After the welcome announcement that season 3 of BBC's Sherlock is set to begin production next week, and aiming for a winter premiere, buzz around the forthcoming episodes quickly returned to which stories Doctor Who-alum Steven Moffat intended to adapt for modern retelling. Many fans had even speculated that, considering the growing popularity of leads Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek into Darkness) and Martin Freeman (The Hobbit), that Moffat might have to say goodbye to his Sherlock and Watson after season 3.
However, while attending the South Bank Sky Arts Awards, Cumberbatch inadvertently dropped a piece of information that will, no doubt, have series fans extremely excited - confirming that he and co-star Freeman are already signed-on for (at least) Sherlock season 4.
Speaking to The Radio Times UK, Cumberbatch revealed that, while season 3 hasn't even started filming yet, the pair are set for a total of six more Sherlock episodes:
We've agreed to two more series but I could get into trouble for saying that [...] All I know at the moment is I'm doing these three [episodes of the upcoming series] and another three.
Anyone who follows TV and film trades knows that season renewals are big news - and typically announced by the network, not the stars. As a result, it's easy to assume that Moffat and the BBC had not expected their star to let Sherlock season 4 intentions slip. Still, it's premature at this point to assume that Sherlock season 4 is a sure-thing - at least in the near future. Both Freeman and Cumberbatch, not to mention Moffat, have become increasingly busy and in-demand - a point that should be especially familiar to anyone who followed the recent delay of season 3 production.
Regarding whether or not viewers might get to see a season 5, Cumberbatch returned to standard Sherlock talking-points - i.e. nothing new to report:
It just depends on Martin and I's availability, how long we can keep it going. It depends on Steven's ability. I'd love to keep it going.
Previously, Cumberbatch had claimed that personal success would not impact future Sherlock seasons - but it's hard to imagine the sentiment holding true ad-infinitum. After all, as Cumberbatch indicates, he's only one piece of the puzzle - meaning that even if he's willing to set-aside time every year to film three Sherlock episodes (each one running with a 1.5 hour airtime), there's no guarantee that his co-star or showrunner will be as dedicated.
Regular Screen Rant readers will remember that we recently broke-down possibilities for the three stories that Moffat could address in season 3 - after the showrunner shared a series of one-word hints. While "Rat" lined-up with "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire" (or possibly the oft-referenced case of "The Giant Rat Of Sumatra") and "Wedding" can be attributed to "The Noble Bachelor," the final word "Bow" left a lot of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fans wondering whether or not Moffat was positioning season 3 to conclude with Sherlock's retirement (as was the case in the story "His Last Bow"). Of course, season 4 news calls a "His Last Bow" connection into question - unless Moffat skip the retirement element of that story - and "Bow" could actually reference an entirely different adventure altogether (or perhaps a reference to London's early police force, The Bow Street Runners).
Regardless, it doesn't sound as though Moffat intends to fully retire Sherlock (as well as stars Cumberbatch and Freeman) until after season 4. Still, the actor's comments do not confirm a fourth series with absolute certainty (anything could happen between now and then) and we'll be waiting official word, but it does sound as though fans are safe to enjoy season 3 without worrying about saying goodbye to the show (at least not yet).
Sherlock season 3 is set to return this winter.
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Source: Radio Times