Sherlock (TV series)

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Name: Sherlock
Creator: Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (original)
Date(s): Series One: 2010 July 25 - August 08
Series Two: 2012 January 01 - January 15
Christmas Mini Epiosde: Many Happy Returns 2013 December 24
Series Three: 2014 January 19-February 2 (US)
Christmas Special: (Untitled) December, 2015
Series Four: Unannounced Date in 2016
Medium: Television
Country of Origin: U.K.
External Links: Sherlock (TV series) on Wikipedia
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.


Sherlock Holmes, artist: Lorraine Brevig, oil painting on canvas board, 12" - h x 9"-w
Dr. John Watson, artist: Lorraine Brevig, oil painting on canvas board, 12" - h x 9"-w

Sherlock is a BBC series that adapts the classic Sherlock Holmes series for modern times. The three episodes of the first season received good ratings and positive feedback from critics and fans alike.

The show returned for a second season of three episodes in January, 2012.

The third season consisted of a mini Christmas Episode and three new, full length episodes which aired in January, 2014.

The fourth season will air sometime in early 2016, with a Christmas Special in late 2015.

In Relation to Sherlock Holmes Fandom

Within the wider Sherlock Holmes fandom umbrella, this series makes up one of the larger online sub-fandoms. For other adaptations/sub-fandoms, see Sherlock Holmes: Adaptations.


In general Sherlock Holmes fandom, this interpretation is known as the BBC'verse. In general discussions, its characters might be distinguished by adding a "BBC!" before their names, e.g. BBC!Lestrade or BBC!Watson. This sort of distinction can be seen on places such as the Sherlock Holmes newsletter Holmesian_News which adds "(BBC)" after each BBC'verse-related post to distinguish it from others.

Sherlock is not the only version of Sherlock Holmes released by the BBC, but it is the only one that goes by "BBC'verse" or which "BBC" is used to distinguish it.[1]

Fandom Beginnings

Fandom was ready for Sherlock before the first episode aired. In July, a video that had been posted to YouTube made the rounds of interested fans. It was a promotional pitch video for the series based on the original un-aired pilot for the show. Interest was piqued, and fans flooded in from greater Sherlock Holmes fandom as well as from Doctor Who, since DW writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss created the show. The first LiveJournal community for the show, SherlockBBC, was created July 14th -- a week and a half before Sherlock first aired and the day after the airing date was made public.[2]

Once aired, the fandom quickly established itself. Fanfiction (primarily Sherlock/John slash) was being posted to a variety of communities within hours after the first episode aired. A Sherlock fic meme went up the same day and quickly took off, and has continued to be extremely active.


Sherlock has several points of appeal to attract fans, but one major cause of the deluge of fan activity may have been the 2009 Sherlock Holmes film with Robert Downey, Jr., which had not only created a vibrant new fandom, but also reawakened interest in all things Holmes and primed its audience for new Holmesian material. The modern setting of Sherlock represented a creative outlet for fans who may have been reluctant to tackle Victorian England.

The updated setting and the many allusions to original Holmes stories were enjoyed by fans familiar with the canon. Many explicitly Victorian aspects of the series were translated in clever ways: the text messages (in place of telegrams), nicotine patches (in place of tobacco and cocaine), John Watson's blog (in place of his journal), and Sherlock's homeless spy network (in place of the Baker Street Irregulars). Some canon allusions, such as the new explanation for the canon inconsistencies in Watson's war wound, met with less success in some quarters.

The appeal of the actors who play Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch), Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman), and DI Lestrade (Rupert Graves) is certainly a factor. LiveJournal communities and tumblrs dedicated to the attractiveness of each have been created. Freeman and Graves had previously appeared in other films and television shows familiar to fandom. But the new interpretation of their characters is also the subject of much glee. This Sherlock Holmes reflects some aspects of Jeremy Brett's iconic performance, but is otherwise an unusual depiction — much younger and, it is implied, diagnosed with a personality disorder. Fans who didn't appreciate Robert Downey Jr's Holmes may prefer Cumberbatch's.

Fannish Trends and Quirks

Sherlock/John - In other versions of Sherlock Holmes fandom this pairing is known as Holmes/Watson (last names), but Sherlock fandom tends to more commonly use first names, e.g. Sherlock/John or John/Sherlock, as these characters refer to each other by first name. "Holmes/Watson" is still in use.

Anderson loves dinosaurs - According to the anonymous fic writing meme crowd, Anderson has a thing for dinosaurs.[3] It's spreading.[4]

"Molliarty" - The term for Molly being the real Moriarty.[5][6][7] This theory began prior to the third episode and is still embraced by supporters. Variations of this are "Mollyarty" or the more general "evil!Molly."

Holmeskillets - Fans of Sherlock Holmes are generally known as Sherlockians or Holmesians; these terms are still in use in Sherlock fandom, and the term "Holmeskillets" has also been used.

John's War Trauma - John Watson is introduced with psychological issues regarding his service in the Afghanistan war, such as dreams/nightmares, a psychosomatic limp, and an intermittent tremor in his hand. Although by the end of the episode these issues no longer seem to be in effect, fans enjoy exploring them in fanfiction, such as character studies and hurt/comfort, where the issues might be ongoing or more long-term.

Anthropomorphic clothing/accessories - It is a beloved thing in fandom to make fanworks on the clothing and accessories of the characters. This can be gen, such as Seri-scribble's Coat: A Tale of Adventure, or a ship, such as John's cane and Mycroft's umbrella falling in love It's a Love Story, Baby Just Say Yes.

Sherlock's Mind - Since Sherlock says in canon that he is a "high-functioning sociopath", quite a bit of discussion and fanworks have come up analyzing and interpreting what this means and if it should be taken seriously. Some fans believe he does have a personality disorder ("sociopath"), others believe he could be on the autistic spectrum, and some fans think he's just an intelligent jerk.

Memes - Through the use of Tumblr, deviantART, and other mediums, fans have introduced a number of memes based on quotes or concepts from the series. An incomplete list of memes is archived as a subculture at the Know Your Meme database. One meme that gained momentum after the season two finale was the I Believe in Sherlock meme, which was primarily housed on tumblr but also made its way around the internet (and real world) at large.

Cliffhangers - All three series to date have ended in cliffhangers, which has led to much wailing and gnashing of teeth, especially since it was 17 months before the first cliffhanger was resolved, and 23 months before the second was resolved. The third series finale cliffhanger – which implies that Moriarty is still alive – is yet to be resolved. Much fandom speculation has ensued regarding how each of these situations would play out.

SuperWhoLock/WhoLock/SuperLock - Sherlock, Doctor Who, and Supernatural fans tend to overlap, and their crossovers (sometimes serious, sometimes cracky) have a large following.




  • Sherlock/John is the most prevalent pairing in fandom; the compilation of all other pairings shivers in the massive shadow of this mountain of a pairing.[8]
  • Sherlock/Mycroft is a small incest pairing in the fandom. It is presumably based on the fact that both characters are highly unconventional and show little respect for normal social boundaries or morality. While some of these stories, particularly ones written earlier in the fandom, depict Mycroft as abusing a younger Sherlock, leading to the resentment seen in the present day of the show, more recent stories have treated their relationship as at least dubiously consensual. Sometimes, sexual involvement between the two is treated as part of Mycroft's general "caretaking" role with respect to Sherlock; however, other stories present Sherlock as pushing for an intimacy that Mycroft considers dangerous.
  • Other slash pairings include Sherlock/Lestrade, Sherlock/Jim, and the rising Mycroft/Lestrade.


Previously there was very little het in the fandom, possibly because the only recurring female character from the Holmes canon to have appeared was Mrs. Hudson, played by an older actress. However, this shifted after the second series.

  • John/Sarah (canonical) was probably the most prevalent het pairing during the first series.[citation needed]
  • Sherlock/Molly grew in prominence after the second series and is considered the largest het ship in the fandom.[citation needed] [9]
  • John/Mary (canonical) comes in at just below Sherlock/Molly, though a glance at the first page of the AO3 tag hints that this is often used as a tool for endgame Sherlock/John.[10]
  • Lestrade/Molly, and Anderson/Sally (especially in regards to Anderson's interest in dinosaurs[11]) are minor pairings.
  • Jim/Molly got some extra attention when the fic Secrets of Molly by Emmyangua was read by Louise Brealey (the actress who plays Molly) who tweeted about it.[12]
  • Sherlock/Irene increased after her appearance in series 2, understandable given the romantic nature of the episode she featured in. According to Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock and Irene likely had a dalliance after he saved her at the end of the episode: "You say he was beaten by her, but do you know what they got up to in Islamabad because I do. There was no beating. It was all very loving." [13]


There is little femslash, especially in comparison to the popularity of Sherlock/John; a rare example is the Sally/Molly fic Other Things To Do After Buying A Cat by blackeyedgirl. Although the show refers to a canonical f/f couple (Watson's sister Harry has just broken up with a woman named Clara), the show does not pass step 2 of the Bechdel Test, which means no two women even speak to each other, probably contributing to the near nonexistence of femslash. However, since the introduction of Irene Adler, who is canonically a lesbian (although implied to be in love with Sherlock), there seems to have been an increase in femslash, with the fandom especially favoring the pairing of Irene/Molly, which has over 150 hits on Archive of Our Own[1].

Notable Stories

As mentioned previously, John/Sherlock is the most visible pairing in the fandom, and many of the fandom's most well-known works revolve around a romantic relationship between the two characters. Due to the distinctive nature of their characters, several of these famous stories are AU or fusion fics set in other well-known universes.

  • Alone on the Water, by Madlori, is one of the most well-known fics in the fandom, and is considered a rite of passage for newcomers to the fandom. This is partly because of its tragic nature; it is a deathfic in which Sherlock is diagnosed with a terminal illness. On LiveJournal, posted 16 April 2011.
  • Two Two One Bravo Baker, by abundantlyqueer, is a military AU set in Afghanistan, in which John is assigned to protect Sherlock as he investigates a war crime. On AO3, posted 8 April 2011, completed 16 Feb 2013.


Vidding is quite popular in Sherlock fandom. It's part of the 2010 Sherlock Holmes vidding revival along with the Sherlock Holmes (2009) film. Before then, most vids were of the Granada series.

  • lola has created a trilogy of vids pairing each episode of the first series with a song by popular indie band Arcade Fire.[14] The second video in the trilogy deals with the portrayal of Asian characters in the series' second episode.
  • Anomie by Charmax was well received for its use of color and tone in depicting Sherlock's lack of connection to people.
  • Cat's in the Cradle - crossover with House, M.D. where House is Sherlock's father

Large numbers of vids deal with the depressing ending of the second season.

Sherlock vids are popular on Youtube and Tumblr, where there are collections and contests devoted purely to this fandom. The fandom is particularly noted for its use of text as a major element in vids and of sound clips from the show, both things that are relatively less common in older vidding fandoms. Unofficial trailers and non-songvid fannish video art are also popular.

Arts and Crafts

Fanart and fancrafts are also hugely popular. The sherlockbbc community on LiveJournal has well-used tags for art, icons, comics, banners, wallpapers, manips, macros, gifs, and crafts. Tumblr is another place where gifs, art, and crafts are posted.



Sherlock is one of the biggest fandoms for podfic. On the Audiofic Archive, Sherlock is in the top ten most-podficced fandoms.[15] Sherlock seems to have a larger or more active podfic listening audience than some fandoms that have a larger total number of podfics, as the existence of this tumblr dedicated solely to reccing Sherlock/John podfics would attest. See also zwischendenstuehlen's recs on Tumblr, katikat's recs on Dreamwidth, and 221b-recs on LiveJournal.


Discussions about the show began as soon as the pitch video made the rounds. Some fans were disappointed with the way the updating of the Holmes story had been handled. Some fans felt that an opportunity was lost to really modernize the story with more radical choices for some characters.

Portrayal of Women

The portrayals of Sgt Sally Donovan, Molly Hooper, Irene Adler, Mary Morstan, and Mrs. Hudson have all met with criticism from many fans.[16] A fan in 2014 wrote at the notes of her story, Love Like Law: "Dear Moftiss: I used your underutilized female characters for you. They were awesome. It wasn't that hard. Love, me."

Another fan discusses mostly the female characters in the show, observing that in first episode they "are all extremely subservient, dead or portrayed as idiots and shamed for their sexual practices." [17]

In fandom, spoilers leaked about the second episode that John was going on a date with a woman named Sarah. Misogyny in fandom reared its ugly head with some Sarah-bashing before the episode aired and before the character had even been introduced. When the mod of sherlockbbc made a post on it saying women-hating wasn't okay, fans responded favorably.[18]

Character bashing and misogyny made a reappearance when Irene Adler was announced to be appearing in Series 2, mostly from people who feared that she would "get in the way" of Sherlock/John. Some fans also took issue with her being reinterpreted as a dominatrix.

Mary Morstan, Watson's canonical wife, has also been a controversial character. When the producers announced that Mary would appear on the show, the actress, Amanda Abbington, received numerous death threats.[19] [20] Abbington attributed the messages to fans who "take the John and Sherlock storyline so seriously that they wouldn't want anyone coming between them." Johnlock fans have deluged the showrunners with requests to make the slash pairing canon, but Steven Moffatt says he has no intention of doing so.

Other fans have responded to these discussions by including women characters in fic, often the named but not seen, Harry Watson and her partner, Clara. rageprufrock's very popular Homemaking [2] is a good example of Clara making an appearance. Other fans have delved into the background of Sally Donnovan's antipathy to Sherlock, rounding out her character, while still others have dealt with the dearth of female characters by genderswapping John and Sherlock, as in the fic how the mouth changes its shape.

A Tumblr account was created in August 2014 to track misogyny in Sherlock fandom: Sherlock Fandom Hates Women.


Some fans felt that the potential of a gay relationship between Sherlock and John was played for laughs and were not amused. They saw the show as another in a long line of bromance shows that use "mistaken for gay" humour as a way of explicitly naming the characters as not gay.[16] [21]

Portrayal of Disability

Sherlock's mental state is commonly explored in fandom, such as him having APD (sociopathy, as the character claims in canon) or Asperger's syndrome (which the actor believes). Both the fandom and the source text have been criticized for ableism, such as for Mycroft no longer being fat and for John's disappearing limp.

Portrayal of Asian Characters

The second episode of the series, "The Blind Banker," has come under scrutiny for its treatment of its Asian characters and Orientalism.

  • Complicit by Lola addresses the problematic Asian stereotypes of the second episode The Blind Banker and attempts to reclaim the character Soo Lin Yao.


The most popular general Sherlock discussion community is SherlockBBC on LiveJournal. See List of Sherlock Holmes Communities and Forums for a complete list.

Meta/Further Reading/Resources


  1. For instance, there was also Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking, a BBC TV movie released in 2004 starring Rupert Everett, but it would not be confused with the "BBC'verse" Sherlock TV series.
  2. Paul McGuigan's Twitter, accessed November 24, 2010
  3. The prompt that started it all: When Anderson masturbates he thinks of dinosaurs.
  4. Fanart of Anderson in jammies holding a toy dinosaur
  5. Example of term usage and fan support: This secret and the reply thread posted at Fandomsecrets.
  6. Example of the Molliarty concept in fanfic: The Greater Game by Flecalicious
  7. Another example: This icon post by duskicons features a "Molly for Moriarty" icon (#26).
  8. Comparing the pairing tags on the SherlockBBC LJ comm, Sherlock/John has 707 entries; the next largest pairing is Sherlock/Lestrade with 102; the third largest pairing is Sherlock/Moriarty at just 32. Info retrieved 2010 September 22.
  9. Sherlock/Molly on AO3 has 3988 works as of 5 August 2015.
  10. Mary/John at AO3 has 3345 works as of 5 August 2015.
  11. An example of Sally dressing up as a dinosaur for Anderson in Sally the Stegosaurus by anonymous.
  12. Louise Brealey's tweet is documented here and here: "Just found some porn fan fiction about my little Molly in #Sherlock getting her nipples pierced and showing #Moriarty a good time. Crivvens"
  14. lola. Rococo; Complicit; Still Screaming. (Accessed 1 February 2011.)
  15. paraka, 4 March 2014 Tweet, containing a chart of the top 15. Total count of podfics for the top ten fandoms: Supernatural (1923), Stargate Atlantis (1375), Supernatural RPF (680), Merlin (633), Harry Potter (625), The Avengers (572), My Chemical Romance (564), Teen Wolf (561), Sherlock (538), and Due South (407).
  16. 16.0 16.1 kanata: Teevee, 30 July 2010
  17. Sherlock - Why? by beam-oflight
  18. Mod post addressing Sarah-bashing and misogyny on sherlockbbc
  19. 'Sherlock' Star Amanda Abbington Receives Death Threats after her character Mary Morstan marries Dr Watson. Mirror, 2014-01-12.
  20. "Sherlock" fans lash out over sunken JohnLock ship. Daily Dot, 2013-04-26.
  21. Creator Steven Moffat says, "It’s always definitely a love story. I don’t see why that means that sex has to be involved. What a weirdly sexualized world we live in where you insist they much be having sex as well. Why would they? John isn’t wired that way, whatever Sherlock is." Alyssa Rosenberg, Steven Moffat on Sherlock’s Return, the Holmes-Watson Love Story, and Updating the First Supervillain. May 7, 2012.
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