‘Sherlock’ Is Back After a Yearlong Hiatus

Sherlock, Season 4 premieres January 1, 2017 on MASTERPIECE on PBS. Picture shows: Mary Watson (AMANDA ABBINGTON), Sherlock Holmes (BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH) and John Watson (MARTIN FREEMAN)

Here’s a riddle for you: In what situation can the biggest change in a person’s life also be the smallest? Having a baby!

When Sherlock returns after a yearlong hiatus, Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch), his best friend, Dr. Watson (Martin Freeman), and Watson’s wife, Mary (Freeman’s real-life partner, Amanda Abbington, near right, with Cumberbatch and Freeman), are expanding their trio with the birth of the couple’s first child. Now picture fussy, self-centered Sherlock pushing a pram.

It’s not pretty, is it? But neither are the events of the series’ three-episode fourth season.

The premiere, based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1904 Holmes story “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons,” features the destruction of several sculptures of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. “We wanted a modern parallel to Napoleon,” explains cocreator Mark Gatiss. “Thatcher is an iconic politician, whatever you think of her.”

Episode 2 introduces guest star Toby Jones as classic Holmes adversary Culverton Smith, a man whose rotten teeth reflect his dead soul. And the finale is a mind-bender, a nail-biter and a stomach-turner. “This season is our darkest yet, because we put the characters through an emotional ringer,” Gatiss says.

It’s all, of course, countered by the fact that there will be a cute, chortling baby hanging around—one endearing enough to charm even Sherlock. Sort of. “Sherlock treats the new arrival like a case to be solved,” Gatiss says. “He may seem like an emotionless machine, but he is capable of caring. He’s pleased for his friends but baffled by this tiny piece of humanity that keeps ejecting things from both ends!”

Sherlock, Season premiere, Sunday, Jan. 1, 9/8c, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)