WASHINGTON, Dec. 26, 2015 – As we reported in October 2015, fans of the BBC’s fast-paced, quirky and episodic series “Sherlock” will start the New Year right by catching the Jan. 1, 2016, PBS special, “Sherlock: The Abominable Bride,” set in 1890s London.
The contemporary BBC’s version of Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) is eccentric, highly intelligent, and an admitted high-functioning sociopath, as he sleuths his way through mostly familiar stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but in our own times. Holmes is joined by his unflappable side-kick John Watson, played oh-so-well by Martin Freeman (the Hobbit). Freeman’s Watson is the audience’s representative, allowing us to enjoy Holmes’ powers of deduction through his eyes without feeling entirely at a loss.
Show regulars Mary Morstan (Amanda Abbington), Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs) and Rupert Graves (Inspector Lestrade) will also appear in the special episode.
The unique twist for this one-off special: transporting the series’ contemporary Holmes and Watson back into Doyle’s Victorian London. It should be a treat for fans of the original books. “I think Victorian London and all the trappings of that era are endlessly fascinating,” says Cumberbatch to the BBC. “The sort of ghoulish, nightmarish, fog-laden dark corners and alleyways. The dampness, the sort of whole kind of claustrophobic night world that he inhabits, it’s a masterful lens on that whole era as well.”
Revealed by the show’s creators: This “new” episode is based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s 56th short story, “Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle,” a tale about the theft of a jewel and a plumber with a felony record being (wrongly?) accused of the crime.
Sherlock will bring his quick wit and his uncanny ability to spot what to him are the obvious puzzle pieces mere mortals miss. But he won’t be the same Sherlock we have come to know and love, given the radical difference in social norms between the 1800s and 2015.
“Sherlock is a little more polished,” Moffat said at the Television Critics Association’s press tour. “He operates like a Victorian gentleman instead of a posh, rude man. He’s a lot less brattish.”
Watson, sporting an admirable handlebar mustache (which regular show watchers may see as a nod to Watson’s pre-wedding facial hair), is a bit more uptight than his modern character. Cumberbatch and Freeman, in fact, will portray both the contemporary and the 1800s versions of their characters. As executive producer Steven Moffat told Digital Spy, “We’ve got, I think you can safely say, the Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson of a generation – we want to see them do it in the proper outfits, just once.”
Whether you are a fan of the BBC’s regular season “Sherlock” series or a fan of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes, this special episode stands on its own and does not follow the series story line as normally seen on PBS. However, if you want to prepare for the Friday PBS special, you have a week to binge-watch seasons one through three of “Sherlock” on Netflix.
Sherlock: The Abominable Bride, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, airs Friday at 9 p.m. ET/PT, with an encore broadcast on Jan. 10 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The special episode will also stream for a limited time on PBS.org/Masterpiece.