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?
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.
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.
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?