Sherlock: The Empty Hearse – 11 references you may have missed

Linking The Empty Hearse to the Empty House

Sherlock returned last night with an episode titled The Empty Hearse – a nod to The Empty House, the adventure in which the great detective was first resurrected. But in what other ways did it resemble (or diverge from) Conan Doyle’s original?

Here are 11 fast facts to amaze your friends with.

Surprise! I’m back! (Image: BBC)

‘Hearse’ versus ‘House’

1. How did Sherlock survive?

Holmes explains his escape from the Reichenbach Falls to Watson in The Empty House, but refuses to do so in the TV version. In a recent interview, Steven Moffat and writer Mark Gatiss hinted that even the explanation Sherlock tells Anderson at the end is probably fictional. Gatiss remarked enigmatically, “It’s a very plausible solution.”

2. Headbutt? What headbutt?

In the original story, Watson faints when Holmes reveals himself rather than assaulting him three times.

3. In the know

In The Empty House, only Mycroft knew of Holmes’ plot. Here it is Mycroft, his parents, Molly and 25 members of his homeless network. No wonder John was so angry at being kept in the dark.

4. Moran

In the book, the villain Colonel Sebastian Moran is a murderous sniper and one of Moriarty’s lieutenants. Here, Lord Moran is a government minister and a bomber.

In both, his true motivation is never explicitly explained. Sherlock notes the modern Moran works for North Korea. In the original adventure, Holmes surmises that he killed his victim to avoid being revealed as a cheat at cards.

5. Bruce Lee of Baker Street

Watson interrupts Sherlock as he explains that one of his 13 scenarios involves ‘a system of Japanese wrestling’. This is a nod to the fictional martial art of baritsu which the literary Holmes used to throw Moriarty over the Reichenbach Falls.

6. Mistaken identity

The TV Watson mistakes an elderly, bearded patient for Holmes. He shows him DVDs about tree worship and the Holy War and a British Birds porn mag. In the book, Holmes disguises himself as an elderly, wizened collector carrying books about tree worship, British birds and the Holy War.

Other references

7. Keeping it in the family

John’s prospective fiancée Mary Morstan is played by Amanda Abbington, Martin Freeman’s partner. And Benedict Cumberbatch’s parents (both actors themselves) appear as Sherlock’s parents.

8. Not the case

John and Mary met via work, rather than on a case (The Sign of Four).

9. I smell a rat

Sumatra Road is a nod to The Giant Rat of Sumatra, an adventure mentioned but never detailed in the books. It is a street in West Hampstead not far from Bull & Bush which, like Gatiss’ fictional location, had platforms and staircases built but never a ground-level station. Sherlock also refers to Moran as the ‘head rat’.

10. Up a creek

Having explained his Sherlock survival theory to Lestrade, Anderson talks about paving slabs outside Barts. This is an allusion to the solution to a Jonathan Creek mystery, The Problem at Gallows Gate.

11. Imitation, the sincerest form of flattery

Sherlock borrows and updates a line originally written by Watson in A Study in Scarlet: “That great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained.”

Episode two of Sherlock is on BBC1 on Sunday at 8:30pm.

Sherlock season 3 reviews

3.1 The Empty Hearse

Other articles

Sherlock returns on New Year’s Day: What can we expect?

Are you ready for the return of Sherlock?

What has John Watson been up to since Sherlock’s ‘death’?

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2 Comments on Sherlock: The Empty Hearse – 11 references you may have missed

  1. Julia grumpyguidetobritain // January 2, 2014 at 11:12 am // Reply

    Oh, thank God, I thought the Sumatra Road – Giant Rat of Sumatra thing was just a product of my overactive imagination – but if you saw that too… 🙂

    • Nope, not just you!

      Mark Gatiss himself has confirmed it was a deliberate reference that he wanted to plant, along with all the others he squeezed in. I love that kind of stuff! 🙂

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