Now that a good portion of Doctor Who season seven is in the can, executive producer Steven Moffat is ready to start teasing the return of his other fan-favorite BBC series, Sherlock. The show was expected to make a return at some point, whenever Moffat and the producers were “ready”, and now it sounds as if BBC is targeting a fall 2013 premiere date for season three.

As usual, Moffat is tight-lipped about what fans can expect and, instead, offered hints in the form of three simple words: “Rat. Wedding. Bow.” The words line up perfectly with another set of well-known stories from Arthur Conan Doyle’s collected Sherlock adventures – but the matching of “Bow” could prove to be a bittersweet revelation for fans of the series.

Yesterday, Moffat set-up his impromptu teaser game by tweeting to over 360,000 followers:

Last year it was Woman, Hound, Fall. This year’s three words revealed tomorrow at #MGEITF #Sherlock Master Class.

Viewers should easily recognize the connections between the words and last year’s “based on” stories:

  • Woman = A Scandal in Bohemia
  • Hound = The Hounds of Baskerville
  • Fall = The Final Problem

Today, Moffat followed-up the tease with his promised “Three Words” reveal tweet:

So. The three tease words for the next run of Sherlock … Rat. Wedding. Bow.

Following the same logic, which not only reveals which stories Moffat intends to reinterpret, we can also expect the episodes to air in the following order:

  • Rat = The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire (or possibly Moffat intends to expand on the oft-referenced case of The Giant Rat Of Sumatra)
  • Wedding = The Noble Bachelor
  • Bow = His Last Bow

Both “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire,” which contains a reference to “The Giant Rat Of Sumatra” (“A story for which the world is not yet prepared.”) and “The Noble Bachelor” (centered around the disappearance of a bride on her wedding night) should provide plenty of engaging story material for the show’s writers and viewers. However, as mentioned, the final story connection “His Last Bow,” has a lot of fans wondering if season three of Sherlock could also the last.

“His Last Bow” is often considered the final Sherlock Holmes story (in terms of chronology) – where the famed investigator retires once and for all. Considering Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have become increasingly hot commodities in Hollywood (starring as the Star Trek 2 villain and Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, respectively), it’s going to become harder and harder to keep bringing the actors (and equally in-demand writer/producer Moffat) back together every couple years. Not to mention, fans of Doyle’s Sherlock legacy are typically not very accepting of writers who try to shoehorn new stories into the series canon. Given that Moffat has framed his modern Sherlock series around actual Doyle stories, as well as the fact that Moffat is a huge fan of the author, it’s unlikely that he’d attempt to carry-on with the character beyond Doyle’s original “His Last Bow” bookend.

Although, Moffat has previously mentioned that he’d love to revisit the characters when they’re older (with the same actors) – long after their current set of adventures. It’s hard to say whether or not the showrunner would actually go through with that idea, years in the future, and if he did actually decide to proceed whether or not Cumberbatch and Freeman would have the time or interest in returning.

The last we’d heard of Sherlock (excluding Moffat’s opinion on the CBS series, Elementary), the creator as well as the actors, had basically asserted that everyone loves coming back season after season – so, in spite of busy schedules, the potentially bittersweet “Bow” reveal still comes as somewhat of a surprise. Of course, the “Bow” reference could just hint at Doyle’s larger His Last Bow story collection – which includes a number of other cases (“The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge,” “The Adventure of the Dying Detective,” among others) leading up to the aforementioned, “His Last Bow” story. Plus, Moffat has been known to only pull certain aspects of the “based on” stories into the modern series – meaning he could only choose to use portions of the story “His Last Bow” without sticking to the retirement element.

We’ll keep you up to date as we hear more on Sherlock season three – as well as the possibility that Cumberbatch might take “His Last Bow” as Sherlock Holmes in fall 2013.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more Sherlock coverage as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.

Sherlock is expected to return on PBS in Fall 2013.

Source: Digital Spy