Sherlock: 34 Details You Missed in The Abominable Bride

We’ve scoured the scenes of Sherlock special, The Abominable Bride, to dig out its nerdy details. Spoilers ahead…

Warning: contains spoilers for The Abominable Bride.

If, by the time Sherlock special The Abominable Bride came around, your usually-shining powers of observation had been dulled by New Year’s indulgence, never fear.

We’ve hunted around the episode with (mostly) clear heads and stumbled upon a few fun titbits, from Wilder the Diogenes butler, to set design jokes, nods to Doyle’s original stories, Paget’s illustrations, previous Sherlock episodes and more…

1. This dilated pupil (we’d suggest Cumberbatch’s rather than Freeman’s?) is the first hint-in-hindsight that what’s to follow involves narcotics.

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2. Both A Study In Pink and The Abominable Bride start with Watson waking up from a nightmare of his time in an Afghan war, centuries apart.

3. Joining the regular cast’s Victorian counterparts is actor David Nellist as Mike Stamford, who appeared once previously as the mutual friend who first introduced John and Sherlock in A Study In Pink.

4. There are multiple repetitions between Holmes and Watson’s meeting in the original Doyle novel A Study In Scarlet, the first episode of Sherlock, “A Study In Pink”, and their meeting here (explained in The Abominable Bride by Sherlock reading John’s blog account of the introduction). Just one is that lines from Doyle’s original story (“The campaign brought honours and promotion to many, but for me it had nothing but misfortune and disaster”) are used here in Watson’s opening voiceover.

5. Watson and Stamford drink in the Criterion Bar in A Study In Scarlet, the name partially obscured on the window behind them in The Abominable Bride. A poster advertising The London Fair can be seen behind Watson and Stamford. (The same poster is later seen on the street where the bride performs her ‘suicide’, despite several years having passed in the narrative of the episode.)

6. Doyle’s Christmas-set fowl-themed story, The Adventure Of The Blue Carbuncle, referenced here as Watson’s latest Sherlock Holmes story was indeed published in The Strand magazine in 1892.

7. Young Billy, played here by Adam Graves-Neal, is Sherlock Holmes’ page in select of the original Doyle stories and stage plays. In Sherlock’s His Last Vow, Tom Brooke played a character called Bill Wiggins, a grown-up composite of Billy the page and original Doyle street urchin, Wiggins.

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8. When Watson tells Mrs Hudson “Blame it on the illustrator, he’s out of control. I’ve had to grow this moustache just so people will recognise me”, he’s referring to Sidney Paget, illustrator of the original Holmes stories. Paget is thought to have based his illustrations of Sherlock Holmes on his younger brother, Walter.

9. “Speedy’s Café” above which are Holmes and Watson’s rooms at 221B Baker Street (North Gower Street for anyone who wants to go looking) in the BBC’s modern Sherlock, has been transformed for the occasion into the more Victorian-appropriate “Speedwells Restaurant and Tea Rooms”.

10. In the space usually occupied by a bison skull (in front of which Mary was memorably framed in The Sign Of Three, giving the illusion that she had devil horns) in the modern 221B is this stag head. An ear trumpet stands in for the headphones usually adorning the bison skull. “Arwel’s (Jones, set designer) little joke”, explained Mark Gatiss on a February 2015 set tour.

11. In Doyle’s introduction to The Memoirs Of Sherlock Holmes, he describes the way Sherlock keeps “his unread letters on the mantel, impaled with a jackknife”. Voila.

12. In that same introduction, Doyle noted how Holmes “stored his pipe tobacco in the toe of a Persian slipper”. In the modern Sherlock, the pipe tobacco has turned into cigarettes, but here it’s in the original form.

13. The painting of a skull that hangs on the wall of the modern 221B Baker Street has been replaced by a Victorian image of a lady at her toilet, which, when viewed from a distance, looks like a skull.

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14. Where the modern 221B has a smiley face with bullet holes, the Victorian one has the letters “VR” shot into the wall, standing for Victoria Regina, as described by Doyle.

15. Another little joke by designer Arwel Jones: the kitchen/laboratory area at 221B Baker Street has been painted and transformed into… a study in scarlet!

16. The black dress Mary is wearing here is made from a highly fragile original Victorian fabric. Her boots are custom-made replicas based on original Victorian designs, as were Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch’s footwear for the special. One pair of Cumberbatch’s ‘Victorian’ boots had to be re-soled with rubber for an action scene, “which isn’t authentic,” admitted Costume Designer Sarah Arthur on a February 2015 set visit, “but was necessary for what we had to film.”

17. The unframed portrait seen in the bottom right of this image is of slavery abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher, as described by Doyle in The Resident Patient/The Cardboard Box. (“[Watson’s] eyes turned across to the unframed portrait of Henry Ward Beecher which stands upon the top of [his] books…”)

18. “My Boswell is learning” says Sherlock Holmes of John Watson, a reference to James Boswell, famously the biographer of Samuel Johnson.

19. On the mantelpiece is a statuette of a hound, a deliberate reference according to Mark Gatiss, to “the dog one”, aka The Hound Of The Baskervilles.

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20. Emilia Ricoletti, the episode’s titular Abominable Bride, originated from a throwaway line in Doyle’s The Musgrave Ritual, referring to the case of “Ricoletti of the club foot and his abominable wife.”

21. One of the shops glimpsed in the bride’s street shooting scene is that belonging to Jabez Wilson, pawnbroker (as showcased in this image posted by Mark Gatiss on Twitter in February 2015), a reference to Doyle story The Red-Headed League.

22. The song Emilia Ricoletti sings a snatch of before her “shotgun wedding” is Victorian ballad The Maid Of The Mill.

23. Sherlock’s exasperated “It’s never twins!” may be a reference to 2004 TV film The Case Of The Silk Stocking, in which Rupert Everett and Ian Hart played Holmes and Watson opposite Michael Fassbender. In that instance (spoiler alert) it was twins.

24. Sherlock may protest that he never says “features of interest”, but Watson’s right, he really does. To name but a few: once in A Case Of Identity, twice in one paragraph in The Adventure Of The Crooked Man, and once by Watson in The Yellow Face. (Also at least once in Sherlock series three, The Sign Of Three).

25. Doyle story The Five Orange Pips saw just these items delivered as they are here to Sir Eustace Carmichael as a prophesy of death. If you remember, Sherlock’s The Great Game rejigged the idea, updating the orange pips to five telephone pips. Coincidentally, Tim McInnerny, here playing Sir Eustace Carmichael, appeared as “Selden” in a 2005 Sherlock Holmes TV movie entitled The Strange Case Of Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle.

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26. The oft-repeated cry of Holmes pedants is that in the original Doyle stories, Sherlock never actually says “Elementary my dear Watson”, a catchphrase made popular in later adaptations. Seeing as this Reichenbach Fall scene is all in Sherlock’s mind, the phrase gets a knowing airing here.

27. Wilder the Diogenes Club butler is presumably named in tribute to Billy Wilder, the writer/director behind the 1970 feature The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes, cited by Sherlock creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat as among their favourite on-screen versions of the character. Incidentally, the actor who plays Wilder previously appeared as a Russian count in a 1985 Sherlock Holmes TV adventure, “The Resident Patient”, and was also Tissan in 1979 Doctor Who story, “Destiny Of The Daleks”.

28. Mycroft “increased” matches Doyle’s original description of Sherlock’s brother in The Bruce Partington Plans as “heavily built and massive” with a “gross body”. (His words, not ours.) Incidentally, Mycroft and Sherlock’s discussion of “the Manor House case” and “Adams” here is borrowed from Doyle story The Greek Interpreter.

29. Arwel Jones and his set design team built the episode’s train carriage interior to recreate this original Paget illustration.

30. The Carmichael’s house is actually Tyntesfield House, a National Trust Property at Wraxall near Bristol. One of the house’s rooms also stood in for the Watson dining room for John’s breakfast scene. The Arnos Vale Cemetery, Colston Hall cellars (which provided the vaulted ceiling for the special’s hospital morgue) and Bottle Yard Studios were other Bristol filming locations.

31. This Turner painting of The Reichenbach Falls featured in the series two finale, when Sherlock was publicly thanked for returning the stolen artwork.

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32. There’s an elephant in the room. There’s always an elephant in the room.

33. Sherlock channels Dorothy Gale’s “And you were there” moment at the end of The Wizard Of Oz when the pilot of his plane to exile turns out to share a face with Lady Carmichael in his Victorian escapade. Catherine McCormack’s face, to be specific.

34. Finally, Mycroft’s notebook features all manner of interesting scribbles, no doubt designed to get fan-brains deducing. Redbeard, we learnt in His Last Vow, was the name of Sherlock’s childhood dog and according to Augustus Magnussen, one of Sherlock’s “pressure points”. As for Vernet, the binary, scarlet roll and the rest of it, over to you…