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20 Things You May (or May Not) Know About BBC Sherlock

As culled from various interviews, the DVD commentaries and assorted miscellany. I tried not to go with the more obvious bits of trivia (like Benedict dyes his hair) but if you’re a hardcore fan, you’ll likely still know all of these anyway:

  • Martin Freeman plays army doctor John Watson, formerly with the Royal Army Medical Corps. In real life, Martin’s grandfather was a medic with the 150th Field Ambulance, RAMC, during World War II. Leonard Freeman was killed in a Luftwaffe attack on May 24, 1940, during the Battle of Dunkirk.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch was the only actor asked to audition for the role of Sherlock, after Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue saw him in the film Atonement and Mark Gatiss, who’d worked with him on the film Starter for 10, vouched for him. Benedict’s audition was filmed in Beryl Vertue’s London flat, where she served tea and biscuits “like Mrs. Hudson.”
  • (The Great Game) In the scene where Sherlock examines Carl Powers’ shoe in the lab, his solo shots were done on a separate day than the shots with John. They had to shoot part of the scene without Martin Freeman after he was injured from slipping on the icy steps of a production trailer.
  • The pilot and A Study in Pink were filmed one year apart (in 2009 and 2010, respectively).
  • The dog in Hounds of Baskerville was named Whiskey after Mark Gatiss’ own childhood dog. Kirstie’s pet was an homage to Mark’s husband Ian’s childhood pet, a rabbit named Bluebell. 
  • Steven Moffat rarely visits the set, stating that when he does, that usually means there’s a crisis going on. Parenting and Doctor Who duties keep him away. An exception is when he visited while they filmed the “flight of the dead” scene in A Scandal in Belgravia to visit his wife, Sue Vertue, as they hadn’t seen each other for several days. Production rigged up a special two person seat on the plane for them to share, but Steven promptly fell asleep.
  • Other people - aside from Steven Moffat - who fell asleep during the long filming of the Flight of the Dead scene include most of the extras and most of the crew, who were behind the curtain in business class. One of the grips had a vocal nightmare in which he was yelling at the focus puller. 
  • (The Great Game) During the scenes with the elderly blind woman, the actress didn’t have her lines in advance. Instead, Mark Gatiss crouched at the foot of the bed and fed her the lines as Moriarty, to make her performance more authentic.
  • (The Blind Banker) The epic pen toss was done on the first take, but had to be reshot due to a problem with the camera. It took about three more tries to do it again successfully. The trick is that Benedict is looking in the mirror to know when to catch the pen.


  • After series one of Sherlock aired, Steven Spielberg contacted Benedict Cumberbatch’s agent to offer an audition for his film War Horse. Benedict got the role after one reading. Spielberg not only rarely offers direct invitations to actors, but he also rarely casts a role after just one audition. He told Empire magazine that he made an exception because Benedict was the best onscreen version of Sherlock Holmes he’d ever seen. 
  • The filming of The Hounds of Baskerville consisted almost entirely of night shoots, which guest star Russell Tovey said gave him a feeling akin to jet lag. At one point, Benedict Cumberbatch inadvertently locked Mark Gatiss and Sue Vertue out of the inn where the cast and crew were staying and they had to sleep in their car.
  • (A Scandal in Belgravia) The inspiration for the Flight of the Dead came from a scene that was cut from the Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, where Q explains a train full of dead people by saying, “You can always get dead bodies somewhere.”
  • Martin Freeman has a lot of input into John’s wardrobe, including occasionally buying items for John himself (like the oatmeal jumper in The Great Game). 
  • There are several Belstaff Milford wool tweed coats used in the production, but Mark Gatiss purchased the original one used in the pilot and gave it to Benedict Cumberbatch as a gift.
  • The killer in The Great Game was originally going to be “The Limper,” an actor of average height who would wear a special shoe with a lift to give him an uneven walk. In revising the script, Mark Gatiss remembered the Jewish folk legend of the Golem - particularly the part where a golem is brought to life by writing the Hebrew word “emet” (truth) on its forehead, and snuffed out by erasing the first letter to leave the word “met” (death). Mark knew John Lebar, the 7’3” actor who played the Golem, having cast him previously in both The League of Gentlemen and Crooked House.
  • Sally Donovan was played by a different actress in the pilot. Vinette Robinson was recast in the role after Mark Gatiss worked with her in the 2009 play Darker Shores. (Though they’ve never publicly acted together, as Mark dropped out of the play after rehearsals due to the death of his sister.)
  • (The Hounds of Baskerville) John asking Henry Knight, “Are you rich?” followed by Henry’s “Yeah,” is an homage to Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. When Brody first sees all the high tech equipment on Hooper’s boat, he asks him, “Are you rich?” and Hooper replies, “Yeah.”
  • (A Scandal in Belgravia) Sherlock taking Irene’s pulse was not originally in the script and was improvised by Benedict Cumberbatch.
  • Benedict aims for a lean and angular look as Sherlock, so during filming his workouts consist of swimming and Bikram yoga, a form of “hot yoga” which is practiced in a sauna. He’s also said he tries to refrain from smoking or drinking during the shoots and takes a daily dose of honey.
  • According to Sue Vertue, several well-known actors have made inquiries about guesting on the series. But Mark Gatiss has said that they much prefer giving lesser known actors the opportunity, citing Benedict and Andrew Scott as actors who were known in the industry but didn’t break out until Sherlock. 

Filed under 20 things sherlock bbc sherlock bbc sherlock benedict cumberbatch sherlock trivia

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