Series 4 of the BBC series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman aired the first of its three episodes on PBS stations last Sunday and it will be available for streaming online until January 14. After getting rave reviews early on, the series creators have come in for considerable criticism for going over the top in their plot twists in later episodes, and its Christmas special that aired in January 2016 episode was heavily panned, including by me.
Perhaps in response, this story was a little more grounded and a definite improvement. Like most of the stories, it gives a nod to the original in the title and in part of the plot. This first episode titled The Six Thatchers is based on the The Six Napoleons and involves the mysterious destruction of busts featuring the likeness of the title character. It begins with extricating Sherlock from the problem he got himself into in the way he dealt with the villain in the last episode of series 3 His Last Vow that required him to be sent out of the country. That episode also teased the tantalizing prospect of the re-emergence of Moriarty.
I have expressed before my distaste for the Moriarty character in both the original stories and in this series. The whole idea of a super-villain pulling so many strings behind the scenes strikes me as a cliché that we can do without. Fortunately in the original stories, he appears only in two stories (though he is mentioned in passing in five others), and his main purpose seemed to be to provide a villain who was worthy enough to be a killer of Holmes. But, alas, later adaptations of the Holmes stories have given him much greater prominence.
While most of this episode consists of a self-contained story, there is clearly a story arc that is going to be continued in the next two episodes of this season that will be broadcast on January 8th and 15th and will be online subsequently.
Here’s the trailer for series 4.