- "Dr John Watson, meet Mr Sherlock Holmes."
- ―The Abominable Bride
This special was also shown in over 500 theaters in the United States for two nights on January 5th and 6th, 2016 at 7:30pm local time. The event also included a guided set tour of 221B Baker Street by Steven Moffat prior to the film and a "making of" short film afterwards starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and others.
It is written by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. Originally said to take place in its own continuity and set during the Victorian period like the original stories, the majority of the episode takes place in Sherlock's mind palace and follows on directly from "His Last Vow".
A special episode largely taking place in Victorian London in 1895.
Why is Thomas Ricoletti a little surprised to see his wife dressed in her old wedding gown? Because, just a few hours before, she took her own life...
Mrs Ricoletti's ghost now appears to be prowling the streets with an unslakeable thirst for revenge. From fog-shrouded Limehouse to the bowels of a ruined church, Holmes, Watson and their friends must use all their cunning to combat an enemy seemingly from beyond the grave and the final, shocking truth about... the Abominable Bride!
In 1881, Dr John Watson, an army medic, has returned to London after being wounded during the Second Afghan War. On the street he runs into an old colleague, Stamford, with whom he worked at St Bartholomew's Hospital. Watson mentions in Stamford that having left the army he is in need of a place to live, and Stamford mentions that he has an acquaintance who is also looking for someone to share a suite of rooms. Stamford takes Watson to the morgue, where they find the man beating corpses in an experiment to determine how long after death bruising is possible. Watson is amazed when he not only deduces that Watson has come to him about the rooms, but also correctly identifies his military service in Afghanistan. After notifying Watson that he smokes a pipe and plays the violin, the man introduces himself as Sherlock Holmes, and his address as 221B Baker Street. The two agree to meet the following evening to finalize the arrangement.
Many years later, in December 1894, Holmes has become quite famous as a result of Watson's popular accounts of his cases, which are published in The Strand: a vendor informs Watson that his latest, "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle", has been very well-received. The pair return home to Baker Street after solving the murder of a dismembered country squire, where they are greeted by their landlady, Mrs Hudson. As they enter the house Mrs Hudson criticises Watson for her portrayal in his stories, in which he depicts her role as doing nothing but showing in clients and making the duo breakfast. Holmes tells her not to feel singled out, pointing to his general absence from The Hound of the Baskervilles. Mrs Hudson then complains about how dingy her rooms always look, which Watson blames on his incorrigible illustrator, telling her that he's had to grow a mustache just to be recognized.
Upon climbing the stairs, Holmes and Watson are surprised to find a veiled woman dressed all in black standing in the middle of the sitting room, whom Mrs Hudson informs them is a client who refuses to speak. Holmes deduces that the woman is recently married to a kindly man who has since abandoned her for an "unsavory" companion, and has come to Baker Street hoping to save their marriage, which he adds is evident from her perfume. When Watson expresses confusion, Holmes remarks that it is unfortunate he did not also recognize the scent before removing the woman's veil to reveal her as Watson's wife, Mary. Watson asks Mary why she was disguised as a client, to which Mary responds it was the only way she could think of to see him. The two begin arguing, with Mary criticizing her husband for always leaving her behind while he travels the country with Holmes. Holmes interrupts them suddenly, musing vacantly that with the stage set he is ready to begin: to Watson's confusion he states that to solve a case, one must sometimes first solve another, an old one, and that it will require him to go deep within himself. He then barks for Inspector Lestrade, who has been hovering outside the door, to enter.
Lestrade enters, visibly unsettled, and greets Holmes, who infers that he is off-duty and offers Lestrade a drink. At first Lestrade pretends that he is purely making a social call, but Lestrade soon reveals that he is consulting on a crime. He informs Holmes that the previous morning a woman named Emelia Ricoletti appeared on the balcony of her home dressed in a white wedding gown, with a face white as death and blood apparently smeared on her mouth. In an apparent fit of madness she began firing into the street with a pair of revolvers, before eventually putting the gun in her mouth and publicly shooting herself. It had been her wedding anniversary, and following the incident her body was taken to the morgue. Though Holmes is skeptical as to why Lestrade would need his help on such a straightforward case of suicide, Lestrade continues his story. Only a few hours later that evening, Emilia's husband, Thomas Ricoletti, was approached in the street by a cab while exiting a Limehouse opium den. A veiled woman in a wedding dress exited the coach holding a shotgun, and approached Ricoletti singing. This scene attracted the attention of a nearby constable, who was however unarmed and unable to intervene. After asking Mr Ricoletti whether he recognized their wedding song, the woman removed her veil to reveal to him her face. Mr Ricoletti was heard to identify the woman as his wife, Emelia, before she shot him twice in the chest and disappeared into the fog.
Watson and Mary are astonished by Lestrade's account, and Holmes reacts enthusiastically, informing Watson to ready himself for a trip to the morgue. Mary is again unhappy when Watson tells her to wait behind and prepare him dinner, and informs Lestrade that she is part of a campaign for votes for women (to which Lestrade stupidly asks "for or against?") However, after the men leave Mrs Hudson enters with a message for Mary, telling her to come immediately and signed only "M". Mary leaves immediately, asking Mrs Hudson to inform her husband she will be late for dinner as she has to help a friend in need. When Mrs Hudson asks who, she replies only "England".
Upon arriving at the morgue, Holmes, Watson, and Lestrade discover that mortuary worker Anderson has chained the body to the table out of fear. Morgue director Dr Hooper enters, and Lestrade orders Hooper to give Holmes the key facts of the investigation despite a clearly antagonistic relationship between the two. Hooper states that there are two important points: the first is that the body has been categorically identified as that of Emelia Ricoletti, but that the woman in Limehouse was likewise identified as Emelia by both her husband and the cab driver. Watson suggests that the answer may have been twins, but Lestrade informs him that Emelia had no family besides an older brother who predeceased his sister by some years. For the second point, Hooper shows Holmes a smear of blood on Emelia's right index finger; when Watson questions its significance, Hooper informs them it wasn't there earlier. Lestrade then points to the opposite wall, where he notices someone has smeared the word YOU in blood. Holmes, in a reverie, wonders how, with a gunshot through the brain that blew the back of the head clean off, he could have survived; Watson reminds him the victim was a woman. Holmes thanks Lestrade and Hooper for a fascinating case, announcing that he will telegram when he has solved it, then leaves. Watson gives a last-minute advice to Hooper, saying that though clearly the gunshot was the cause of death it would be worthwhile to perform an autopsy as the victim shows clear signs of consumption. Hooper slights him, mocking his sudden perceptiveness with Holmes gone. Watson retorts that his is indeed observant, while Holmes can be surprisingly blind, and comments to Hooper "amazing what one has to do to get ahead in a man's world" before leaving. In the carriage ride back Holmes admits to being puzzled, commenting that the case is leading him into deep waters and to solve it he will need to go deeper still.
Several months pass with no progress on the Ricoletti case. Lestrade visits Holmes at Baker Street to inform him of five new murders that have been blamed on the ghost of Emelia Ricoletti, now called the Bride; Holmes remains uninterested, concentrating instead on trying to understand an astronomical concept. Lestrade informs him that all the men were killed the same way, murdered in their own homes with rice thrown on the floor like a wedding and the word YOU written in blood on the wall. Holmes, however, dismisses the murders as mere copycats, inspired by the extensive press coverage of the Ricoletti case. Holmes calls for Watson, but Lestrade reminds him that Watson moved out some time ago, and that Holmes is alone.
At Watson's home the doctor, sitting down to breakfast, notices his wife is absent. He summons his maid, Jane, who rebuffs his questions with the observation that the couple are rarely at home together, and infuriates Watson with her impudence. She then mentions Watson that she nearly forgot to hand him a telegram, which further annoys Watson as she has done nothing else that morning besides read his new story in The Strand (and challenge him on why she is never included). Watson dismisses her and reads the telegram, which is from Holmes and asks him to come immediately. He quickly realizes they are traveling to visit Holmes' brother Mycroft after Holmes mentions his study of astronomy, which Watson realizes is an attempt to impress his brother.
Arriving at the Diogenes Club, where absolute silence is maintained at all times, Holmes and Watson are directed by the concierge, Wilder, to the Stranger's Room, where Mycroft is eating breakfast. Wilder congratulates Watson on the success of "The Blue Carbuncle", to which Watson clumsily expresses his gratitude. In the Stranger's Room they find the enormously obese Mycroft seated surrounded by a vast array of foods. After greeting the elder Holmes Watson comments that his level of consumption is going to kill him within five years, and is horrified when the Holmes brothers begin to bet on how long it will be before Mycroft dies.
Mycroft asks Holmes about his conclusion in the recent Manor House case, in which a member of the Royal Astronomical Society murdered a rival out of jealously for his discoveries. He needles him by asking if he understood that kind of jealousy, and Holmes, angry, demands to know why Mycroft summoned him. Mycroft warns Holmes that the British way of life is under threat from an invisible, omnipresent army, but refuses to say whom he suspects. He instead tells Holmes that he is referring a case to him, which he wants Holmes to take. Watson asks how they can defeat the enemy if Mycroft won't say anything about them, to which Mycroft replies that they won't: they must lose, because the enemy is right. Holmes agrees to take the case.
The client, Lady Carmichael, arrives at Baker Street that afternoon to ask Holmes for help. She relates how the previous Monday her husband, Sir Eustace Carmichael, received a blank envelope containing five orange pips while at breakfast. The contents clearly shocked Sir Eustace, who announced that they meant death; however, he quickly pretended they meant nothing, and refused any attempts by his wife to investigate the matter further. Holmes inquires whether Sir Eustace had spend time in America, but Lady Carmichael responds that she did not believe he had. She then recounts how two days later her husband awoke in the night, and was paralyzed with fear after believing he saw the Bride in his garden, saying that she had come for him and that his sins had found him out. Lady Carmichael states that she saw nothing that night, but that early that very morning she had seen her husband go out into the labyrinth on the grounds. Following him, she heard singing and found her husband face to face with the ghastly Bride, whom he identified as Emelia Ricoletti. The apparition told Sir Eustace that he would die that night, and when she began to lift her veil he fainted. Lady Carmichael looked down to catch him, and when she looked up the woman had disappeared. Lady Carmichael implies that the name is not familiar to her, and is surprised when Watson recognizes it. Her husband, she says, refuses to talk about the matter and refuses to leave the house. Holmes is pleased by this, as he intends to use Sir Eustace as bait to catch the murderer, a plan which disquiets Lady Carmichael. Holmes instructs her to return home immediately, and assures her that Watson and he will follow on the next train to ensure her husband's safety.
In the Diogenes Club, Mycroft Holmes receives Mary Watson and informs her that his brother has taken the case, assigning her to discretely keep an eye on him.
On the train to the Carmichael estate, Holmes flatly rejects Watson's suggestion that there may be a supernatural element to the case. He tells his companion that there are no ghosts, "save those we make for ourselves".
At the estate Sir Eustace denies his wife's account of the past week, blaming his appearance in the garden on sleepwalking and dismissing the envelope as a "grotesque joke". He insists his wife is nothing but a hysteric prone to fancies, but Holmes rebukes him, insisting Lady Carmichael is highly intelligent and perceptive. When asked about the Ricoletti case, Sir Eustace denies a connection but gives himself away when he refers to Ricoletti as a woman in spite of Holmes never mentioning the fact. Nevertheless he rejects Holmes' help and refuses to speak to him further.
As they leave Holmes tells Watson that Lady Carmichael will sleep alone, and that all the doors and windows of the house will be locked. He predicts that the Bride will attempt to lure Sir Eustace outside and is unsure whether he will follow due to an all-consuming guilt. He reveals that orange pips are a traditional warning of avenging death from America, and that Sir Eustace's guilt must be connected to Emelia Ricoletti. Holmes asks Watson if he has his pistol, and the two prepare to wait for nightfall.
Later that night Holmes and Watson wait near the house in a potting shed for the ghost to appear. Around midnight Sir Eustace and Lady Carmichael go to sleep. To pass the time Watson probes Holmes about his feelings for Lady Carmichael, and for women in general, admitting that he saw the photograph of Irene Adler in Holmes' watch. The conversation makes Holmes increasingly uncomfortable, and he denies any attraction to women whatsoever, claiming that romantic attraction in general is abhorrent to him and his work. Watson continues pressing, determined to find out what made Holmes what he is - to which Holmes replies, "I made me."
The conversation is interrupted when Watson spots the Bride on the terrace. Holmes and Watson race towards the spectre, but it disappears as they approach. Suddenly they hear Sir Eustace scream from upstairs and the sound of breaking glass. Holmes and Watson rush to the house, but finding the door locked they are forced to break a window to enter. Holmes leaves Watson to guard the broken window in case the culprit should attempt to escape that way. Rushing upstairs Holmes notices a trail of blood, and passes a hysterical Lady Carmichael, who accuses him of breaking his promise. Going higher up he finds Sir Eustace lying on the floor in a narrow hallway, stabbed in the chest with a dagger. Another woman screams, and downstairs Watson hears singing and turns around to find the Bride behind him. Running into the foyer, Watson collides with Holmes, who is furious at him for abandoning his post and potentially letting the murderer escape. Watson insists he saw a ghost, but Holmes insists there is no such thing.
Later that night Lestrade arrives with the police. Watson determines that Sir Eustace was stabbed with considerable force, leading Lestrade to assume the killer was a man; however, given the sharpness of the blade, it is also possible the killer was a woman. Watson again insists that he saw Emelia, which Holmes again refuses to believe: he retorts that after eliminating the impossible - the ghost - there is only one suspect with the motive and means to commit the crime, though he notes that the despite the sound of breaking glass he heard earlier the only broken window was the one they entered through. However, Holmes is thrown off guard when Lestrade tells him that a message was attached to the dagger, as there was none when he found the body. Looking again, he is stunned to find a card saying "Miss me?" tied to the handle.
Holmes speaks to Mycroft, who has somehow got hold of the card. Mycroft asks him is he misses his nemesis, Professor Moriarty, whom Holmes presumed to be dead after their encounter at the Reichenbach Falls although his body was never recovered. Mycroft tells him that he's gotten in much deeper than he ever intended, and asks him if he's made a list of everything. Holmes answers yes, but refuses to hand it over until he's finished. He believes Moriarty is trying to distract and derail him: Mycroft agrees, calling Moriarty "the crack in the lens, the fly in the ointment, the virus in the data." Holmes insists he must finish it, and Mycroft warns that if Moriarty has indeed risen again he will certainly seek him out.
Back at Baker Street Sherlock meditates on the case, combing through relevant information in his mind. Inspector Lestrade comes to visit, only to be informed by Mrs Hudson that Holmes hasn't moved nor eaten for two days and that the house has been mobbed by reporters. Both are confused as to why he hasn't explained his solution to the case after claiming there was only one possible suspect, but Mrs Hudson reports Holmes claimed to be "waiting for the Devil." After they leave Holmes opens a case containing a syringe of cocaine and contemplates injecting himself.
As Holmes meditates, Moriarty appears before him. Moriarty implies that he was involved in the murder of Sir Eustace, but insists that Holmes doesn't really care about the crime itself: he only wants to understand how Emelia Ricoletti could have survived her apparent suicide. He taunts Holmes by implying that the case reminds him of another, before taking his gun and shooting himself in the head. Holmes is astonished when Moriarty gets up, seemingly unharmed in spite of the absence of the back of his head. As Holmes struggles with how it could be possible, the begins to shake violently.
In 2014, Sherlock awakens on the plane as it lands on his return from exile after killing Charles Augustus Magnussen. Mycroft, John, and Mary enter the plane, and Holmes reveals that the Victorian period was his attempt to use the Ricoletti case to solve how Jim Moriarty may have returned. Mycroft is upset by this, and demands to see a list of everything Sherlock has taken. He reveals that Sherlock's "Mind Palace" technique is fueled by drugs, which upsets and surprises John. Sherlock nevertheless insists he needs to go back. He hears Watson ask him "morphine or cocaine?", but John denies saying anything.
Holmes awakens on the floor of his rooms as Watson enters. He insists that Moriarty has visited him, but Watson reminds Holmes that Moriarty is dead. Watson demands to know what drug Holmes has been using, and he admits to having injected a solution of cocaine. Watson is furious with Holmes, but they are interrupted by a boy with a telegram from Mary. After reading it, Holmes insists they go after Mary immediately, saying she may be in grave danger.
The pair take a cab to a ruined church in the country, where they meet with Mary, who believes she has found the solution to the case. Mary reveals that she has been working for Mycroft. Descending into the crypt, they interrupt a meeting of a secret society cloaked in purple hoods, and Holmes explains his theory of the crime. Mrs Ricoletti faked her suicide using a body double, allowing her to kill her husband. As she was already dying of consumption, she afterwards allowed herself to be shot so that her corpse could be switched with the one in the morgue. He reveals she was part of a secret society of suffragettes, of which Hooper and Watson's maid are also members. They tell Holmes that Sir Eustace had wooed Emelia in America, but had abandoned her, and that her husband had also mistreated her. The women used the identity of the "Bride" to kill men who had wronged them and create terror among the populace. Holmes deduces that the organizer of the crime was in fact Lady Carmichael, who was friends with Mrs Ricoletti and knew about Sir Eustaces' past. As a veiled Bride approaches, Holmes assumes she is Lady Carmichael. However, when the Bride lifts her veil, "she" is in fact Moriarty, who insists that none of what is occurring is real and chides Holmes for his dramatic imagination.
Sherlock awakens in a hospital, and insists that he must find where Mrs Ricoletti was buried to finish the case. He insists on digging up the grave to prove that Emelia's body double was buried with her. John insists that Sherlock is only doing this because as an addict, he needs a fix, and leaves. Hours later, Sherlock, Mycroft, and Lestrade uncover the coffin, which to Sherlock's frustration contains only one corpse. Sherlock jumps back into the empty grave, insisting that she must have been buried underneath the coffin. As he digs, he hears the corpse begin to whisper "do not forget me", and it jumps out of the coffin to attack him.
Holmes awakens on a stony ledge above the Reichenbach Falls, with Moriarty standing over him. Moriarty informs Holmes that he's trapped in his own mind palace, a place where Moriarty cannot die because of Holmes' obsession with him. Moriarty tells him that this is where their story will always end, together, and the two begin to fight. Moriarty quickly gains the upper hand, and threatens to throw them both over the falls; however, he is interrupted by Watson, who draws a gun on Moriarty and forces him to kneel. Watson reveals that as a version of John, he knows when he's in a story. Moriarty insults the two, prompting Watson to kicks Moriarty over the edge. He tells Holmes that he needs to wake up. Holmes decides to do so by taking a leap of faith, and leaps into the falls.
Sherlock finally awakens on the plane, determined to defeat the returned Moriarty. He insists on returning to Baker Street, both convinced that Moriarty is actually dead and sure of what he is going to do next. As they leave, Mycroft collects Holmes' drug list and his notebook.
In Victorian London, Watson reacts with astonishment to the story Holmes has just told him, a conjecture of how the pair might look if they lived in the future. Watson is incredulous over the idea of flying machines and telephones, and teases Holmes that he must have upped his dosage of cocaine. Holmes asks Watson if he had finished writing up the Ricoletti case, and requests that he modify the ending to indicate Holmes had never solved it; Watson indicates that he will call it "The Adventure of the Abominable Bride". Holmes, pleased, walks over to the window and looks out onto a 21st-century Baker Street.
(None of which apply significantly as the entirety of the episode is in Sherlock's "mind palace")
- The sign of the opium den contains the simplified Chinese character 马 (traditionally 馬, meaning "horse"). Simplified Chinese was not introduced until 1956.
- Mycroft Holmes refers to Moriarty as "the virus in the data"; this sense of virus was not used until the 1970s. (At this point, Sherlock was aware the Victorian era was fake, so not really that odd )
- Moriarty refers to dead as the new "sexy", a word not used in this sense until the 1920s.
References to the Holmes canon
- Watson's opening dialogue and the scenario in which he meets Holmes are taken from the opening of A Study in Scarlet.
- The letters stabbed into the mantle are a reference to "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual", where Watson notes that Holmes keeps "his unanswered correspondence transfixed by a jack-knife into the very centre of his wooden mantelpiece."
- Holmes recognizes Lestrade's footsteps as being "lighter than Jones, heavier than Gregson." Inspector Tobias Gregson appears in four Holmes stories; Jones could refer to either Athelney Jones, who appeared in The Sign of the Four, or Peter Jones, from "The Adventure of the Red-Headed League".
- Holmes' line "My Boswell is learning" is a reference to a famous line in "A Scandal in Bohemia", where Holmes refers to Watson in his role as his biographer by saying "I am lost without my Boswell." This is an allusion to James Boswell, a famous English biographer. The line is also referenced in "The Great Game", when Sherlock tells John "I'd be lost without my blogger."
- Emelia and Thomas Ricoletti are a reference to "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual", where among Holmes' older cases Watson refers to one of "Ricoletti of the club foot and his abominable wife." The sign on the opium den Thomas Ricoletti frequents is also a reference to this, as it says 马蹄内翻足, the Chinese word for club foot.
- Watson's maid, Jane, is a reference to "A Scandal in Bohemia", where Holmes deduces Watson has a careless maid due to the scrapes on his shoes: Watson confirms this, saying "As to Mary Jane, she is incorrigible, and my wife has given her notice..."
- The telegram Holmes sends Watson ("Come at once if convenient...") is taken verbatim one he sends in "The Adventure of the Creeping Man". The same telegram is referenced in "A Study in Pink".
- Mycroft's weight is an exaggeration of his corpulence in the canon. His line "to any one who wishes to study mankind this is the spot," and the subsequent dialogue regarding the Manor-House case are taken from "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter". The line "you see, but you do not observe" is taken from a line Holmes says to Watson in "A Scandal in Bohemia".
- Mycroft Holmes is told Mr Melas is waiting to see him, a reference to the client of "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter".
- The five orange pips sent to Sir Eustace are a reference to "The Five Orange Pips", where they likewise serve as a crucial clue connecting the criminals to a murky past in America; similarly, however, in that story Sherlock Holmes discovers this too late to save the victim.
- The quote "The game is afoot!" comes from "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange". This line is also referenced in "A Study in Pink".
- Holmes keeping a photograph of Irene Adler in his watch is a reference to "A Scandal in Bohemia", where he asks for a photograph of her as a reward for solving the case.
- When discussing Sir Eustace's murder with Watson Lestrade Holmes references a famous line from The Sign of the Four: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
- The "Which is it today, morphine or cocaine?" dialogue between Holmes and Watson comes word-for-word from the opening of The Sign of the Four.
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- It seems that Moriarty's "data" in Sherlock's head is either sentient or is a manifestation of the drugs he took to enter his Victorian dream, trying to kill him.
- The word 'abominable' in the title appears to be used in the Victorian (and earlier) sense of a thing which contravenes and is abhorrent to nature. This is rather stronger than the general modern usage.
- The Bride's song is "The Maid of the Mill", published in 1885 with music by Stephen Adams and lyrics by Hamilton Aide. The song concerns a forlorn man remembering after many years his dead lover's plea to remember her when she has gone.
- Benedict Cumberbatch - Sherlock Holmes
- Martin Freeman - Dr John Watson
- Una Stubbs - Mrs Hudson
- Rupert Graves - Inspector Lestrade
- Mark Gatiss - Mycroft Holmes
- Andrew Scott - Professor Moriarty
- Louise Brealey - Hooper
- Amanda Abbington - Mary Watson
- Jonathan Aris - Anderson
- Yasmine Akram - Janine Donlevy
- David Nellist - Stamford
- Catherine McCormack - Lady Carmichael
- Tim McInnerny - Sir Eustace Carmichael
- Natasha O'Keeffe - Emelia Ricoletti
- Tim Barlow - Wilder
- Gerald Kyd - Thomas Ricoletti
- Daniel Fearn - Newsvendor
- Stephanie Hyam - Jane
- Damian Samuels - Giles
- Charles Furness - PC Rance
- Adam Greaves-Neal - Billy
- Richard Sutton - Diamond
- Ben Crowe - Driver
"The Abominable Bride" was released on iTunes and Amazon.com on January 7, 2016 with the Amazon version coming with a not-yet-named bonus feature. It was released on Blu-ray and DVD on January 12, 2016.
- Fathom Events press release: "The Abominable Bride" to be shown in theaters and on PBS Masterpiece, published October 26, 2015.
- Sherlock - The Abominable Bride, 25th November, 2015, bbc.co.uk.