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'Sherlock' Season 4 Returns with Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and a Special in 2015

Photo of Ben Travers By Ben Travers | Indiewire July 2, 2014 at 10:51AM

Martin Freeman's John Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes are set to return in 2015.
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PBS "Sherlock"

After coming back from the dead in Season 3, it should come as no surprise Sherlock would return again for a fourth season. Yet with the busy schedules and growing popularity of all involved, perhaps the news announced today by the BBC of of a production start date for Season 4 comes as even more of a shock.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman will begin shooting Season 4 -- or Series 4 if you're going to honor the lingo of their land (we're not) -- of their hit adaptation of "Sherlock" in January 2015, starting with a special episode during that month. The wait between Seasons 2 and 3 was about a year-and-a-half, and now the time between Seasons 3 and 4 could be about the same, with new episodes slated to air in 2015. It's unclear whether we'll get the full fourth season next year along with the special, but new mysteries of some fashion will be told. 

Martin Freeman was recently quoted as saying the "special" episode would be a Christmas special, indicating a continuation of the BBC's favorite past-time: "Doctor Who" has also aired Christmas specials for the holiday, and "Sherlock" aired a shorter, "mini"-Christmas special in 2013 as a prequel to the third season. But today's announcement did not confirm an air date for the special, or if the three episodes would air in conjunction with it or not. 

"A special, plus a new series of three episodes -- it’s a record-breaking run!" said co-creator and executive producer Steven Moffat. "Of course, it’s far too early to say what’s coming, but we’re reasonably confident that the very next thing to happen to Sherlock and John, is the very last thing you’d expect..." Co-creator and executive producer Mark Gatiss added they would be taking the two leads into "deeper and darker water than ever before." 

"It's taken a little while to get the dates sorted as none of the boys are exactly sitting back twiddling their thumbs but there was unanimous goodwill to make this work, so we’re thrilled that 221b is going to be inhabited again," said Sue Vertue, executive producer with Hartswood Films.

Sorting these two actors' busy schedules was what caused the delay last time. Freeman still has one more "Hobbit" film opening this winter, and could be making the awards tour for "Fargo" (at least at the Globes) come January. Cumberbatch appears even busier, with six films yet to be released (including "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" and "Black Mass," which he's currently filming with Johnny Depp). Getting these two back together for what amounts to shooting at least three films ("Sherlock" episodes are typically around 90 minutes) is somewhat miraculous. 

One question none of those involved would have answered was whether bringing back "Sherlock" for a fourth run was a good idea. It took a lot of work -- apparent on screen -- to resurrect Sherlock from the dead in Season 3, and while the run finished stronger than it started, it showed signs of aging for the first time. Season 4 shouldn't have to deal with that same level of complications though, so hopes should remain high.

Shooting on the special will begin in January, with the rest of production slated for later in 2015.

This article is related to: Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Martin Freeman, BBC, BBC America, Television