When the BBC brought us Sherlock in 2010 it was a fresh updated consulting detective Sherlock Holmes with his partner Dr John Watson taking on some complex mysteries and solving crimes. With Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson, we were taken on a revival of some of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories set in a modern 21st century environment. Since its inception the show has become hugely popular and with both of its lead stars now having successful film careers has forced the hand of its creators to now spread out its servings. Technically ‘The Abominable Bride’ is a stand-alone episode but it does sort-of bridge the gap between the Season 3 finale and the Season 4 first episode which we won’t get until 2017 if we’re lucky. Spoilers ahead …
With ‘The Abominable Bride’ co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss and directed by Douglas Mackinnon they opt to try a different turn by taking our pair of crime solvers and putting them back into their original 17th Century period. As we take a trip into the past, many things are still the same. Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs) is still their landlady and LeStrade (Rupert Graves) is still the detective inspector at Scotland Yard seeking help from Holmes. But this particular case takes Holmes and Watson into dangerous territory as they battle the ghost of Emilia Ricoletti (Natasha O’Keefe) who is hell bent on murdering people.
As Holmes and Watson delve into the investigation they come across a perplexing mystery of a woman who commits suicide only to seek revenge upon her husband. Yet somehow her ghost soon seeks out other men who have caused women harm or grief to exact a murderous revenge upon them also. Interestingly though Holmes soon discovers the similarities to another case that seems to be troubling his subconscious, that of his greatest enemy Moriarty (Andrew Scott). When it appears that Moriarty has come back from the dead to taunt Holmes, things go a little wibbly wobbly timey wimey when it appears that Sherlock has been in his mind palace all along and it’s only been mere minutes since we left him on that jet heading off to his imposed exile. As the episode progresses into the second act we switch back and forth between the present and the past as Sherlock tries to solve not only the mystery of Emilia Ricoletti but also whether or not Moriarty is truly dead.
One of the reasons why this episode was such a treat was having the series set in period England. The creative and visual effects team have done a mesmerising job of transporting us back to 17th Century London and the costumes also look wonderful. Then of course there’s the story line, which interconnects both that of Emilia Ricoletti and also Moriarty, though it does leave you wondering where it’s all a figment of Sherlock’s imagination. Even the story itself of ‘The Abominable Bride’ isn’t even a full Conan Doyle story, and only briefly mentioned in ‘The Musgrave Ritual’. Another bonus is the suffragette issue that’s raised in the film, having both Mary Watson (Amanda Abbington) and Molly Hooper (a dressed in drag ad looking dashing Louise Brealey) revealing themselves to be part of the movement. There are also plenty of easter eggs for the die hard fans too which you can read via Geek Crusader.
Thanks to the genius interpretation of both Moffat and Gatiss they not only have revived the characters and story of Sherlock Holmes but realised him in both Victorian and modern day London. The strength of the cast and their embodiment of the characters is clear in how they can bring the same nuances to a new setting. But the real credit has to go to the visual effects and costuming teams who brought a period piece to our screens in such beautiful detail, it shouldn’t be surprising coming from the BBC really.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
For fans of Sherlock and getting an insight into the making of the series the specials features on Disc 2 of The Abominable Bride are pretty awesome and surprisingly thorough.
The first feature “Mark Gatiss: A Study In Sherlock” has show co-creator Mark Gatiss talk us through the beginning conception of the show, and in particular how they came up with the ‘The Abominable Bride’. Gatiss takes us through the history along with some rapid fire snippets of previous episodes and then covers the Victorian era special in more detail. It also includes some brief interviews with cast members and other co-creator Steven Moffat.
In ‘Creating The Look’ there are 8 different shorts where we meet various members of the crew as they discuss particular scenes from ‘The Abominable Bride’, visual effects, costuming, and real life locations they sourced in order to bring the show and series to life.
The Mark Gatiss Production Diary is an almost fly on the wall style short where Mark Gatiss takes a handycam/go-pro and films a day on the set. But it’s not just any day, it’s the day that they’re filming the iconic waterfall scene from ‘The Abominable Bride’.
Whilst the ‘Writers Interview’ sits down with co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss as they discuss their love for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and bringing Doyle’s stories to the screen.
The last special is a Q&A session with various members of the cast and crew with questions supplied via the official fansite for Sherlock – Sherlockology.
All in all the special features are actually really fascinating and insightful, but once again I’m deducting a point for not including an individual gag reel or blooper footage. Admittedly there is a little on Mark Gatiss’ Production Diary but not enough to satisfy my need to see actors cocking up their lines and getting up to mischief.
Specials Feature Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Sherlock “The Abominable Bride” is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray through all good retailers.