After pushing the date back repeatedly, showrunners at BBC’s Sherlock have confirmed that season four has started filming, Den of Geek reports. Actor, writer, and co-creator Mark Gatiss also established the new estimated start date of the fourth installment, which will now be January 2017, to the British radio station Magic FM at the Olivier Awards.
As usual, the format will be three episodes, ninety minutes each, released over three weeks in the UK and then telecast separately in other countries, like the US, Canada, and Australia, who also have large pools of Sherlock fans.
According to Gatiss, the overarching feeling of the season will be “bittersweet.”
“It’s always bittersweet,” the co-creator added.
The fourth season follows the events of Sherlock‘s third installment, which aired over two years ago, in which Sherlock Holmes faces exile from the United Kingdom after nearly being charged for murder. The next episodes will likely pick up some time after that, but for a while, no one was quite sure exactly when fans would be able to see this all happen.
In a quagmire of scheduling conflicts of actors and writers alike, the estimated air date changed more than once. Eventually, show-creator Steven Moffat addressed the need for patience to The Telegraph.
“We’re all keen to continue,” said the Doctor Who/Sherlock head. “And obviously Mark [Gatiss] and I have our other commitments too, but it’s just a matter of scheduling.”
Fans of the modern take on the famous Arthur Conan Doyle stories Sherlock are used to this. Though the miniseries began in 2010, there have been at least year-and-a-half-long breaks between each season. After season one, the premiere date for the second season was pushed back until it finally premiered in January of 2012 on a tremendous cliff-hanger. The third season ran the same way; originally, the season was set to air a year after the end of season two, but the first episode of season three, “The Empty Hearse,” crawled in an entire two years after season two, in January of 2014.
That means already season four has surpassed the break time between seasons of its predecessors; in present-time, April of 2016, it has been two years and about three months since anyone has last seen new episodes of Sherlock.
Some blame it on the unavailability of the two lead actors. When Sherlock first began, actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Morgan Freeman were largely unheard of. Freeman, who plays John Watson in the show, had small roles in some projects with lasting legacies, namely Love Actually, in which Freeman plays a porn actor, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, where he plays Arthur Dent, and the original The Office, in which he plays the British Jim Halpert, Tim Canterbury. Nonetheless, Sherlock is what made Freeman big. For his role in the premier episode, “A Study in Pink,” Freeman was awarded a BAFTA Award, and there’s little argument that disputes that his role as Watson is what scored Freeman the biggest part of his career to date–Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit movie trilogy.
Benedict Cumberbatch, despite his unique name, was also practically nameless in the Hollywood community before Sherlock. He, of course, plays the lead genius detective, and his role as Sherlock Holmes snagged him an Emmy, his first award in the American market (Cumberbatch had, already gained a few for other roles in British television). Sherlock quickly launched Cumberbatch’s career, especially in film; he’s played major roles in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), Spielberg’s War Horse (2011), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), The Fifth Estate (2013) as Julian Assange, August: Osage County (2013), The Hobbit trilogy as the voice of Smaug, The Imitation Game (2014), and Black Mass (2016). In other words, Cumberbatch has been busy, possibly too busy for Sherlock.
But now it seems that with The Hobbit done with and other side projects quieting down, both actors and writers alike are available to continue Sherlock. Fans can, barring any further delay, tune in on BBC One early next year.