We’ve referred to the coming Sherlock one off episode as “The Christmas Special” but I’ve wondered exactly how the BBC was exactly planning to schedule it. After all, Christmas Day already has a lock on that other Moffat penned property, Doctor Who. Perhaps it might be Christmas Eve, like when the Sherlock Christmas online short appeared? But no. In the end, the BBC decided that everyone’s scheduled were too full for the Christmas slot. Sherlock will now be bumped down week and air on New Years’ Day.
And when I say “everyone’s” schedule, it turns out they are lining up several schedules at once for this almost-simulcast airing. Not only is the BBC and PBS working in tandem to air the episode on the same day, but the BBC is also working with cinemas to bring it to the bring screen at the same time. Both times they’ve done it with Doctor Who, the results have been a smashing success. Sherlock is going one further though, adding special added scenes to the cinema showings. According to Sherlockology, it will include “a guided tour of the ‘new’ 221B Baker Street from Steven Moffat and a look behind the scenes at how the special episode was made.”
Though there were claims of a new trailer released along with this information, much like PBS’ YouTube channel being on a lag with ITV’s Downton trailer release, this “new trailer” is actually the same one the BBC dropped at the beginning of the month. The only difference is the title card at the end with episode title and release date.
But since everyone was clamouring for a new trailer, the BBC provided over the weekend, and did an “extended trailer” release. it’s mostly the same, but Mary and Mrs. Hudson actually have lines! And we see the bride, as well as proof that though we may not have the cell phone and tech aspects of the show to rely on, many of the familiar slow down tropes are still in full effect.
We did a speculative breakdown when this first came out, wondering which episode the special would be based on. Now we have a title, “The Abominable Bride,” as well as a year the episode is set: 1895. Now, the truth is, “1895” is something of a Sherlock in-joke, taken from the Vincent Starrett poem “221B.”
Here dwell together still two men of note
Who never lived and so can never die:
How very near they seem, yet how remote
That age before the world went all awry.
But still the game’s afoot for those with ears
Attuned to catch the distant view-halloo:
England is England yet, for all our fears–
Only those things the heart believes are true.
A yellow fog swirls past the window-pane
As night descends upon this fabled street:
A lonely hansom splashes through the rain,
The ghostly gas lamps fail at twenty feet.
Here, though the world explode, these two survive,
And it is always eighteen ninety-five.
There’s even a Sherlock based website always1895.net. So this is probably not a reference to a specific story–in fact, it kind of suggests that this story may in fact be a mushed up conglomerate of Sherlockian tropes more than a faithful adaptation of one short story. But it does say that, for whatever reason, that Moffat is trying to go perhaps just a little bit in order.
Sherlock’s “The Final Problem” is technically set in 1891, and his return in “The Empty House” which began last season’s three-episode run, is set in 1894. Now, within each season, things don’t really stay in order. The whole “Charles Augustus Milverton” story which fed many of the last season’s finale is a pre-“Final Problem” mystery, for instance. But, of the four stories set that year, there are some options.
“The Solitary Cyclist”
“The Three Students”
“The Bruce-Partington Plans”
We can toss out The Bruce-Partington Plans, Moffat already cribbed the heart of it for Season 1’s “The Great Game.” The Three Students likewise doesn’t really fit into what we’ve seen in the trailers–i’ts a small time cheating scandal. Black Peter is most likely at least a partial candidate, since it’s actually where the poem drew it’s inspiration for the “1895” line, as Watson says: “I have never known my friend to be in better form, both mental and physical, than in the year ‘95.” I would be shocked if Freeman does not utter that line at some point in the episode.
This leaves The Solitary Cyclist as the final 1895 adventure, and it’s actually one that fits with (at least some of) the trailer imagery we’ve seen. A female client, her mother, marriage proposals and a bride. Now, there’s nothing very abominable about Violet in the story, but that doesn’t mean the show won’t rework things. If I had to guess, I would say the adventure will be somewhat based on that, with several overlaying tropes in order to get everything 19th century in that the show wants to do.