It had, of course, been far too long since the last time we saw Sherlock – getting on for two years, in fact, so to describe last night’s one-off special as “long awaited” is a wee bit of an understatement, which is the kind of thing I tend to do around here, so that’s what I’ll be doing. Oh, and as talking about the story in anything more than the vaguest way will potentially cause distress for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, I should probably include this old thing before I go on:
It’s likely that the random mutterings that follow will reveal some things you might prefer not to know if you haven’t seen the episode yet, so in my usual way, I’ll include this warning:
It was known that the episode would be set in the original late 19th century setting of the original Sherlock Holmes stories rather than the current early 21st century setting of the current Sherlock stories, but that was pretty much all that had been revealed. Would it be simply a new Sherlock Holmes story with the familiar cast, or perhaps something more complicated? Well, let’s think about that. This one was co-written by the series creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, which should offer a clue. Mr Moffat has a mind so devious that, umm, look, I’m not sure where that sentence is going, but it’s a very devious mind, and Mr Gatiss is ideally suited to playing Sherlock’s cleverer brother Mycroft…
The episode opened with a high-speed recap of previous events, with the year helpfully displayed on screen. The year changed to read “Alternatively” and we were whisked back to the 19th century, where Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson rapidly meet and establish their careers.
And so the story proceeds. There is, of course, an impossible mystery involving a woman who was seen to kill herself appearing to kill her husband some time later. And all this runs quite nicely until we’re dragged back to the 21st century at the point we last saw Sherlock and John. Sherlock, you might recall, was being sent into exile after ever so slightly killing an singularly nasty blackmailer, but was being rushed back after the apparent return of the apparently dead Moriarty.
And then things get a wee bit complicated – Sherlock was apparently off in his “mind palace”, working through the solution to a 19th century mystery, in an attempt to work out what Moriarty was doing.
And after all that, we’re back to the 19th century where Holmes and Watson discuss the ridiculous prediction of the future Holmes has just described.
Playing with our minds? You bet. There will be more episodes, but probably not for another year or so, mutter. It’s a bit of a problem when your stars and writers are such busy people.
Talking of which, Mr Moffat – can you let us know what the Doctor’s going to be up to next?
 And what is your excuse?
 River Song used to say that Rule 1 is that the Doctor lies. It should be added that Rule 0 is that Steven Moffat doesn’t exactly lie, but is remarkably good at not telling the actual truth.