Tuesday, January 21, 2014

BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode # 1 "The Empty Hearse" - Canonical References

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 1 The Empty Hearse

Dear Readers,

The third season of BBC Sherlock has premiered in the US.

As has been the case with the previous seasons, Mark Gatiss' script is packed with nods to the Sherlock Holmes Canon.

Readers who have not yet seen the episode are welcome to skip the rest of the post, if they wish to avoid plot details.  

Click here to read the review of “The Empty Hearse”.

Here are the references to Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories:

1. Sherlock deducing that his captor had worked in the navy and had an unhappy love affair. Sherlock also informs him that his wife is having an affair with the next door neighbor and that if the captor were to go home right then, he would catch them red-handed - Reference to the plots of The Adventure of the Abbey Grange and The Adventure of the Cardboard box

2. Sherlock also deduces that electricity is not working in his captor's bathroom - Sherlock Holmes makes a similar deduction about Dr John Watson's bedroom not getting enough sunlight in The Boscombe Valley Mystery

3. Mycroft's comment that Sherlock has been “quite the busy little bee” - In His Last Bow, Sherlock Holmes mentions he is writing a book on bee keeping titled “Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen”

Mark Gatiss as Mycroft Holmes in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 1 The Empty Hearse

4. Mycroft comments about Sherlock having quite a scheme in relation to Baron Maupertius and dismantling of Moriarty's criminal network. Sherlock replies: Colossal” - Dr John Watson writes in The Reigate Puzzle: “The whole question of the Netherland-Sumatra Company and of the colossal schemes of Baron Maupertuis are too recent in the minds of the public, and are too intimately concerned with politics and finance to be fitting subjects for this series of sketches.”

5. Mycroft's remark: “..field work is not my natural milieu” - Sherlock Holmes states about Mycroft in The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter: “If the art of the detective began and ended in reasoning from an armchair, my brother would be the greatest criminal agent that ever lived. But he has no ambition and no energy. He will not even go out of his way to verify his own solutions,..”

6. Mycroft complaining about “the noise, the people” when discussing about his efforts to go undercover - Sherlock Holmes remarks about Mycroft Holmes in The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter: “There are many men in London, you know, who, some from shyness, some from misanthropy, have no wish for the company of their fellows. It is for the convenience of these that the Diogenes Club was started, and it now contains the most unsociable and unclubable men in town. My brother was one of the founders,..”

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7. When Mycroft tells Sherlock that he does not know about John's plans for the evening, the latter replies: “You always know...” - Sherlock Holmes explains to Dr John Watson about Mycroft Holmes in The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans: “He has the tidiest and most orderly brain, with the greatest capacity for storing facts, of any man living... In that great brain of his everything is pigeon-holed and can be handed out in an instant. Again and again his word has decided the national policy. He lives in it.”

8. Sherlock informs the man in “The Landmark” restaurant: Your wife just texted you.. - Sherlock Holmes mentions in The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier: “I have, as my friend Watson may have remarked, an abnormally acute set of senses,..

9. Sherlock using a French accent when disguised as the waiter in “The Landmark” restaurant - Sherlock Holmes explains about his ancestry in The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter: “But, none the less, my turn that way is in my veins, and may have come with my grandmother, who was the sister of Vernet, the French artist.”

Sherlock Holmes, Dr John Watson and client Percy Phelps in Sidney Paget's illustration for The Naval Treaty

10. Sherlock's line to John in “The Landmark” restaurant: “Bit mean springing it on you like that, I know. Could have given you a heart attack...” - In The Adventure of the Naval Treaty, Sherlock Holmes performs a very similar trick on his client, Percy Phelps at the dining table in 221 B Baker Street. On that occasion, Sherlock explains to Percy: “It was too bad to spring it on you like this, but Watson here will tell you that I never can resist a touch of the dramatic.”

11. Sherlock further continues: But in my defense, it was very funny” - Sherlock Holmes explains to an astonished Lord Cantlemere at 221 B Baker Street in The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone: “My old friend here will tell you that I have an impish habit of practical joking. Also that I can never resist a dramatic situation.”

Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty engaging in Baritsu, japanese martial arts at the Reichenbach Falls in The Final Problem

12. Sherlock refers to a system of Japanese wrestling” when explaining his escape from the predicament at St Bart's - Sherlock Holmes explains about his encounter with Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls in The Adventure of the Empty House: “I have some knowledge, however, of baritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling, which has more than once been very useful to me.”

13. In response to Mary's question about his knowledge of human nature, Sherlock replies: Hmm, Nature? No” - Sherlock Holmes showed his ignorance of the Copernican Theory and of the composition of the Solar System in A Study in Scarlet.

14. Mrs Hudson's reaction to Sherlock's entrance at 221 B Baker Street - Sherlock Holmes tells Dr John Watson in The Adventure of the Empty House: “I came over at once to London, called in my own person at Baker Street, threw Mrs. Hudson into violent hysterics,..”

Amanda Abbington as Mary Morstan in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 1 The Empty Hearse

15. From The Personal Blog of Dr John H. Watson, Mary Morstan reads aloud a few lines. These lines are taken almost verbatim from The Sign of the Four: “So swift, silent, and furtive were his movements, like those of a trained blood-hound picking out a scent, that I could not but think what a terrible criminal he would have made had he turned his energy and sagacity against the law, instead of exerting them in its defense.”

16. While working on the case of the underground terror cells, Sherlock thinks out aloud: London. It's like a great cesspool into which all kinds of criminals, agents and drifters are irresistibly drained. - Dr John Watson writes in A Study in Scarlet: “Under such circumstances, I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained.”
17. Sherlock assuring Mycroft that he will find the answer and convey it via a misplaced lonely hearts ad - Sherlock Holmes mentions to Dr John Watson in The Adventure of the Three Garridebs: “There have been no advertisements in the agony columns. You know that I miss nothing there. They are my favorite covert for putting up a bird, and I would never have overlooked such a cock pheasant as that.”

18. Sherlock recalling Mycroft's statement to him in their childhood: Don't be smart, Sherlock. I'm the smart one.”. Mycroft replies back: I am the smart one... Both of us thought you were an idiot, Sherlock” and further states that he always wins in a game of deduction with Sherlock. Sherlock acknowledges his brother's superiority by saying that is the reason why Mycroft cannot resist the urge to play - Sherlock Holmes says about his brother to Dr John Watson in The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter: I said that he was my superior in observation and deduction.” and “When I say, therefore, that Mycroft has better powers of observation than I, you may take it that I am speaking the exact and literal truth.”
19. Mycroft making the deduction that the hat owner is male due to a strong balance of probability” about the size of the head. - Sherlock Holmes makes the following statement, when makding deductions from Henry Baker's hat in The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle: “...and yet there are a few inferences which are very distinct, and a few others which represent at least a strong balance of probability.” 

Sidney Paget's illustration of Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson deducing from Henry Baker's hat in The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

20. Mycroft also makes deductions that the owner had a hair cut and is out of condition (due to the perspiration stains). Sherlock deduces that the owner has done five repairs to the hat - Sherlock Holmes makes the following deductions about Henry Baker from the hat he left behind at 221 B Baker Street in The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle: “He is a man who leads a sedentary life, goes out little, is out of training entirely, is middle-aged, has grizzled hair which he has had cut within the last few days, and which he anoints with lime-cream.”

21. Sherlock remarks about writing a blog entry on the varying tensile strengths of different natural fibers - Sherlock Holmes has written monographs on cigar ashes (A Study in Scarlet) and tracing of footsteps (The Sign of the Four).

22. Mycroft referring to one of his deductions as being Elementary” while Sherlock sarcastically calls it Brilliant - In The Adventure of the Crooked Man: Sherlock says Elementary when Dr John Watson proclaims one of Sherlock's deductions to be “Excellent”.

23. Sherlock tells his client, Harcourt: “Monkey glands, but enough about Professor Presbury” - Reference to the plot of The Adventure of the Creeping Man, in which the aged Professor Presbury starts developing ape like abilities, after regularly consuming a potion that is supposed to help him regain his youth.

Sherlock Holmes confronts James Windibank at 221 B Baker Street in Sidney Paget's illustration for A Case of Identity

24. Sherlock solves the case for his female client, whose stepfather Mr Windibank has been posing as her online boyfriend. He then breaks off the relationship to ensure she stays single and he can keep her wages - Direct reference to the plot of A Case of Identity

25. John ask his patient, the old man: Dr. Verner is your usual GP, yes?” - Dr John Watson writes in The Adventure of the Norwood Builder: At the time of which I speak, Holmes had been back for some months, and I at his request had sold my practice and returned to share the old quarters in Baker Street. A young doctor, named Verner, had purchased my small Kensington practice, and given with astonishingly little demur the highest price that I ventured to ask–an incident which only explained itself some years later, when I found that Verner was a distant relation of Holmes, and that it was my friend who had really found the money.

26. John mistakes an old man selling DVDs and sleazy magazines (British Birds”) to be Sherlock Holmes in disguise. The old man informs John that he runs a little shop just on the corner of Church Street. He also brings along DVDs of Tree Worshippers”( a very saucy corker) and The Holy War - In The Adventure of the Empty House, Sherlock Holmes appears disguised an an old bookseller to meet Dr John Watson at 221 B Baker Street and tells him: “Well, sir, if it isn't too great a liberty, I am a neighbour of yours, for you'll find my little bookshop at the corner of Church Street, and very happy to see you, I am sure. Maybe you collect yourself, sir. Here's BRITISH BIRDS, and CATULLUS, and THE HOLY WAR - a bargain, every one of them.”

27. John commenting on Sherlock's old man accent not being as good as his French - Reference to Sherlock Holmes' French ancestry.

28. While taking Sherlock to the location of the human skeleton, DI Lestrade comments to Sherlock: This one got us baffled. Sherlock's reply: I do not doubt it.

And after working on the skeleton, the exchange continues - Sherlock: I won't insult your intelligence. Lestrade: Please insult away. - Sherlock Holmes is known for making fun of the Scotland Yard in the Canon. He remarks to Dr John Watson in A Study in Scarlet: “I have chaffed them so much...”

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in a tuxedo in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 1 The Empty Hearse

29. Sherlock deducing about pine, spruce and cedar and then about fire damage based on his sense of smell - Sherlock Holmes mentions in The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier: “I have, as my friend Watson may have remarked, an abnormally acute set of senses, and a faint but incisive scent was apparent.”

30. Sherlock missing John's presence while working on the case of the human skeleton - Sherlock's line to Dr John Watson just as he is about to receive his client, the King of Bohemia in A Scandal in Bohemia: Stay where you are. I am lost without my Boswell.

31. Sherlock commenting on the skeleton wearing a shoddy Victorian outfit from the museum and that it has been on a dummy for the recent years - An indirect reference to the Victorian times during which the original stories were written by Arthur Conan Doyle and the modern flavor of the BBC adaptation.

32. Sherlock knowing about St James the Less being a church and taking a number of detours to reach the place - Sherlock Holmes has intimate knowledge of London.

33. The cryptic message from John's captors reads: John or James Watson?” - Reference to the fact that Dr John Watson is once referred to as James by his wife in The Man with the Twisted Lip.

34. Sherlock solving the cryptic message sent by John's kidnapper(s) - Sherlock Holmes mentions to Dr John Watson in The Sign of the Four: “My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere.” 

Louise Brealey as Molly Hooper in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 1 The Empty Hearse

35. Mycroft taking his parents to Les Miserables - Another reference to the French Ancestry of the Holmes family.

36. Sherlock's line: “Once you eliminate all the factors, the remaining must be the truth - Sherlock tells Dr John Watson in The Sign of the Four: “Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth”.

37. The character of Lord Moran, Peer of the Realm and Minister for Overseas Development - Possible reference to Colonel Sebastian Moran, Professor Moriarty's sharpshooter and according to Sherlock Holmes, the second most dangerous man in London

38. Howard Shilcott explains about Sumatra Road as being a station that got caught in legal disputes and was closed before it was ever opened - Sherlock Holmes explains to Dr John Watson in The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire: “Matilda Briggs was not the name of a young woman, Watson.. It was a ship which is associated with the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 1 The Empty Hearse

39. Sherlock jimmies the lock in the train station to the underground - In The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton, Sherlock Holmes displays Dr John Watson his burgling kit, complete with keys, glass-cutter and a jimmy.

40. John advises Sherlock to use his mind palace to stop the bomb from exploding. Sherlock rebukes John for thinking that he has got how to defuse a bombtucked away in their somewhere - Sherlock Holmes lectures about the human brain to Dr John Watson in A Study in Scarlet: “I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose... Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order.”

41. Sherlock playing tricks on John in the train - Another reference to Sherlock Holmes' habit of practical joking.

42. John tells Sherlock: “You were the best and the wisest man I have ever known” - In The Final Problem, Dr John Watson refers to Sherlock Holmes as “the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known”.

43. Sherlock reveals that he used a squash ball under the armpit, to momentarily cut off the pulse - Sherlock Holmes faked a life threatening illness to fool Culverton Smith into making a confession in The Adventure of the Dying Detective. Sherlock also mentions to Dr John Watson: “Malingering is a subject upon which I have sometimes thought of writing a monograph.”

44. Phillip Anderson's question about Sherlock's homeless network - Reference to the Baker Street Irregulars, affectionately termed the unofficial force by Sherlock Holmes

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 1 The Empty Hearse

45. Sherlock's line about his lack of knowledge of the person(s) who abducted John: I don't know. I don't like not knowing - Sherlock Holmes tells James Ryder in The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle: “My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don't know.”

46. Sherlock remarks to John: Unlike the nicely embellished fictions on your blog, John, real life is rarely so neat - This is a double reference.
  • Sherlock Holmes often complains about John adding unnecessary touch of romanticism to his accounts of their cases. For example, he states in The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier: “..since I have often had occasion to point out to him how superficial are his own accounts and to accuse him of pandering to popular taste instead of confining himself rigidly to facts and figures.”
  • The second reference is to these lines spoken by Sherlock Holmes to Dr John Watson in A Case of Identity: “My dear fellow, life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man can invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs, and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generations, and leading to the most outre results, it would make all fiction, with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions, most stale and unprofitable”

47. Sherlock's statement to John: You know my methods, John. I am known to be indestructible. - Sherlock Holmes tells Dr John Watson in The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle: “You know my methods.”

I welcome the readers to add any other references that might have been missed.

Click here to read all my posts about BBC Sherlock.

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Image Sources: BBC Wales, Hartswood Films, Masterpiece Theatre

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Canonical References in A Study in Pink


  1. Oh a definite one was the reference to Baron Mauterpius (excuse spelling) and his schemes - deemed "Colossal" by Sherlock when talking to Mycroft after being beaten

  2. "The Tree worshippers" is the title of the book Watson sees when he first bumps into Holmes in disguise. (John wrongly believing that he has a disguised Sherlock in front of him is btw a reference to the Rathbone movie "The Spider Woman")

    I am not sure if the character is really supposed to be "Colonel Sebastian Moran". Currently I am more inclined to believe that he is supposed to be his father "Sir Augustus Moran, Minister for Persia", who is mentioned in passing in The Empty House - this would certainly explain why the character is neither a gambler, nor an ex-soldier and sharp-shooter.

    The deduction of the bap is partly taken from a scene when Sherlock Holmes deduces a hat in "The blue Carbuncle", but the part with repairing it multiple times even though it is not worth the effort is from another story, in which he deduces a pipe...I have to look up which one, it is one of the later ones.

    1. I agree that Lord Moran may not actually be Sebastian Moran. That is why I said "possible" reference - meaning just a namesake, but not necessarily the same character.


    2. Ha! Found it! “Well, I should put the original cost of the pipe at seven and sixpence. Now it has, you see, been twice mended, once in the wooden stem and once in the amber. Each of these mends, done, as you observe, with silver bands, must have cost more than the pipe did originally. The man must value the pipe highly when he prefers to patch it up rather than buy a new one with the same money.” (The Adventure of the Yellow Face)

    3. Excellent catch, Swanpride.


  3. Excellent rundown of the references B2B. I look forward to your review of each episode of the season. It was an impressive season overall, even if the mysteries lacked in the first episode.


    1. Thanks for the compliments, James.

      I have not seen the rest of the season yet.


  4. You have a gift in cataloging these references.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. You are welcome, John.

      Glad that you enjoyed the list as much as I did compiling it.


  5. B2B! How long did it take to compile that lot?! Wow! Looking forward to you seeing the rest of the season and reading your reviews.

    1. Thanks GK.

      It took a few hours to complete the list. But it was worth the time and efforts :)


  6. I really liked the scene with them talking about their childhood. I am a bit skeptical about one thing. As children Mycroft being older would have an advantage over Sherlock. Sherlock might think Mycroft is ahead of him, but how much of that was due to Sherlock's then immaturity and Mycroft's age and experience. Maybe Mycroft and Sherlock are more evenly matched now. On the other hand, being with the government might mean Mycroft gets to use his abilities on a more often and on a regular basis than Sherlock?

    I wished this scene was happened in season 1, so Mycroft wasn't only just an annoying high level bureaucrat with no apparent talent who is also Sherlock's brother. Then again there is some wisdom to not letting everyone know how smart you are.

    1. Thanks zenzmurfy. I too liked their exchange in that scene. Very Canonical in nature and definitely fun to watch.


  7. Fabulous list. Missed one though. When Watson examines the book seller he makes the comment that "Dr. Verner is your usual GP." Verner in the books was Holmes's cousin who eventually bought Watson's practice freeing him to return to Baker Street full time.

    1. Thank you for pointing that out. I will add that one.


  8. Sherlock refers to Lord Moran as his "big Rat". Since his plan involved Sumatra Road, this is a roundabout reference to the Giant Rat of Sumatra.

    1. Thanks for stopping by.

      Please see point # 38 for that reference.


  9. Also, I believe, Watson's tache (moustache), is a tribute to Arthur Conan Doyle himself, the way he looked. It is quite a common theory that Conan Doyle was a bit like Watson, who in most adaptation has a moustache.

    1. I thought Watson's tache was a nod to the one always worn by the Canonical Watson. I believe, Martin Freeman's version is the only one without that quintessential trait.

      I agree about ACD basing the character of Watson on himself.


  10. I thought the mustache was also a reference to CAM, where Watson is described as having a mustache...

    1. I agree with you. John's moustache is a nod to the one worn by the Canonical Watson.

      Thanks for stopping by.