25 Easter Eggs and References You Might Have Missed In The Season 3 Premiere Of 'Sherlock'
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25 Easter Eggs and References You Might Have Missed In The Season 3 Premiere Of 'Sherlock'

By Joanna Robinson | Seriously Random Lists | January 19, 2014 | Comments ()

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Here are 25 facts, easter eggs and allusions for the BBC Sherlock episode "The Empty Hearse" which was based (loosely) on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's story "The Empty House." This article only contains spoilers for and discussion of this, the first episode of season/series three. Be a lamb and refrain from spoiling the next two episodes in the comments. By the by, if you already know all of these facts, well hark at you. A regular Sherlock Holmes you are.

1. It's All In The Family: Those handsome folks playing Sherlock and Mycroft's parents? Those are Benedict Cumberbatch's actual parents.

2. Should We Make "Mumberbatch" A Thing? No, Right? Right.: Benedict's mom, Wanda Ventham, was an actress on a sci-fi series in the 1970s. Get a load of this.

3. You'd Be Disappointed No Matter What: In the books, Holmes explains to Watson how he survived. In the show, we don't get a satisfactory and concrete explanation. You mean Moffat and Gatiss didnt want to commit themselves to one scenario? I wonder why ...

4. They Should Put That On A T-Shirt: They did. You can buy an "I Don't Shave For Sherlock Holmes" shirt over at the BBC shop. Because of course you can.

5. Sure, Let's Call It Japanese: In the original Doyle stories, Sherlock kills Moriarty by hurling him over the Reichenbach Falls using a made up Doyle-ian martial art: "Bartitsu." In this episode, when explaining the 13 scenarios available to him on the roof, Sherlock starts to tell about one featuring "Japanese wrestling moves."

6. MONKEY GLANDS!!!: This amazing non sequitur is a reference to the Holmes story "The Adventure of the Creeping Man."

7. Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad?: Our Big Bad this week was rather wimpy (though the end of the episode hints at something bigger). Lord Moran is an allusion to Sebastian Moran, who is a famous Holmes antagonist in the books and is, weirdly, played by Vinnie Jones over on Elementary. You can see the similarities, right?
Lord Moran.jpg

8. The Giant Rat Of Sumatra: There's a famous Holmes adventure (alluded to, never written out) called The Giant Rat Of Sumatra. Holmes calls Moran "The Big Rat," and his lost tube carriage? Why it's waiting to explode at the half-finished Sumatra station (a real thing), making Moran The Giant Rat Of Sumatra.

9. Calm Down Mrs Hudson: Actually, though Una Stubb's performance here may have seemed a bit camp, the book described Mrs. Hudson's reaction to seeing Sherlock Holmes alive as "violent hysterics." And that, my friends, is why we were treated to Una's Uvula.

10. Eliminate The Impossible: "Elementary, my dear Watson" is not something the fictional Sherlock Holmes ever said. His most famous phrase from the books is actually a bit lengthier: "When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." For whatever reason, Cumberbatch sort of rushed through the show's version.

11. Speaking Of Keeping It In The Family: The lovely Mary Morstan is played by Amanda Abbington, who is Martin Freeman's real-life partner. Please read this adorable story about how they met.
Best Thing.jpg

12. Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her: And while we're on the subject of Mary, here's everything Sherlock deduced about her: Cat lover, Clever, Liar, Bakes own bread, Size 12 (cheeky), Disillusioned Lib Dem, Only child, Shortsighted, Linguist, Guardian, Part time, Nurse, Romantic, Secret tattoo (cheekier), Appendix scar.

13. Get it? BIRDS?!: In the book, rather than disguise himself as a waiter, Holmes dresses as an elderly collector who has on his person books about tree worship, birding and the Holy War. Compare that with Dr. Watson's patient, who had porn that dealt with tree worship, the Holy War and, oh yes, British birds.

14. It Ages You: Could Watson's lovely mustache ...
... be a reference to the famous TV Watsons who came before him? Or (more likely) a reference to the original Sidney Paget drawings?

15. What's In A Name?: The cryptic text that Mary gets refers to "John Or James?" In the books, Mary once refers to John Watson as James. This was an error on Doyle's part.

16. What's In A Name? Part Deux: Sherlock is constantly getting Lestrade's name wrong. In the books, Lestrade is only ever referred to as G. Lestrade. Moffat and Gatiss chose to call him Greg, but Sherlock has other ideas.

17. The Missing Carriage: Though not strictly a Sherlock Holmes story, there is a Doyle story called "The Lost Special" about a train that goes missing. And, if you haven't yet, do yourself a favor and listen to these Sherlock Holmes train stories (not written by Doyle) read by Benedict Cumberbatch. Eargasm, I promise you.

18. The Moving Finger: Could this be a reference to Martin Freeman's fondness for flipping the bird?

19. Who Was In On It?: In the books, Sherlock's only accomplice is Mycroft. In the show, his network of accomplices is much larger ... and dirtier. This doesn't make a ton of sense to me. Why is it important to keep only Watson in the dark? Is he really that terrible at keeping a secret?

20. The Speckled Blonde: Close inspection of the blog post Mary is reading reveals it to be an adaptation of the famous Holmes case "The Adventure of the Speckled Band." You can read the BBC's version online here as "The Speckled Blonde." However, the bit she reads aloud to Watson is from "The Sign of the Four," the story that first introduced the character of Mary Morstan.
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21. Piss Pot: The case Molly and Sherlock crack about a man posing as his daughter's online boyfriend is from "The Case of Identity."

22. Wait Is This A Doctor Who Joke?: The scenario Holmes and Mycroft eventually carry out is called "Lazarus." This, of course, is a biblical allusion, but is it also a reference to the Doctor Who episode "The Lazarus Experiment"? Mark Gatiss not only wrote that episode, he starred as Dr. Lazarus.

23. Okay This Is DEFINITELY A Doctor Who Joke: That's a TARDIS and you'll never convince me otherwise.

24. The Best And The Wisest Man?: When he thinks they are about to die, Watson tearfully tells Holmes he's "the best and the wisest man I have ever known," which is a famous line from the Doyle story "The Final Problem." Of course, in this instance, Holmes is being the biggest asshole any of us have ever known.

25. Metro: Sherlock's trip to his "mind palace" when trying to suss out the problem of the missing tube carriage is an allusion to the original (and sadly lost) version of Berlin's music video for their smash 1983 hit "The Metro."*

*This is not true, but WTF was that sequence?

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • 3583818

    The last sequence with the train station reminds me of the legendary photo of Joy Division walking upstairs in the station. Their backs are turned to the camera. Fantastic atmosphere.

  • Rob

    Baritsu is not a fake martial art although it was misspelled by Doyle.

    Bartitsu, as it was really called, was developed by an English gentlemen named Edward William Barton-Wright a man who lived in Japan for a number of years and studied several martial arts, primarily Jujitsu and modified it for English dress and sensibilities.


    From what I understand it is making a bit of a comeback in the European historical martial arts community.

  • Ann

    I wouldn't call some of these things Easter Eggs. The whole impossible v. Improbable thing isn't exactly a secret. How is B.C.'s mother having been in a sci-fi series anything?
    One that I think you missed -- John's Mary has an over-abundance of info about her that Sherlock picks up on, while Sherlock's "The Woman" has none.

  • Kevin Kelly

    "In the books, Sherlock's only accomplice is Mycroft." Has this author even read the books? Mycroft was hardly Sherlock's accomplice. What about Watson himself? What about the Baker Street Irregulars? Mrs. Hudson? Lestrade, to some degree. I mean, come on. That's basic stuff in the books.

  • imstillhungry95

    Have you read the article? Because the author was referring to the fact that Mycroft was Holmes' only accomplice *in faking his own death* and that IS in the books

  • jayl

    "I like Trains" broke up my kids, and it was the delivery as much as the line.

  • Last Hussar

    In a recent interview for 'Sign of Three', Mary Morstan said she's married Martin 4 times on film now - she loves it.

  • BlackRabbit

    I've seen their monkeys, I'd hate to see a Sumatran rat.

  • GodsGadfly

    TV Holmes had previously used and explained "If you eliminate the impossible . . ." In an earlier episode, so that's probably why it's skipped over here. Interesting side trivia: Spock states the principle in _Star Trek VI_, prefacing it, "As an ancestor of mine . . ." And leaving you wondering (given his half human heritage) whether he's speaking of Holmes as real in ST continuity, Conan Doyle, or a Vulcan.

  • Kevin Kelly

    Nicholas Meyer, who wrote and directer Star Trek II and wrote Star Trek VI, also wrote an excellent Sherlock Holmes novel in 1974 called The Seven Percent Solution, which was later made into a movie. It's clear that Spock's line is meant to infer that he is related to Sherlock Holmes. No doubts through his mother's side.

  • GodsGadfly

    That part is rather inconsistent on the _Star Trek_ side, since Holmes is very clearly referenced as a fictional character on TNG and elsewhere. I have seen _The Seven Per-Cent Solution_ but didn't know it was the same writer. [Raises eyebrow]. Fascinating.

  • Pentadactyl

    I don't know if the finger was a reference to Martin Freeman's proclivity to flip people off as well, but it was in the least in part a 'skirt the censor' thing.

    Mrs Hudson: Sherlock, talk to John.
    Holmes: I've tried talking to him. He made his position quite clear.
    .... splice to image of Watson flipping off the camera i.e. making his position clear.

    And immediately after that:
    Mrs. Hudson: What did he say?
    Holmes: F-
    Watson: Cough!
    Mrs. Hudson: Oh dear!

  • As an aspiring writer, the "F- Cough" gag was one of those "So simple but so fucking clever" moments that keeps me humble.

  • Joseph Finn

    Bartitsu, for what it's worth, was probably not something Doyle invented out of whole cloth. it's an actual martial arts discipline from the 19th century, synthesized from jujitsu, boxing, knife fighting and other things. Doyle might have seen contemporary news accounts or attended an exhibition and misspelled it as "Baritsu" in The Final Problem.

  • Nix_Nightbird

    I came to say this. Bartitsu is real. Holmes was an accomplished hand-to-hand combatant, a decent marksman, and pretty damn good with blades and single-stick.
    This is why I always disliked the old Hollywood versions of Holmes when they chose to portray him as an old fuddy duddy who mumbled "Elementary, my dear Watson. Elementary." but avoided actually getting his hands dirty on a case.

  • Jill Hartley Lybarger

    Exactly, Conan Doyle would most likely have read the articles published in Pearson's Magazine by E. W. Barton-Wright who developed the techniques used in bartitsu after a visit to Japan in 1898.

  • Joseph Finn

    Oh GOD and poor Nigel Bruce, who had to play Watson as a bumbling country doctor type, not the actual Afghan war veteran from the stories who was combat tested and canny, just not as smart as Holmes. That's one thing that Sherlock has gotten quite right.

  • BWeaves

    Ahhh, Nigel Bruce. I just can't. He drove me nuts.

    I was so thrilled with David Burke and Edward Hardwicke in the Jeremy Brett versions. Burke was very stiff Victorian, while Hardwicke was a little more laid back, but both were perfect Watsons.

  • Joseph Finn

    Nigel Bruce was a fine actor in specializing in bumbling, dim older uncles (he's great in that part in Alfred Hitchock's Suspicion). Trouble is they wrote his Watson to be that and it was ridiculous.

  • BWeaves

    A British size 12 is an American size 8. I think he was being generous.

    I thought Watson and Mary had amazing chemistry. Now I know why.

    I thought the scene with Holmes parents was weird, and now it all makes sense. Given how gorgeous his parents are, I'm wondering how he ended up with all the genes that don't go together.

    I really enjoyed all the witty banter and allusions to other stories, but I thought the final explanation of the faked death didn't make any sense. The whole purpose of the fake death was so the snipers would think Holmes died, not so that Watson would be the only one to think it. The way it was explained, it would only work from Watson's exact point of view. The sniper aimed at Watson would have seen the whole thing was a fake. I felt let down by that bit. I would have rather they kept doing the funny conspiracy theories and not explained it, than explain it badly.

  • foolsage

    The explanation that Sherlock gave to Anderson was clearly fraudulent. He let himself be filmed to lend credence to that version of the story, not because he felt any obligation to share the truth (sociopaths tend not to ;)). Anderson starts to catch some of the flaws in the story at the end, as a clue to the audience that the story was fake.

  • Guest

    I thought this was pretty great:


  • Please let Moriarty's death have been a trick as well. Andrew Scott's brilliant in this role and easily one of my all-time favorite villain portrayals.

  • foolsage

    Fans? Serviced.

  • BWeaves


  • annie

    I listened to Martin and Amanda taking over for, I think, Jonathan Ross' radio show, and they are just so cute and delightful. (And Martin, while originally cynical about it, finds the The Office US version really good and fun.) How they met is one of my favorite things ever, though. As was the Cumberparents popping up on my screen and me shouting at my friend, I KNOW THOSE EYES I KNOW THOSE CHEEKBONES

  • emmalita

    I am ashamed. I totally missed it.

  • Green Lantern

    Thank you for this ENTIRE article.

  • Scottieboy

    Wanda Ventham in the 70s was beyond hot.

  • TacoBellRey

    Are we not going to mention Anderson marvelously collapsing to the ground?

  • Guest

    Anderson is basically the living embodiment of the Sherlock fandom.

  • Guest


  • Meg
  • Guest

    Anderson is basically the living embodiment of Sherlock fandom.

  • Jenny Nolan

    my roomate's sister Μ­­­­­­а­­­­­­K­­­­­­е­­­­­­ѕ $­­­­­­­89 every հ­­­­­­ο­­­­­­ս­­­­­­r on the l­­­­­­а­­­­­­ρ­­­­­­τ­­­­­­ο­­­­­­ρ. She has been out of W­­­­­­ο­­­­­­r­­­­­­K for seven Μ­­­­­­ο­­­­­­ո­­­­­­τ­­­­­­հ­­­­­­ѕ but last Μ­­­­­­ο­­­­­­ո­­­­­­τ­­­­­­հ her ρ­­­­­­а­­­­У was $­­­­­­­12024 just W­­­­­­ο­­­­­­r­­­­­­King on the l­­­­­­а­­­­­­ρ­­­­­­τ­­­­­­ο­­­­­­ρ for a Ϝ­­­­­­е­­­­­­W հ­­­­­­ο­­­­­­ս­­­­­­rs. i was reading this,... WWW.Googleprojects2014rewindsa...

    ♝♝♝ ♝♝♝♝♝ ♝♝ᜟ♝♝ ♝♝♝ ♝♝ᜑ♝♝As was the Cumberparents popping up on my screen and me shouting at my friend, I KNOW THOSE EYES I KNOW THOSE CHEEKBONES

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