After another critically acclaimed season of Sherlock episodes, fans are no doubt wondering how long they’ll have to wait before season 4 of the series premieres. Most returning viewers know that BBC shows don’t always follow annual release schedules – with new seasons of Steven Moffat-led series Doctor Who and Sherlock launching whenever the showrunner and actors have time to coordinate their schedules (as opposed to a stock release window set by the BBC).

That said, while Doctor Who fans may have to wait slightly longer than normal to get their Time Lord fix, Sherlock viewers have typically endured a hard two full years between seasons. Last year, Benedict Cumberbatch confirmed plans for season 4 were already in motion, leading fans to hope that the between season hiatus would be shorter this round. Unfortunately, Moffat claims that there is still a lot of pre-production work to be done and complicated schedules to work out – likely making a season 4 premiere two years out.

Speaking with IGN at the Television Critics Association Winter Tour, Moffat offered a standard (and gruff) comment on when fans might see another season of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in modern day London – explaining that scheduling and quality are the biggest hurdles for the series going forward:

“I have no idea. Sue’s working on the schedules right now. I just started with Capaldi on the new series of Doctor Who. You know, we’ll do what we can, but with no sacrifice in quality – that’s the thing. If people have to wait two years, they’ll have to wait two years.”

Considering that Cumberbatch and Freeman have both made a successful jump from the TV screen to the big screen, steadily working as movie stars in high profile film franchises such as Star Trek and The Hobbit, respectively, it’s no surprise that it’s a challenge coordinating the actors’ increasingly busy schedules with a writer/showrunner that’s juggling two key BBC TV series (among other projects). Things are only going to get more complicated going forward as Cumberbatch is rumored for a part in what would be a very time-intensive Star Wars: Episode 7 production, in addition to smaller dramatic roles, and Freeman is set to appear in FX’s Fargo TV series.

Obviously, a drawn out TV hiatus is a disappointment to fans, especially in the age of back-to-back film productions and shared cinematic universes where we have routine access to our favorite characters. Yet, Moffat has a good reason for keeping fans waiting – longevity:

“When’s the next James Bond film? It’s not that kind of show that turns up all the time. It’s just not. But the good news is, that probably means it will turn up sporadically for a very, very long while.”

In spite of the two year wait, Moffat’s dedication to quality is hard criticize. Even the best TV show begins to struggle as the core premise is stretched out over multiple episodes and seasons. While Sherlock sports longer individual runtimes, it has always enjoyed the benefit of significantly shorter seasons (with only three episodes each); as a result, it’s good to know that Moffat isn’t simply going to start churning out more Sherlock, simply because he can, to the point of exhaustion.

Right now, new installments of Sherlock are a welcome bonus to the standard TV schedule and the lengthy production run-up could even help maintain excitement around the series for the long haul. It’s always possible that the (movie) stars could align and get season 4 (not to mention an already confirmed season 5) out earlier than expected but most fans would likely settle for regular two year holds between seasons if it does in fact mean that, as Moffat claims, the show won’t sacrifice quality and will continue to pop up sporadically “for a very, very long while.

Also Watch: 5 Best ‘Sherlock’ Moments (So Far)

Sherlock season 4 does not have a confirmed release date. We’ll update you as we know more.

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

Sources: IGN [via International Business Times]