Sherlock won't return to our screens until 2017, but the release of the season 4 trailer at San Diego Comic-Con has ensured that the show is being talked about far and wide. A lot of the talk is speculation, of course, as it always is surrounding Sherlock, and at Comic-Con, the Sherlock producers teased fans with three clues to the season which have set tongues wagging. There was also some more concrete discussion, though, in the form of a press round-table interview with Benedict Cumberbatch and Sherlock showrunners Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat.
As usual, the three didn't give anything away in terms of plot lines for season four, but then there wouldn't be much to look forward to if they did. However, they did discuss the newest villain of the show, which will be played by Toby Jones, and also the ever present Moriarty, whom, though we currently don't know anything about his exact whereabouts or well-being, is unlikely to stay hidden for long. How's this for a cryptic tease (via Collider) straight from the show's star?
Why is Moriarty someone who’s still weighing on Sherlock, even though he’s no longer there?
Cumberbatch: I think it’s the first time he really meets his match, and it’s scarred him. It’s a nemesis, and nemeses play large in your psychology. They’re not just physical entities who are actually present. It’s about the fear of them. And I think that’s why Moriarty really succeeds. He’s terrorized Sherlock’s mind. It’s fear that lives on.
Indeed, palpable fear from the unknown, or unseen, is something most can relate to - but for Sherlock, a self-confessed high functioning sociopath, that fear must be an incredibly frustrating thing to deal with. The Comic-Con trailer possibly gave a hint at Moriarty's actual return, too, with an opening shot of Moriarty on a screen, asking "Did you miss me?" Chances are, Sherlock really didn't.
Cumberbatch's character will also be busy dealing with a new villain in season 4, though he may or may not be associated with Moriarty in some way (we'll have to wait to find out). Toby Jones will play an as yet unnamed villain (more on that in a moment), and, if Cumberbatch, Moffat and Gatiss are to be believed, his character will help shape this season of Sherlock as the darkest one yet:
Gatiss: It’s the same show. Hopefully, there are lots of laughs and lots of great personal stuff, but it is explicitly a darker season. You’ll have to wait and see.
How different would you say Toby Jones’ villain is from the villains and adversaries we’ve seen previously?
Moffat: He’s completely different. It’s a completely different character. He’s the darkest villain we’ve had. There was always something charming and engaging about Moriarty. There was something fascinating and actually amoral, rather than immoral, about Charles Augustus Magnussen. This guy is the purest evil. Sherlock is actually appalled by him. He’s the most evil villain we’ve had. I don’t think that when you see it, you will disagree. He’s horrific.
Gatiss: It’s an interesting thing to chart. We made our Moriarty very different to Doyle’s. He’s Irish, and he brings all his charm, his twinkle and his humor to it while he’s also terrifying. Magnussen was a very blank, chilling business man. He doesn’t see what he’s doing as evil. Toby is doing something very interesting. He’s an avuncular, funny seeming man with terrible teeth. We’ve given him terrible teeth, which are symbolic of the rot inside him. It’s a great complex, shaded character. You’re not quite sure what the relationship is with him.
The three clues given for for season 4 are; "Thatcher", "Smith", and "Sherrinford." We already have a few theories floating about regarding what these could possibly mean, but "Smith" really stands out in relation to Jones' possible character. An original Sherlock Holmes story, by Arthur Conan Doyle, called "The Adventure of the Dying Detective," introduces the character Culverton Smith. In the story, Smith sends Sherlock a poisoned ivory box, and as a result, Sherlock pretends to be near death and orders Watson to send for Smith. When Smith arrives, seeing that the poison is having the desired effect, he confesses that he also killed his own nephew in the same manner, at which point Sherlock rises from the hospital bed feeling perfectly well, and Smith is arrested.
There are a lot of clues that point in the direction of Jones playing Culverton Smith, including the actor's recent change to his bio. Moffat confirmed that all three episodes of season four will be based on Doyle's original stories, but each one to a greater or lesser extent, teasing that it's up to viewers to work it all out.
Given that the trailer gave a brief glimpse at Watson standing in front of a hospital bed, it could well be that "The Adventure of the Dying Detective" is one of those stories, and Moffat and Gatiss have expanded upon it to create an even darker, more terrifying villain for Jones to play.
Sherlock season four will air in 2017.