'Sherlock' Christmas Special Pics Take A Classic 'Holmes' Route, But What Exactly Is Going On Here? — PHOTOS

If you sensed a decrease in oxygen this afternoon and the faint sounds of distress, it was likely triggered by the simultaneous sharp intakes of breath that came from Sherlock fans after the first photos of the show's Christmas special were released. They were, to put it lightly, not what we expected. And they've already got us mighty intrigued for what kind of trickery the Sherlock team has in store for us next.

The main photo of interest was posted by Sherlock producer Sue Vertue on her Twitter account. It features Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, presumably in character, dressed in what appear to be costumes much more in line with the traditional Sherlock Holmes era Holmes and Watson. Vertue's accompanying tags are "#221back #Sherlock #notkidding," but... what does it mean?

Tragically, Sherlock's Christmas special doesn't air for another year, in December of 2015 — and we won't get an actual new season of Sherlock until 2016. But what on Earth are they planning for us?

There are two main possibilities that jump to mind, one notably more mind-boggling than the other: One is that our modern Sherlock and John are going to find cause to dress up in this Christmas special. A fancy dress party, perhaps, or something else theatrical and perhaps tied to the holidays.

The other option that pops to mind seems less likely but infinitely more interesting: In this option, the Sherlock producers use the Sherlock Christmas special as an excuse to set an episode in the era the original books are set in. An AU (Alternate Universe) episode, basically. This option needs some fine-tuning to make sense, of course — and I'm gonna go ahead and assume Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat aren't gonna go Doctor Who on this and actually have the characters time travel. It's also possible these are just fun kooky promo shoots. But this show has already proven a vested interest in fan fiction-y tropes, and dropping their modern AU characters back into the era in which the canon universe is set would take it all to a whole new level. It would also make for a truly interesting, experimental episode of television.

I'm not getting my hopes up that this is what's actually happening. But a girl can dream.

(Interesting side note: Stare at Cumberbatch's left shoulder; this was obviously photoshopped, so don't get your hopes up that these two were standing super close together.)