1Sherlock is the only television show I ever review, because it’s just so darn fun combing through the episodes for Doyle references and crowing about them online. This review for the first episode of season four is too late for British viewers to find terribly useful and too early for American viewers to have seen the show, but if I don’t post it now I never will.

You can read my earlier reviews here in the Sherlock tag.

Massive spoilers for the first episode of season four beyond this point!

So far season four has seen, if anything, an increase in references to Doyle’s stories. I’m just going to bullet these because the quantity is ridiculous.

  • The episode’s title (“The Six Thatchers”) and the episode itself are of course patterned after Doyle’s story, “The Six Napoleons.” In that story, Holmes rightly deduces that the Napoleon busts are being smashed because someone is trying to locate something hidden in them. In the story’s case, it does in fact turn out to be the Black Pearl of the Borgias, whereas in the episode, the pearl is a red herring.
  • The opening scene states that the code names for the room’s occupants are Antarctica, Langdale, Porlock, and Love. Langdale Pike was an information source for Holmes in “The Three Gables,” and Porlock was an informant within Moriarty’s ring. In the episode, we know Love is Lady Smallwood, and Antarctica, I imagine, is Mycroft. Vivian Norbury is probably Porlock, given the name’s connections to Moriarty and double-dealing.
  • Several of the bust owners have the same names in the episode as in the story. Craig compares Thatcher to Napoleon at one point as well, and the bust manufacturing company is the same in episode and in story.
  • “The wrong thumb” is a reference to “The Engineer’s Thumb” by Doyle.
  • “The Canary Trainer” is a reference to an unrecorded case mentioned in “The Adventure of Black Peter” (and later expanded into a Holmes novel by Nicholas Meyer).
  • Attempting to arrest a jellyfish is a reference to “The Lion’s Mane,” in which a man dies by jellyfish poison.
  • The case using fresh paint to disguise the smell of gas is likely a reference to “The Adventure of the Retired Colorman,” where a similar strategy is used.
  • Sherlock tells Rosie, “You see but you do not observe,” a direct quote to Watson from A Scandal in Bohemia.
  • A potential client says, “I thought at first that you had done something clever, but I see that there was nothing in it, after all,” which is paraphrased from a client in “The Red-Headed League.”
  • Stella Hopkins (the inspector who chats with Lestrade) is probably a gender-swapped version of Stanley Hopkins, a detective Holmes thought was fairly smart, for a police officer.
  • The show makes use of the recurring joke in which Sherlock can’t remember Lestrade’s name, a continued reference to the fact that Doyle never gives Lestrade’s first name, but only his initial G.
  • Sherlock tells Lestrade to take the credit, a reference to the stories in which Lestrade constantly takes credit for Holmes’ work.
  • Lots of adapted lines in this one, too many to call them all out. John reuses a line from “The Yellow Face” when he says he’s a better man than Mary gives him credit for. Sherlock texts Mary that the curtain is rising on the last act, paraphrased from “The Adventure of the Second Stain.”
  • Toby the dog is used by Holmes in several stories, including The Sign of Four.
  • A.G.R.A. are the initials of Mary’s team in the episode, but in the novel The Sign of Four, Mary is connected to the Agra Treasure. When Mary is no longer an heiress to that treasure, Watson feels free to marry her.
  • Sherlock’s comment that “The world is woven from strands crossing one over another. Every strand of quivering data,” etc. is reminiscent of Holmes’ description of Moriarty as a spider, sitting in the center of a web and feeling every quiver of its strands.
  • Mary walks past a boat in Norway called Flekkete Band, a reference to “The Speckled Band.” Source: @ingridebs. Apparently the name of the other boat, Løvens Manke, means Lion’s Mane, according to Tumblr user Cupidford—another reference to “The Lion’s Mane.”
  • Sherlock tracks Mary to a place called Hotel Cecil. In The Sign of Four, Mary Morstan worked as a governess for Mrs. Cecil Forrester before marrying Watson.
  • Mycroft pulls a take-out menu from his fridge for a restaurant called Reigate Square, a reference to the Doyle story “The Reigate Squires.”
  • In the Doyle story “The Adventure of the Yellow Face,” Holmes ends up being quite thoroughly wrong about the case. He tells Watson, “If it should ever strike you that I am getting a little overconfident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper ‘Norbury’ in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you.” The episode reuses it almost word for word.
  • Sherlock tells Mrs. Hudson that “Work is the best antidote to sorrow,” a direct quote from “The Empty House.”
  • Mycroft says Sherlock rewrote the Appointment in Samara story and called it “Appointment in Sumatra,” possibly a reference to the Doyle-mentioned case, “The Great Rat of Sumatra.”

Mycroft takes a note that says “the 13th” from his fridge and immediately picks up the phone and asks for Sherrinford. Sherrinford Holmes was the name for Sherlock in early Doyle notes. Sherrinford was first proposed as an older Holmes brother by William S. Baring Gould in his fictional biography of Sherlock Holmes. In “The Greek Interpreter,” Holmes states that his family were country squires, meaning that the eldest Holmes son would have inherited the estate and would have managed it. If Mycroft were the eldest, he wouldn’t have time for his role as a civil servant, a theory bolstered by the fact that the position of civil servant was commonly chosen by younger sons of gentry.  Sherrinford has subsequently been used in a host of Sherlock Holmes retellings. The show has been hinting at another Holmes sibling for some time now; Mycroft said last season, “I’m not given to outbursts of brotherly kindness. You know what happened to the other one.”

As for Moriarty, we learn that in the last year or so of his life, he was involved in four political assassinations, 70 assorted robberies and terrorist attacks, including one on a weapons factory in North Korea, and had shown interest in finding the Black Pearl of the Borgias. Sherlock assures everyone that he knows what Moriarty is going to do next with some sort of long-term plan that would take effect in the event of Moriarty’s death. For the viewers, however, it’s too soon to say what that plan might be, or if it even involves any of the items on the list of his interests. Stay tuned…

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