'Sherlock' Debuted 10 Years Ago — Will There Be Another Season?
The case of Sherlock’s future? Not so elementary, dear Watson.
The BBC-PBS coproduction celebrates its 10th anniversary on July 25, but there aren’t many clues about when—or even if—the show will return for a fifth season.
Sherlock was a critical and commercial hit when it debuted in 2010, with reviewers calling the show “good, unpretentious fun” and “superior sleuth TV.” The series reimagines Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous character as a modern-day “consulting detective” (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), assisted by friend and flatmate Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman), a Royal Army vet fresh from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
The series—created by Doctor Who collaborators Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss—became the most-watched drama in the U.K. since 2001 when it returned for Season 3 in 2014, and that same season earned Emmys for both Cumberbatch and Freeman.
To date, four seasons of Sherlock have aired—plus one Victorian-themed special—but fans haven’t seen a new episode since 2017’s “The Final Problem,” which showed Sherlock embracing his emotional side, Watson processing his wife’s death and both men rebuilding their home base on Baker Street.
At the time, Moffat teased the possibility of more installments. “Re: Sherlock’s future—for those of you asking, it’s definitely the end. Of Chapter One,” he wrote on Facebook after the episode aired. “Dr Watson is now Doyle’s brave widower and Sherlock Holmes has become the wise and humane version of the main run of the stories … Whether we ever get to Chapter Two—our boys consciously living the myth and battling wrong-doers—rather depends on our two stars. I’d be slightly surprised if we never made it again.”
But now it’s three and a half years later—by far the longest hiatus in Sherlock’s history—and there’s been no update on continuing the story. “There are no immediate plans,” Gatiss said in a Radio Times interview this past November.
Of course, it might be difficult to schedule the filming of a fifth season, given Cumberbatch and Freeman’s workloads. When Sherlock premiered, Cumberbatch was still an unknown entity in the U.S.—aside, perhaps, from his small parts in the films Atonement and The Other Boleyn Girl. Freeman, meanwhile, was known for playing the put-upon Tim Canterbury (the equivalent to Jim Halpert) in the British version of The Office and the lovestruck porn double John in Love Actually.
In the years since Sherlock hit the small screen, however, both actors have become A-listers. Cumberbatch has won raves playing Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness and Dr. Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And Freeman has starred in Fargo and Breeders on FX and played the titular hero in the Hobbit trilogy—which also featured, coincidentally, Cumberbatch as the voice of the dragon Smaug.
“I honestly don’t know if there will be any more [Sherlock],” Gatiss said in February 2017, per The Sun. “It’s incredibly difficult to get Benedict and Martin’s diaries to align.”
Gatiss and Moffat eventually moved on to another iconic character of 19th-century literature, developing the drama series Dracula, which premiered on BBC One and Netflix earlier this year.
For his part, Freeman isn’t sure whether he’ll step into Watson’s shoes again. “They’re few and far between, the discussions about Sherlock, just because Mark and Steven, the writers, and Benedict and I, are all lucky enough to be not only working on stuff that we like and are interested in,” he told Collider in August 2019. “If it’s something really special, and if it’s something really meaty and interesting, then I think we’d all be open to that.”
Case not so closed, eh? Perhaps fans of Sherlock, now streaming on Netflix, shouldn’t keep their hopes up. Then again, the detective has been presumed dead before…