|Interview with Steven Moffat, co-creator and Executive Producer
How did you approach the Victorian setting?
I suppose we can boast and say, we’ve got the Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson of this current time in Benedict and Martin, I think we can claim that now it has been such a huge success. Part of the impulse came from me and Mark saying, wouldn’t it be a shame if we never got to see them do it in the authentic setting, in the actual way. Rathbone and Bruce played it both Victorian and updated, so Cumberbatch and Freeman can do the same. It was irresistible to do a special that is Victorian and say, this is what it would’ve been had we done it authentically. Thereafter it affects everything and it’s hugely different, because as we’ve done it properly Victorian – we had to remake our 221B set.
Were there any challenges?
We instantly had the problem of period settings and so on, whereas before we just turned the camera on and pointed it at London. We couldn’t do that here.
There was the CGI needed to recreate a Victorian London that you believe in. In terms of the writing we wanted to keep faith with our version of those characters, and yet put them in a Doyle setting, with a Doyle sort of style of presentation, so it sort of splits the difference. I don’t think Sherlock Holmes himself talks all that differently because, the modern day Holmes talks very much like the Victorian Holmes. In fact, if you look at the modern version of the show, he sounds more and more Victorian every year because Benedict suits that. Doctor Watson is a bit different. He presents himself more as the traditional Doctor Watson but you realise something else is going on underneath.
How will fans react to the Victorian setting?
It was so long ago that people were asking us, how will they react to the modern setting? I think if they enjoy Sherlock, they’ll enjoy this show. But it is a very, very different episode. As they say, a very special episode.
What is the enduring appeal of the Sherlock character?
It’s very hard to know why a character like Sherlock Holmes becomes loved for over a hundred years, and the single biggest hit in fiction without a shadow of a doubt. Why? Well, the first and dumb answer, but I’m afraid the most important one is that it’s really, really good. People can almost forget how good those stories were, are. They are an amazing pair of characters, and those stories are just brilliant.
How has Sherlock Holmes influenced modern detective shows?
Every big colourful, characterful, intriguing, mysterious, interesting detective is a descendant of Sherlock Holmes, everybody knows that. I don’t mean our version of Sherlock Holmes, I mean, the original Sherlock Holmes of the Strand Magazine.
All of the others come from him, of course they do, and nobody would deny it for a second. The sheer idea that the great detective is also a bit of a freak, that’s what Doyle came up with. You know, he’s not just clever, he’s mad. If you look at all those great detectives, none of them are ordinary. None of their procedures resemble, in any way whatsoever, what a real detective does – the methodical accumulation of data. They work on inspired insights and they’re always sort of socially a bit of an outcast and all those things. All the great detectives – all those rivers flow from Baker Street.