“Sherlock” Season 3 DVD extra: ‘Fans, Villains and Speculation – The Legacy of Sherlock Holmes’
This is a transcript of new material which appears only on the ‘Fans, Villains and Speculation’ Special Feature of the Season 3 DVD. It does not include a transcript of the clips from the episodes which are shown throughout the feature, nor does it include descriptions of every visual moment. I haven’t transcribed every ‘er’ and ‘um’ and stutter as the interviewees speak but I hope that it may be useful in particular to viewers whose first language is not English and who are unable to access the subtitles.
Warning: Contains spoilers for all three episodes of Season 3. Enter with care if you haven’t seen the episodes yet.
As always, please remember that some of the comments made by people may look serious in plain print but are actually meant sarcastically or humorously.
If you quote extracts from this elsewhere, a link back to this page would be much appreciated!
Season 3 DVD extra: ‘Fans, Villains and Speculation – The Legacy of Sherlock Holmes’
The cast is gathering in the read-through room, greeting each other and shaking hands with each other. Steven Moffat finally calls everyone to order as they sit down at the table.
STEVEN: Hello, hello!
(Mark Gatiss and Steven are sitting in the armchairs on the set of 221B’s living room.)
MARK: I always remember Vic and Bob [Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, a pair of British comedians] on “Saturday Superstore” [a kids’ TV show from the past, where celebrities were interviewed], and someone rang in and said, “Where do you get your ideas from?” and Vic Reeves said ... (Mark impersonates Vic’s accent), “Out of our minds.”
(Mark and Steven crack up laughing.)
MARTIN FREEMAN (sitting on the same set on his own at a different interview): What I like most about Sherlock, I suppose, is the initial thing of receiving scripts, where you get to say and play and react to things that are ... that you don’t get to do all the time.
(Brief short of part of the table read, showing Martin, Amanda Abbington, Yasmine Akram and Benedict – wearing shorts, hello legs – all laughing.)
BENEDICT (on his own on the 221B living room set): We get that thrill when we read a script that the audience does when they first watch. It’s that coal-face realisation of ... (he shakes his head, opens his eyes wide and gawps.) And literally – sometimes literally, if not figuratively – between me and Martin, on reading it, looking up and going, (silently) “Oh my God!”
MARTIN: You are never gonna make anything next to great, or next to brilliant, without a very, very good script.
(Shot of Amanda, at the read-through, doing her “It is a tiny bit sexy,” line. Everyone laughs.)
MARTIN: Amanda is in the show, and Amanda is – for those who don’t know – my real-life partner. I just always turn to her and go ... (he mimes holding a script) “This is amazing. It’s brilliant.”
LARS MIKKELSEN (sitting on some steps near the glass window of the sitting room in the real house that doubled as Appledore): It’s such a good script, isn’t it? I mean, it’s just ... You’re misled, as an audience, and I think that’s lovely.
MARK: We were looking, really, for an obvious arc to a third series. What presents itself straight away is the incredible drama of him coming back from the dead.
STEVEN: We work together in a variety of ways. Most of the time we’re off writing separately, but not always. The really important stuff is when we sit in a room together and work out what the series is going to be.
MARK: That’s, in a way, the most fun, isn’t it?
STEVEN: Oh yeah.
MARK: Throwing it all into a pot and saying, “Well, here’s a general shape; oh, and here’s a story I’d love to do. What if Sherlock was a best man? What if ...? What if we put him in here?” It’s like picking ... picking him up and putting him into an unusual situation. It’s the sort of thing that can lead to all kinds of exciting possibilities.
STEVEN: Yes. It’s an object lesson in why you must only work on things you love, because these conversations are never a chore. We used to have these conversations ...
MARK: ... just for fun!
STEVEN (simultaneously): ... anyway!
STEVEN: We did them anyway, without them resulting in a TV show!
SUE VERTUE (sitting at the bottom of the stairs in the 221 set): You never quite know what’s gonna happen with Sherlock. When I read the scripts ... ’cause Steven and Mark will tell me certain things and then not tell me ... You know, Steven won’t tell me a lot when he’s writing it. And he also sometimes delivers in chunks, which is quite interesting, ’cause he just keeps doing cliffhanger after cliffhanger. You keep going ... (she opens her eyes wide and gasps).
At North Gower Street, the fandom has gathered and are shrieking excitedly. Close-up of some of them holding up their hands to form a heart shape. Benedict, standing beside Martin, waves to the fans.
STEVEN: I kind of think the pressure of having a huge, enthusiastic fan base is not pressure, it’s rather nice.
(Mark signs autographs for some of the fans.)
MARK: But it’s also not a thing where you can respond to the fact that it has a massive international audience, ’cause shows go off the rails ...
STEVEN (nodding): Yes.
MARK: ... if you start trying to direct it towards what you think people will like, or what you think they might fear. We just have to make it for ourselves. It’s a hundred-year-old spoiler, but Doctor Watson does marry Mary Morstan; and you get that sort of slightly-miffed, “You’re not allowed to do this. You’ll spoil it.” But it’s our show. And I dare say what happens is, when the episodes are revealed, you will see that we don’t spoil it, because we don’t want to.
BENEDICT: I got told about the idea of bringing in Mary Watson, and I thought, “Well, okay, what’s that gonna do to the dynamic of them, and how’s she gonna figure? Is she gonna be a third cog in the wheel, or is she gonna be something separate?”
AMANDA ABBINGTON (on the living room set): She kind of gets in between the two of them, but she wants them to be together as well. So you see them, in Episode 2, they’re sort of not fighting crimes or solving things at the moment, so she sort of says ... (gesturing to an imaginary person to her right) “Well, look, why don’t you sort out a case for him?” and then ... (gesturing to another imaginary person on her left) “Why don’t you sort out a case for him?” and then she kind of pushes them together because she can see that they kind of miss each other.
MARTIN: I think for John and us – you know, in real life – it could never just be, “There’s now three of them.” Amanda didn’t want there to be three of them, because she didn’t want to be hated, for a start ... (he laughs) ... d’you know what I mean?! Like, the person who comes in and kind of ruins the dynamic of the two most famous people in detective literature.
MARK: The reunion for John and Sherlock – it makes my hair stand on end. It’s just the ... it’s so beautifully played. Martin – the complex emotions you see of astonishment and grief and rage, all flickering through his eyes. And then Sherlock, like an exposed little kid, going, “I think I might have misjudged this one.” (He laughs.) It’s a joy.
BENEDICT: What you don’t expect from the books, where it’s just ... (in a posh Watsonian voice) “Oh, good God, you’re alive! Wonderful! Let’s get on and have another adventure!” is the fact that in reality, if you’ve grieved someone for two years, that’s gonna put you in a hell of a hole.
MARTIN: We were all wondering, when we got the script, like, “How are they gonna deal with that?” and I think it’s ... I hope we do it well, but I think it’s potentially very good.
STEVEN: One of the themes of this series, which wasn’t stated at the beginning, but I think has emerged in what we’ve done, is Sherlock Holmes versus the real world. He does sort of get involved in real-life things: like going to a wedding, having – possibly – a girlfriend, all those things. Updating Sherlock Holmes means putting him in our world and seeing what he makes of it – that’s what it really means.
MARK: We play a sort of parlour game of, “What would Sherlock be like in ... dot dot dot?” And the great thrill and revelation of that was, “Well, he’d be the best man, wouldn’t he? And what would Sherlock Holmes’ best man speech be like?! A train wreck? Or what if he was brilliant at it?”
STEVEN: Reading the stories – and Doctor Watson gets married between stories – and I remember as a kid just thinking, “Well, Sherlock Holmes must have been the best man.” There was no other option, ’cause Doctor Watson had exactly one friend! And thinking, “I wish we’d seen it.” Well, now we get to see it. And we had a long discussion about not caricaturing and not being silly. What would Sherlock Holmes do as a best man? Well, he’s a genius. He’s an accomplished genius. He’s a suave, accomplished genius and knows how to dress well. He’d be very, very good at it – but he’d still be Sherlock Holmes.
MARK: He’d treat it as a problem.
MARK: “How can I do the world’s best best man’s speech?” So it’s actually both a train wreck and a masterpiece.
MARK: In Episode 3, which is based on Charles Augustus Milverton – and in the original story he does become engaged to Milverton’s maid, heartlessly, which Steven has extrapolated into this thing and it’s amazing! John Watson’s reaction is like ... it’s our reaction, it’s the audience’s – it’s like, “But you’re behaving like a human being here!” And it is ...
STEVEN: ... it is so funny! You think, “Oh, it’s nice he’s become humanised. He understands how to do all that now,” and you realise he exploits it to terrible ends!
BENEDICT: It’s devastatingly cruel, what he does. He inveigles his way back into her life, and impresses her and turns his ability on to a single focus.
STEVEN: He’s suddenly capable of doing a whole lot of things that he couldn’t ... he daren’t do in the past, but it doesn’t necessarily make him nicer.
MARTIN: Charles Augustus Milverton – and, in our one, Magnussen – is a true ... sort of a repugnant human being. He’s not evil, necessarily. He doesn’t have plans for, sort of, Hitlerian world domination, but he is just sort of completely amoral. I mean, absolutely amoral.
LARS: He’s created, sort of, another line of moral ethics.
BENEDICT: This man – who, as he says, preys on people who are different and bullies them, basically.
MARK: Lars Mikkelsen is incredible in the part. But it’s brilliant that he’s not just another Moriarty.
STEVEN: This is one of the very few occasions we get Sherlock Holmes expressing hatred. Why does Sherlock hate him above a murderer? What Charles Augustus M does is he exploits people who are different, and exploits people who have secrets; and there’s something in Sherlock Holmes that just rises like a tiger in the face of it.
MARK: Yeah, yeah.
STEVEN: “I cannot bear you doing that.”
MARTIN: He’s a great, great villain; and he’s being played f-f-f-flipping brilliantly.
[We saw what you nearly said there, Martin!]
MARK: Lars is a fantastically respected actor. People know him from The Killing, but I think this is a ... I really believe this is another star-making part, ’cause he’s immaculate.
BENEDICT: It’s chilling because of how real he is; how normal he is; how he might be someone we have in our midst, in our lives all the time.
LARS: That’s what I’m trying to do, you know – not make him too big, but suck in the attention.
After a clip of the new Mr and Mrs Watson coming out of the church.
STEVEN: An episode needs to be about something in their lives. It’s not enough for it to be a mystery.
MARK: It’s a series about a detective; it’s not a detective series. The Story of the Week is as nothing compared to the relationship between those two characters and their increasingly large family of characters.
MARK: That’s the real heart of it, and that’s why it’s a success.
STEVEN: We laugh a great deal when we’re planning Sherlock. One of the things about Sherlock Holmes that quite often gets missed – not ... it wasn’t missed by Billy Wilder; it wasn’t missed by Rathbone and Bruce; but missed a lot – is how funny those stories are.
STEVEN: They’re funny. Sherlock Holmes is a funny character. Doctor Watson is a funny character. They’re designed ... they’re genuinely a comedy double-act.
STEVEN: And our version of this show is full of laughs.
MARK: Some of the more earnest Sherlocks over the years missed the point, in that sense.
MARK: They treat it like Holy Writ, which is exactly the opposite of how Doyle treated his own creation.
BENEDICT: It’s exhausting. It’s really hard work, but it’s the best kind of hard work you could ever wish for as an actor.
STEVEN: Deductions are hard.
MARK: The deductions are the hardest part, as Doyle himself knew, and there’s a reason why they sort of fade out in the original stories quite quickly. (He laughs.) Because they’re just very difficult. Every now and then, something just occurs to you. Doyle used to work backwards and sort of put soil over something. And then, like a magician, you don’t reveal your workings, and then it looks like a brilliant revelation. But they are bloody hard.
BENEDICT: It stretches my brain. I don’t know – the concise crossword may be a bit easier, just a bit. Well, you’re exercising the grey matter in an area and a vein and a speed that I am certainly not accustomed to every day. I have to speed up a lot to play him, and it’s exhausting. (He chuckles.) And it’s very nice to be slow and stupid and go home and have a cup of tea ... or not; have some decaffeinated drink, and sleep.
MARK: To get this level of adoration for our show and for our leads and everything – you have to pinch yourself slightly sometimes.
MARTIN: I know so many people who are fans of it who are just, like, “What’s gonna happen?”
STEVEN: It was successful instantly. Benedict went from being a hugely-respected but basically unknown actor to being a star one Sunday evening.
BENEDICT: I never really chased for fame or a high level of exposure. I was just about just doing my job, really. I knew, because he was an iconic character, that I would get a lot of focus on me for it.
LOUISE BREALEY (sitting at the kitchen table in the 221B set): Because it’s such a, you know, phenomenon, it just means that you get recognised in the most odd places. But it’s not really about that – it just opens lots and lots of doors. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. And I know that it’s been good to, like, everybody who’s been involved with it.
MARK: In three short years, really, we’ve got to the stage now where actually making three years is quite difficult because both of our leads are such international film stars!
SUE: My fear was that they’d come back after two years and ... you know, they’d been in The Hobbit and Star Trek and all these things, and be sort of ... don’t know, tricky. But they weren’t. I mean, it’s lovely and we’ve had a great time doing it.
(Mark and Steven are looking at some of the photographs of groups of fans displaying, “We believe in Sherlock” and other similar messages, together with some of the Post It notes and drawings stuck to the phone box outside Bart’s.)
MARK: After the end of the second series, these pictures just started appearing everywhere – literally across the world.
STEVEN: When we go to shoot at Bart’s, we have to clear away all the campaign posters for “Sherlock was innocent.”
STEVEN: ... which might reasonably have happened in the story, but we thought that would be over the top.
MARK: Well, yes! We sort of had a telescoped version of what happened to Doyle when he killed off Sherlock. Doyle was attacked in the street, wasn’t he?
MARK: Young men of fashion took to wearing black crepe in their top hats, and stuff like that. Even though we were very kind and only actually killed him for five minutes!
STEVEN: Yeah, yeah. He did it for, like, ten years!
SUE: It’s weird, ’cause when we first started shooting Sherlock, we were filming around Trafalgar Square, and Piccadilly Circus, and we could film and nobody would even notice us there at all. We’ve just recently been to North Gower Street, and we reckon there was between about six hundred and a thousand people turned up. The cast pull up and there’s a huge round of applause, and they get out; and then they’re all very quiet when we do a take; then they would applaud again when we finish.
BENEDICT: It’s slightly strange. There’s a bubble of near, kind of, adrenaline panic that goes through you, like there is with live theatre, because you are suddenly in front of a live audience.
SUE: I had a letter from somebody the other day – one of the fans handed me a letter. And they were just saying that they loved to be there – and the fact that they see a bit of filming is fine. They’ve just made firm friends from all different countries that they wouldn’t normally have met, and they meet up now and then and have drinks and ... It seems to have kind of facilitated people’s friendships.
STEVEN (as they continue to look at photos of fans’ messages): It’s extraordinary, though, isn’t it? We can sit in our rooms and come up with stuff that has this happening round the world.
STEVEN: We did this as possibly the biggest sustained act of fanfiction, and as a result there’s fanfiction about our fanfiction.
MARK: Mm, mm.
STEVEN: And I do think that’s where storytelling comes from.
MARK: It’s that lovely thing of generating new content around it. It’s the sort of thing that got us into writing.
MARK: In the third series we’ve got the return; we’ve got John and Mary’s wedding; we’ve got this colossal revelation; plus a clash with an incredible world-class baddie. What we want to do for a fourth series is match that. But it’s not a question of saying, “Well, we need a baddie on that scale.” It’s about trying to find stories that have that kind of scale to them.
SUE: The show has to keep evolving. It has to move on at a pace, I think.
MARK: We are fans of Sherlock Holmes. That’s why this show exists and, I dare say, I think why it’s a success is because we live and breathe and love it. And every single bit of it is about loving the characters. We’ve done the thing of starting them early. The idea – if we could – of finding Martin and Benedict in these chairs aged fifty, sort of like the age that Holmes and Watson are usually portrayed, is sensational.
MARK: It would be lovely to feel we could do that.
The show ends with sound bites from various fans outside North Gower Street.
Fan 1: Thanks for such an amazing series.
Fan 2 (a little girl, excitedly): I love Sherlock!
Fan 3: I came from Germany and I’ve been here twelve hours now.
Fan 4: I like ... I like your cheekbones.
Fan 5 (agreeing with her): Yeah!
Fan 6: Eight hours was worth the wait.
A group of several fans: Thank you!
A full list of episode transcripts, DVD commentary summaries/transcripts, and transcripts of the DVD special features can be found here.