Monday, February 3, 2014

BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode # 3 "His Last Vow" - Canonical References (Part 1)

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 3 His Last Vow

The final episode of BBC Sherlock Season 3, “His Last Vow was aired today. I will be posting my review soon, once readers all over the world have seen it.

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

The main antagonist, Charles Augustus Magnussen (CAM) is based on the character of Charles Augustus Milverton (The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton).

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

1. John remembering Sherlock saying: “The game is on”. Sherlock also repeats this line later in the episode. - Sherlock Holmes awakens Dr John Watson in The Adventure of the Abbey Grange and implores him: “Come, Watson, come! ... The game is afoot. Not a word! Into your clothes and come!”

2. John is awakened by Kate Whitney (Brigid Zengeni), whose son Isaac Whitney (Calvin Demba) is a drug addict and has gone missing (again) since last night. John goes to a drug den to help Isaac and meets Sherlock as well – In The Adventure of Man with the Twisted Lip, Dr John Watson tries to help Kate Whitney's husband Isa Whitney in an opium den and a disguised Sherlock Holmes calls out to him.

3. Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) slaps Sherlock hard and then chastises for throwing away the beautiful gift he was born with, by indulging in drug use. She also asks him: How dare you throw away the love of your friends? - In The Sign of the Four, Dr John Watson makes this plea to Sherlock Holmes, after watching him inject a seven-percent-solution of cocaine: “Why should you, for a mere passing pleasure, risk the loss of those great powers with which you have been endowed? Remember that I speak not only as one comrade to another, but as a medical man to one for whose constitution he is to some extent answerable.”

Martin Freeman as John Watson in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 3 His Last Vow

4. Sherlock asking John why he started cycling to work – This is a bit tentative, but reminded me of The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist. In this story, Sherlock Holmes deduces about Miss Violet Smith being an “ardent bicyclist” based on the slight roughening of the side of the sole her feet caused by the friction of the edge of the pedal.

5. Bill Wiggins (Tom Brooke) deducing that John always keeps his shirts folded, ready to pack – Dr John Watson writes in The Boscombe Valley mystery: “My experience of camp life in Afghanistan had at least had the effect of making me a prompt and ready traveller. My wants were few and simple, so that in less than the time stated I was in a cab with my valise, rattling away to Paddington Station.”

6. Sherlock calling Bill Wiggins as “Billy” – Double reference to Billy, the page (The Valley of Fear, The Problem of Thor Bridge and The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone) and Wiggins, head of the Baker Street Irregulars (A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four)
7. Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss) advising Sherlock that cross-dressing would have been a better path option for him – In The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone, Sherlock Holmes disguises himself an an old woman to follow Count Negretto Sylvius.

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8. Mycroft calling 221 B a toxic waste dump – Dr John Watson writes about Sherlock Holmes in The Adventure of the Musgrae Ritual: “An anomaly which often struck me in the character of my friend Sherlock Holmes was that, although in his methods of thought he was the neatest and most methodical of mankind, and although also he affected a certain quiet primness of dress, he was none the less in his personal habits one of the most untidy men that ever drove a fellow-lodger to distraction.

9. Sherlock physically intimidating Mycroft and John worries that Sherlock just might snap Mycroft in two – Possible reference to the physical strength of Sherlock. In A Study in Scarlet, Dr John Watson writes about his first meeting with Sherlock Holmes: “"How are you?" he said cordially, gripping my hand with a strength for which I should hardly have given him credit.” In The Adventure of the Speckled Band, Holmes straightens out the steel poker that was bent into a curve a few moments back by Dr Grimesby Roylott of Stoke Moran. In The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet, Sherlock Holmes tries to break off a corner  of the titular coronet and comments: “I feel it give a little.... but, though I am exceptionally strong in the fingers, it would take me all my time to break it. An ordinary man could not do it.”
Lars Mikkelsen as Charles Augustus Magnussen in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 3 His Last Vow

10. Sherlock's statement about Charles Augustus Magnussen (CAM): “Magnussen is like a shark. It's the only way I can describe him. You have been to the shark tank at the London aquarium and stood up close to the glass. Those floating flat faces...those dead eyes.. that is what he is. I have dealt with murderers, psychopaths, terrorists, serial killers. None of them can turn my stomach like Charles Augustus Magnussen” - Sherlock Holmes describes Charles Augustus Milverton in The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton: “Do you feel a creeping, shrinking sensation, Watson, when you stand before the serpents in the zoo, and see the slithery, gliding, venomous creatures, with their deadly eyes and wicked, flattened faces? Well, that's how Milverton impresses me. I've had to do with fifty murderers in my career, but the worst of them never gave me the repulsion which I have for this fellow.”

11. Sherlock refers to CAM as “the Napolean of blackmail” - Sherlock Holmes describes Professor Moriarty as the Napolean of crime in The Final Problem.

12. Sherlock refers to CAM's house as “Appledore”: an unassailable architecture of forbidden knowledge - In The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton, Milverton lives at Appledore Towers, Hampstead. 

13. Sherlock pretends to be in a relationship with Janine, CAM's PA and even proposes to her. He does this to gain knowledge about CAM's schedule and to gain access to his office - In The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton, Sherlock Holmes pretends to love Milverton's housemaid to know the plans to her master's house.

Lars Mikkelsen as Charles Augustus Magnussen and Lindsay Duncan as Lady Elizabeth Smallwood in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 3 His Last Vow

14. When CAM drops in at 221 B Baker Street and makes a reading on John, we can see that Johan has 10% debt in finance – In The Sign of the Four, Dr John Watson mentions about having difficulties in finance, when he considers the thought of marrying Mary Morstan: “What was I, an army surgeon with a weak leg and a weaker banking-account, that I should dare to think of such things?...”

15. CAM's reading of Sherlock lists him as being officially deceased between 2011 and 2013 – Possible reference to the Great Hiatus from 1891 (The Final Problem) to 1894 (The Adventure of the Empty House)

16. Sherlock informing John that he will text the instructions for their visit to CAM's office – This reminded me of the famous note sent by Sherlock Holmes to Dr John Watson in The Adventure of the Creeping Man: “Come at once if convenient–if inconvenient come all the same. S. H.”.  Another example is this telegram from Sherlock Holmes to Watson in The Boscombe Valley Mystery: “Have you a couple of days to spare? Have just been wired for from the west of England in connection with Boscombe Valley tragedy. Shall be glad if you will come with me. Air and scenery perfect. Leave Paddington by the 11:15”

17. Sherlock instructing John not to bring a gun or a knife or a tire lever. Best not to do any arm spraining - Possible reference to the note sent by Sherlock Holmes to Dr John Watson in The Adventure of the Bruce Partington Plans: “Am dining at Goldini's Restaurant, Gloucester Road, Kensington. Please come at once and join me there. Bring with you a jemmy, a dark lantern, a chisel, and a revolver. S.H.”

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in BBC Sherlock Season 3 Episode 3 His Last Vow

18. Sherlock's comment to John: “You have put on 7 pounds since you got married” - Sherlock Holmes observes about Dr John Watson in A Scandal in Bohemia: “Wedlock suits you.... I think, Watson, that you have put on seven and a half pounds since I saw you.”

19. Sherlock commenting about CAM having fourteen levels of security in his office building, two of which are illegal in the United Kingdom – In A Study in Scarlet, Dr John Watson writes about Sherlock Holmes having a good practical knowledge of British law.

20. As Sherlock explains his strategy to break into CAM's office, John ponders that Sherlock's head would be kicked in, after he is taken to a small room by the security for trying to break into Magnussen's office. Sherlock asks: “Do you really need so much color?”. John replies: “It helps pass the time” -
Sherlock Holmes tells Dr John Watson in The Adventure of the Abbey Grange: “Your fatal habit of looking at everything from the point of view of a story instead of as a scientific exercise has ruined what might have been an instructive and even classical series of demonstrations. You slur over work of the utmost finesse and delicacy, in order to dwell upon sensational details which may excite, but cannot possibly instruct, the reader.”
Sherlock Holmes himself writes in The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier: “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....I am compelled to admit that, having taken my pen in my hand, I do begin to realize that the matter must be presented in such a way as may interest the reader. ”

I will be posting the rest of the references soon.

Click here and here to read the list of Canonical references in “The Empty Hearse and The Sign of Three respectively.

Click here to read all my posts about BBC Sherlock.

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Image Sources: BBC Wales, Hartswood Films, Masterpiece Theatre


  1. Steven Moffat says he thinks Doctor Watson wrote that a random woman shot Milverton because he is covering up for his good friend and that in actual fact Sherlock was the one who shot him.

    1. Sherlock Holmes justifies his decision to break into Milverton's house to Dr Watson in The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton: “Surely a gentleman should not lay much stress upon this, when a lady is in most desperate need of his help?”

      Sherlock shooting Magnussen dead was a logical extension of this point. Credit to Moffat for expanding on this thought.

      Thanks Aya for stopping by.


    2. I love you're canonical reference, my memory is so bad, this is why I always want to re-read, cause I remember things, but I can never remember the names of the stories, so this is very helpful. I am putting you on my review post, which will hopefully come out later today, as the best source of canonical references for Sherlock.

  2. Another link between the original story and the Sherlock episode is that in Milverton's study there is a marble bust of Athena as there also is in Magnussen's mind palace (as seen in both The Empty Hearse and His Last Bow)!

  3. Hello~ it's always such a joy reading your posts, great job with all the references! I thought that when John says 'you can't come, you're pregnant,' and Mary replies with 'you can't go, I'm pregnant' reminded me of when Holmes says 'you are not coming,' and Watson says 'then you are not going' in The Adventure of CAM.

    1. Thanks Wendy for the compliment.

      Nice catch about the CAM reference.


  4. CAM saying : "Best thing about the English, you're so domesticated" etc. Maybe a reference to "His last bow" : the german agent Von Bork saying : "they are not very hard to deceive, a more docile, simple folk could not be imagined"

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