Sherlock the victorian

Catch Sherlock Holmes in a Doyle setting of gas lamps and top hats as The Abominable Bride airs on your tv tomorrow night

  • Published 8.01.16
Martin Freeman as Dr Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in The Abominable Bride

After captivating fans across the world with the smash-hit Sherlock Holmes TV series based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic detective, the ‘Sherlock Special’ episode — The Abominable Bride — premieres on Indian TV on Saturday night (AXN at 9pm). Set in the Victorian London of 1895, this special episode will witness Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dr Watson (Martin Freeman) in the middle of a Baker Street of steam trains, hansom cabs and top hats. But some things remain reassuringly the same — their friendship, the adventure, the MURDER... and the line: “The name is Sherlock Holmes and the address is 221 Baker Street”.

Premiered in the UK on January 1 with a simulcast in some popular London cinemas, The Abominable Bride met with middling to positive reviews. But it has definitely whetted appetites for Season 4, that will go on the floors in April and air early 2017. 

Before you catch the hour-long episode, here’s what some of the key players have to say about The Abominable Bride.

(The British heart-throb reprises his role as Sherlock Holmes... but in a Victorian time and space)

We are used to your Sherlock being set in modern times. What did you make of the Victorian setting?
I thought it was madness. I thought they’d finally lost the plot, jumped the shark, all the other cliches of television gone mad with itself!  Then they expanded the idea and pitched it to me properly and I think it’s fantastic. Absolutely brilliant.

How will fans react to the Victorian setting?
I don’t really know how the fans are going to react to it. I think that’s one of the joys of doing it like this. You know, we can’t disguise the fact that we’re filming it and often filming it in cities or public places where people are going to take snapshots of us dressed in Victorian kit. We haven’t disappointed fans in the past it seems, so hopefully this won’t. I hope they enjoy it.

What was it like being transported back in time? 
Great fun to play, and I mean, great, great fun. To muck around with a pipe and a deerstalker for real is wonderful. And then, as far as the background goes, the setting, the mise-en-scene, the scenery, all the rest of it, it’s just a delight. It always is with period drama. You kind of marvel at it. 

What’s the funniest thing that happened on the set of The Abominable Bride? 
Martin Freeman is probably the funniest thing that happened on set. He tends to be quite funny in general.  So, when he’s on set, he’s funny. It’s a weak answer, but it’s the truth — you don’t have to look far for comedy on set.

What do you make of the global success of Sherlock? 
I think the enduring appeal of Sherlock Holmes has always been global, actually, I don’t think this is a phenomenon tied in with our success. I think it’s to do with Conan Doyle’s extraordinary invention which has a universal appeal to all nationalities. This is a man who’s an outsider, who’s intelligent, who doesn’t tolerate mediocrity, who is incredibly efficient, but also has his weaknesses and comeuppances.

I think the ability to turn the mundane, average and normal into a pop-up world of potential adventure, which is what I’ve always been saying about him both on and off the page in our version and in the original books, is that you never know where it’s going to lead. There’s an endless amount of potential adventure.

(co-creator of the Sherlock TV series and also plays the part of Mycroft Holmes)

When did you first get the idea for a Victorian version of Sherlock? 
The night that it first formed was when we were doing the publicity shots for Series Three. Me and Steven Moffat (co-creator) were out in the freezing cold night and we started to come up with it. 

What happened when you told the rest of the team about the idea? 
Well, when we pitched it to Benedict and Martin, it was a very unusual situation because (Basil) Rathbone and (Nigel) Bruce are the only people who have done both, until now. From the point that we fell in love with Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson in their original incarnation, the whole idea of making it 21st century was what became the exciting new part of it. But obviously, to do it with gas lamps and top hats and hansom cabs, as a full-on sort of Gothic treat is completely irresistible. We thought we’d sort of earned the right really.

Did you have to persuade the actors? 
No, hilariously, because Benedict’s been agitating for a haircut since the beginning of the show! So, we breathlessly pitched it as this: ‘It’s 1895, we’ll just do it….’ We told him the story, the case and everything. He was sort of agog and then went: ‘Can I have my haircut?’ That was it… that was easy. And Martin just loved the idea.

When you first started you were asked how Sherlock would work in a world with emails and smartphones. How did you deal with technology going back in time for The Abominable Bride?
We’re retro-engineering all the questions we got six years ago. How are we going to deal with it? The way that Doyle did! The point is, as we said, when we were initially modernising it, Holmes was a modern man. If you read the original stories, it’s all in there. For example there’s a telephone in Baker Street. He wasn’t living in an antique world.

(co-creator of Sherlock Holmes the TV series)

How did you approach the Victorian setting?
Part of the impulse came from me and Mark (Gatiss) saying: ‘Wouldn’t it be a shame if we never got to see them do it in the authentic setting, in the actual way?’ It was irresistible to do a special that is Victorian and say, this is what it would’ve been had we done it authentically. Thereafter it affects everything and it’s hugely different, because as we’ve done it properly Victorian — we had to remake our 221B set.

What were the challenges?
We instantly had the problem of period settings and so on, whereas before we just turned the camera on and pointed it at London. We couldn’t do that here. There was the CGI needed to recreate a Victorian London that you believe in. In terms of the writing we wanted to keep faith with our version of those characters, and yet put them in a Doyle setting, with a Doyle sort of style of presentation, so it sort of splits the difference. I don’t think Sherlock Holmes himself talks all that differently because, the modern-day Holmes talks very much like the Victorian Holmes. In fact, if you look at the modern version of the show, he sounds more and more Victorian every year because Benedict suits that. Dr Watson is a bit different. He presents himself more as the traditional Dr Watson but you realise something else is going on underneath.

How has Sherlock Holmes influenced modern detective shows?
Every big colourful, characterful, intriguing, mysterious, interesting detective is a descendant of Sherlock Holmes, everybody knows that. I don’t mean our version of Sherlock Holmes, I mean, the original Sherlock Holmes of the Strand Magazine.

All of the others come from him, of course they do, and nobody would deny it for a second. The sheer idea that the great detective is also a bit of a freak, that’s what Doyle came up with. You know, he’s not just clever, he’s mad. If you look at all those great detectives, none of them are ordinary. None of their procedures resemble, in any way whatsoever, what a real detective does — the methodical accumulation of data. They work on inspired insights and they’re always sort of socially a bit of an outcast and all those things. All the great detectives... all those rivers flow from Baker Street.

♦ The title The Abominable Bride is based on the quote “Ricoletti of the club foot and his abominable wife”, an unrecorded case from the official Holmes canon, that was mentioned by Doyle in The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual (1893).
♦ The Abominable Bride was also released in several cinemas in UK where it screened with 25 minutes of exclusive bonus content, including a behind-the-scenes feature and a tour of 221B Baker Street.
♦ The background music for the teaser trailer is a variation of the opening title track of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984). 
It is the first episode in the series to feature the iconic line ‘Elementary, my dear Watson.’

Sherlock Holmes is the greatest detective in fiction because.... Tell

The Abominable Bride airs on Saturday at 9pm on AXN. Repeats on Sunday at noon