Here's what those three key words for Sherlock season 4 could mean

Sherlock fans will be familiar with the showrunners' practice of releasing three key words to describe the upcoming season as a way to tease fans without actually revealing any spoilers. Well, at San Diego Comic Con, Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, and Sue Vertue took the opportunity to announce the three key words for season 4, except this time, they were names. 

Are you ready for it? Thatcher, Smith, and Sherrinford. These are the three names that describe what's going to happen in Sherlock season 4.

It's not much to go on, but if you're desperate to find out as much as you can about the new season (and I am), you might find yourself trawling through a mountain of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories to discover whether any of those names mean anything. For those of you who don't feel like spending your afternoon doing that, below is what I discovered. 

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Probably the most famous Thatcher is British Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher so could we be talking about a old case from the ‘70s or ‘80s rearing it’s head in season 4? Don’t forget, Thatcher was the password that appeared in season 2's The Hounds of Baskerville, but that’s unlikely to be relevant. 

The other possibility us that is refers to an old case that appeared on Watson’s blog called The Six Thatchers. A fictionalised version of the one written by Martin Freeman’s character can be found here, and it describes a case where a clay bust of Margaret Thatcher was used to kill an art student and happens around the same time as season 2’s Scandal in Belgravia. Coincidence?

Now onto Smith. It’s obviously a very common name so you might think there’s no way we can work out how this relates to Sherlock, but in the original Sherlock Holmes novels there is a character called Culverton Smith. 

He appears in a short story called The Adventure of the Dying Detective and is tricked into confessing that he poisoned his nephew when Sherlock pretends he’s managed to poison the master detective as well. Needless to say, Sherlock is fine and Watson is hiding in a cupboard to witness the confession. Having said that, it could literally be referring to any other Smith EVER!

Finally, Sherrinford was the name originally considered for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s hero, and while it was never used in his books, Sherlock scholar William Stuart Baring-Gould used it in his fictional Sherlock Holmes biography. In the book Sherrinford Holmes was the eldest brother of Sherlock and Mycroft, who looked after the family estate leaving the two younger brothers free to go into the government and crime-solving businesses. 

It actually closed a plot hole in the original stories because at the time it would have been very unusual for neither of the Holmes sons to look after the family estate, so having an older brother who did just that solved that problem. This isn’t something which is much of an issue for Steve Moffat’s modern retelling, but could this mean there might be another Holmes boy making an appearance in season 4? Let’s not forget that in season 3 Mycroft hinted at just that: “I'm not given to outbursts of brotherly compassion. You know what happened to the other one.” Is he talking about a long lost brother?

And there's some clues to keep you going until the return of Sherlock next year. Let us know in the comments below if you think they're right, or if you have some speculations of your own you'd like to add. 

Sherlock season 4 will premiere in 2017.

Images: BBC

Lauren O'Callaghan

Lauren O'Callaghan is the former Entertainment Editor of GamesRadar+. You'd typically find Lauren writing features and reviews about the latest and greatest in pop culture and entertainment, and assisting the teams at Total Film and SFX to bring their excellent content onto GamesRadar+. Lauren is now the digital marketing manager at the National Trust.