‘All bets are off’: The creators of Sherlock on sensation, spoilers and season five

Sherlock spoilers inevitable

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The first thing you immediately noticed as Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss stepped onto the platform at the Cambridge Union on Friday was the excellent relationship between the two men.

Bantering and bouncing off each other, their quick-witted remarks had the packed audience laughing at every sentence, eager for whatever tidbits of information they could receive.

The popularity of these figures was clear: almost every question addressed to the pair began with an awe-filled proclamation of “I’m a huge fan”. With many audience members still slightly shell-shocked after the dramatic series finale last Sunday, many questions focussed on the future of the show, while also attempting to address the clear social media frenzy surrounding the operation, and how much is owed by creators in terms of representation – something for which the creators have come under fire on social media from in recent times.

Gatiss and Moffat laughed knowingly at the question they have likely been asked in a hundred different interviews over the past week, simply “Season Five?”. Their desire to continue the show is entirely clear – they consistently gushed about the magic of Conan Doyles work, the unused stories still available at their disposal to be tweaked into a modern day adventure. But will season five happen? Unknown. Scheduling difficulties, not desire, are clearly the reason – a given due to the international acclaim of the stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

The role of social media seems to be presented to almost every speaker at the Union in recent times, and for good reason. Yet the social media frenzy surrounding Sherlock and Doctor Who meant that this was even more pointed.

Gatiss drew on Orwellian influence to address the issue: “He should have written on his gravestone: I told you so.” Social media, they argued, is a “huge double-edged sword.”  The following of the show is a clear advantage, but in some instances, Gatiss said, advanced more into outrage or anger as opposed to debate “You’re with us or against us… people get disproportionately furious about something that doesn’t matter that much.”

Just one example of the social media anger at the past Sherlock season

The issue of the representation of women in the show came up, with one audience member asking if they agreed that women were in fundamentally lesser roles or were murdered or talked down to. The pair had a unique way of addressing concerns seriously, whilst also making a joke at the same time – perhaps detracting from the validity of such a question.

Simply saying “I don’t think it is true”, Gatiss went on to discuss the difficulty of immensely popular programmes such as Sherlock becoming a prism through which all areas of representation have to be seen – and that their primary purpose was to create an entertaining television show, not to “tick all the boxes”.

When speaking briefly to The Tab before the talk, Moffat and Gatiss presented the exact same persona they did in front of a large audience: friendly, easy going, and enthused setting the entire press room at ease.

In a change of tune from the in-depth grilling of the show they received from the Chamber, we asked which Sherlock character would make the best Doctor Who companion? After all, it is rare that the creators of two of the most acclaimed British shows are such close friends.

Moffat immediately replied “Molly … I think she’s used to accommodating a delusional egomaniac”.

“The doctor would be much nicer to her… after years of dealing with the insanity of Sherlock, the relative kindness of the Doctor, the same level of unavailability, emotional unavailability. But spending time with the Doctor might even cure her of the miserable time she has had with Sherlock Holmes.”

Gatiss, however, expressed his inner Doctor Who fan: “I’d have to say Mycroft just so I can get into the Tardis… that’s not fictional, that’s just trying to get into the Tardis.” Maybe we will be seeing Mycroft Holmes stepping into the Tardis sometime soon – it has to be easy to organise if your co-writer runs it!

What was clearest from this encounter was that the exciting relationship between the two men is the primary reason for the show’s success – they bounce so well off one another, almost finish each others thoughts (as a game of Mr and Mrs suggested) and are incredibly intelligent.

After all, they spin the webs that tie us in knots and make us dizzy every single episode.