Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman will soon be (sort of) on-screen together again at last when The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug comes to theaters this December, but almost as highly anticipated as the big-budget Tolkien epic is the small-screen detective show where they first worked together. BBC’s Sherlock is returning to PBS on January 19th, 2014, but until now UK fans have been left waiting for their own air dates.

The lack of an official premiere date didn’t prevent Sherlock from slyly trying to steal Doctor Who‘s thunder on November 23rd, when the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special was immediately followed by a brand new trailer for Sherlock‘s third season, and the John Watson blog set up by the BBC offered an update on his life and promised new write-ups of past cases.

For a show with this much hype going for it, and such a long time between seasons, just announcing the UK air date for the first episode, “The Empty Hearse,” on Twitter or in a press release would have been far too boring for the BBC. Instead, the message was conveyed by way of an actual hearse that was parked in front of the exterior location for Sherlock and John’s Baker Street flat with the date “01.01.14” spelled out in flowers. Shortly thereafter, the British government announced that New Year’s Eve was to be renamed Sherlock’s Eve (we may have made this part up).

The second episode and third episodes will air on January 5th and January 12th, meaning that UK Sherlock fans will get two episodes in one week to make up for the two year wait. The show’s co-creator, Mark Gatiss, celebrated the news in Twitter with an obituary: “Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective. Much missed by friends & family. In *living* memory. Jan 1st 2014! #SherlockLives.”

Thanks to Jack Gregson for the photo

That’s not the only reason to get excited. The BBC has also released an official synopsis for “The Empty Hearse” that reveals the first episode of the new season will be set two years after the end of season two, and will find Sherlock returning to a John Watson who has moved on and may no longer be interested in a life as a sleuth’s sidekick:

“Two years after the devastating effects of “The Reichenbach Fall,” Dr John Watson has got on with his life. New horizons, romance and a comforting domestic future beckon. But, with London under threat of a huge terrorist attack, Sherlock Holmes is about to rise from the grave with all the theatricality that comes so naturally to him. It’s what his best friend wanted more than anything, but for John Watson it might well be a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’! If Sherlock thinks everything will be just as he left it though, he’s in for a very big surprise…”

Viewers may recall that “The Reichenbach Fall” concluded with John standing by his best friend’s grave and asking him for one last favor: “Don’t be dead.” While objectively this might seem like a rather unreasonable request, it was granted mere moments later as Sherlock was shown hiding behind a tree and watching over the proceedings.

At least one new villain for the series, Charles Augustus Magnussen (Lars Mikkelsen), has already been revealed, but it’s unclear which episode he’ll be introduced in. The terrorist attack on London mentioned in the synopsis remains a mystery, though our sources say that Starfleet commander John Harrison could be behind it all.

Sherlock returns to BBC One on January 1st, 2014, and to PBS on January 19th.

Source: BBC (via CultBox)