Baby Wat­son de­buts with ‘Sher­lock’ re­turn

The Washington Times Daily - - LIFE - BY JILL LAW­LESS

LON­DON | There’s some­thing rot­ten in Baker Street.

It may just be the di­a­per of baby Rosamund Wat­son, whose ar­rival at the start of the fourth sea­son of “Sher­lock” dis­rupts the re­la­tion­ship be­tween bril­liant, de­mand­ing de­tec­tive Sher­lock Holmes and his long-suffering friend Dr. John Wat­son.

The off­spring of John and his enig­matic wife Mary — with Sher­lock as a some­what skep­ti­cal god­fa­ther — is one of the few things pro­gram-mak­ers are will­ing to re­veal be­fore the first of three new episodes airs Jan. 1 on the BBC in Bri­tain and on PBS in the United States.

“The un­of­fi­cial al­ter­na­tive ti­tle for episode one is ‘The Three Wat­sons,’ be­cause the baby changes the dy­namic,” said Mark Gatiss, the show’s co-cre­ator. But, he stresses: “Not in a cutesy way.”

Fears of do­mes­tic co­zi­ness are quickly ban­ished in the open­ing episode, of­fi­cially ti­tled “The Six Thatch­ers.” Its cen­tral who­dunit in­volves half a dozen plas­ter busts of for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Mar­garet “Iron Lady” Thatcher.

That’s just the start­ing point for 90 min­utes of vir­tu­osic puz­zle­solv­ing, prickly friend­ship and the spec­tac­u­lar re­turn of ghosts from one char­ac­ter’s past.

The new episodes pick up where the pre­vi­ous sea­son left off al­most three years ago. Since then, fans have had to make do with a one-time spe­cial last year that took the char­ac­ters back to their Vic­to­rian roots.

The show’s suc­cess means Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch, who plays Holmes, and his Wat­son, Martin Free­man, are in huge de­mand, and “Sher­lock” must fit around their other projects. Mr. Cum­ber­batch jumped back into Holmes’ deer­stalker hat right af­ter fin­ish­ing work on the Marvel ad­ven­ture “Doc­tor Strange.”

Ev­ery­one in­volved in “Sher­lock” is sworn to spoiler-free se­crecy about the plot, al­though Mr. Cum­ber­batch of­fers that it finds the great de­tec­tive “at the top of his game, at the very bot­tom of his soul.”

He says view­ers will see more of Sher­lock’s vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties as he faces crises both per­sonal and pro­fes­sional.

“It would be very dull if he was per­ma­nently a kind of im­preg­nable hero who was al­ways right,” Mr. Cum­ber­batch said dur­ing a break from film­ing. “There’s some spec­tac­u­lar own-goals, misses and mis­takes in this series.”

Mr. Cum­ber­batch said over the four sea­sons, he’s tried to probe what makes Sher­lock tick — “What’s his Achilles’ heel?”

“It’s been in­ter­est­ing how that per­son locked in a bit of glacial ice has slowly been thawed into some­one we can ac­tu­ally re­late to and un­der­stand,” Mr. Cum­ber­batch said. “And there’s a lot more of that in this series.”

There is also a piv­otal role for Mary, played by Amanda Ab­bing­ton, whose se­cret past as a highly trained as­sas­sin was re­vealed in Sea­son 3. There has been in­tense spec­u­la­tion about what will hap­pen to her, in­spired in part by the char­ac­ter’s fate in Arthur Co­nan Doyle’s orig­i­nal sto­ries.

“I like the idea of her not be­ing there for­ever,” said Miss Ab­bing­ton, who re­cently split from re­al­life part­ner Mr. Free­man af­ter a 16-year-re­la­tion­ship. “She wasn’t [there for­ever] in the books, so I don’t think she should be in this. It’s about Sher­lock and John, and it should be about them.

“I don’t want her to be­come the third wheel.”

Co-cre­ators Steven Mof­fat and Mr. Gatiss still sound slightly be­mused at the vol­canic suc­cess of their mod­ern-day take on the cere­bral sleuth.

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