'Sherlock's Christmas Special Is Officially Set In Victorian Times & Here's Why You Should Be Excited For It

Let it not be said at this point that BBC's Sherlock has not gone unrecognized for its triumphs in television. They've had the fervent cult fanbase from the very beginning, but as the years have trod on — or, more specifically, as Benedict Cumberbatch became a household name and he and Martin Freeman started taking home Emmys — I think it's safe to say that this thing isn't floating under the radar anymore. No, it is very much on the radar, even if the show's notoriously long hiatuses have become less torturous over time. But with or without the rise in prominence, the newest move the show is taking is an interesting one: Sherlock 's Christmas special is set in Victorian England. This is something that's been rumored since the first images of Cumberbatch and Freeman in Victorian garb cropped up back in November, but the recent confirmation brings with it some big questions — namely because no matter what comes out of it it's bound to be an interesting experiment in storytelling.

The conceit of BBC's Sherlock — from showrunners Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat — has always been a modern Holmes, dashing around London with a pop-up collar and taunting the police and his Watson with text messages. The show has always been visually sleek, the vibe markedly quicker-paced than those of the traditionally Victorian-set adaptations of the past. So what happens when you take a Holmes world that made its mark with its modernity and plop it back in time?

The move will absolutely be visually engaging — have you seen the costumes they've got set up for this thing? This cast was built to rock deerstalkers and capes.

And it of course brings up certain logistical questions: What is the story of this Cumberbatch Holmes, the one born and raised in a completely different era than the one we've spent three seasons with in modern-day London? And will we be rehashing his origin story with John Watson here, or will we be diving right in with their friendship established? What does this mean for "our" era of BBC Holmes, if anything?

According to Steven Moffat this Victorian dalliance won't have any canonical impact on the life and times of modern Holmes — a good move, no doubt, as this is not Doctor Who and time-travel is not exactly a common pasttime. But what it does mean is that the writers and actors of Sherlock — and the audience who made themselves famous in the amount of fun they have watching the series — get to play around in a whole new world, one connected yet separate from the one they've inhabited for three seasons. And so from character, to costume, to mystery, to fanbase, this special is set up to be a genuinely interesting experiment in remixing story.

And given the entire history of Sherlock Holmes and the life it's lived since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first sat down to write, isn't that the most fitting move?

Image: BBC