Questions as to the longevity of Masterpiece's Sherlock have been bandied about for some time now. After all, the series' stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have both seen their profiles increased dramatically in recent years after taking on starring roles in franchises like The Hobbit and this year's Doctor Strange, leading to questions of how the two could fit the needs of the intermittently made detective series into their increasingly crowded schedules. Those questions were brought to the foreground earlier this year when comments made by Cumberbatch about the fourth season being the 'end of an era' were read by some as an indication not to expect more Sherlock for the time being.
Of course, those remarks were later clarified, with Cumberbatch saying, "If it's right, we'll do more," which, given the series' irregular appearances since 2010 could mean anything from "we'll see you again in 2020" to "don’t expect Sherlock season 5 anytime soon." As such, it seems that with every new season, the question of how and when the series will come to an end becomes more pressing and the likelihood of there being an answer seemingly more inevitable. But with season 4 just around the corner, there's been no word – official or otherwise – that Cumberbatch, Freeman, or the series' co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss plan to end the series anytime soon.
But that hasn't stopped the latter from envisioning the sort of scenario that might offer a satisfying conclusion to Sherlock, albeit many years down the line, as he sees it. While speaking to TV Line, Gatiss revealed the ideal manner in which the show might come to its end in a way that, fittingly, would also pay homage to one of the most famous renditions of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson ever to be put on screen. Gatiss said:
"Right at the beginning, we said, wouldn't it be fun - because we start with the first meeting, which is very rarely dramatized - if we actually ended up with them at the same age as Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce? That would be a really interesting place to be with Benedict and Martin, having started so early in their careers as young men."
Looking at Gatiss' statement, it certainly seems as though he's not talking about doing a flash-forward sequence with the two actors donning facial prostheses to look a decade or two older, but rather that he hopes an ending to Sherlock will be possible sometime in the future – the somewhat distant future. As TV Line noted, Rathbone delivered his final performance as Sherlock Holmes when he was 54, which would give Gatiss and Moffat roughly 14 years to sort out the details of Cumberbatch's final appearance in the role.
Of course, there's no telling what the future has in store for anyone involved in the series, and with no one committing to season 5, much less anything beyond that, the show's fate remains up in the air for now. And that's fine as far as Gatiss is concerned, as he said, "we certainly don’t want to wave goodbye to something like [Sherlock] lightly," though he was quick to point out that "there is a great precedent for leaving well alone. [The classic UK sitcom] Fawlty Towers is twelve episodes, with four years apart. And it’s perfect.”
Ultimately, it sounds as though the question of whether or not there will be more Sherlock has become an example of the unintentional pitfalls of success. After all, as Gatiss puts it, "Doctor Strange is not going to make Benedict short of work."
Sherlock season 4 premieres Sunday January 1, 2017 with 'The Six Thatchers' on PBS.
Source: TV Line