setting the latest special in Victorian England is an awfully big departure from the story that executive producer Steven Moffat has been telling since Sherlock premiered in 2010.
The premise is somewhat helped by the fact that the Victorian mystery will be a one-off. Theories that it was a dream or a parallel universe or a drug-induced fantasy all seemed pretty likely as soon as the first image of Sherlock and Watson in period dress – and in the case of Watson, period facial hair – hit the web.
It is rather reassuring that Cumberbatch has such faith in the Victorian special. Both he and Martin Freeman are big enough stars on the big screen nowadays that they’re not exactly so desperate for work that they’d sign on for episodes that really give the sense of jumping the shark and taking Sherlock past the point of being acceptably ridiculous. Besides, Cumberbatch and Freeman practically look like they were designed for Victorian dress. It could have been a downright shame if we’d never gotten to see them in traditional Sherlock-ian garb.
We do have to wonder just how much of a standalone the Victorian episode really will be. Earlier seasons of Sherlock were almost exclusively original, but the most recent season saw installments peppered with an awful lot of callbacks and inside jokes that strayed a bit too far into pandering to the audience over just winking at them. We can only hope that the installment will be more than inside jokes set to Victorian vernacular.
The Victorian special – entitled “The Abominable Bride” – will air on both the BBC and PBS on January 1, 2016.