After a near three-year wait (not including last year’s one-off special The Abominable Bride), Sherlock returned to UK television last night with a bang.
Season 4 of the BBC One series kicked off on New Year’s Day with the 90-minute episode The Six Thatchers and overnight ratings show 8.1M viewers tuned in to watch the anticipated return of Benedict Cumberbatch’s eccentric detective along with sidekick Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman), making it yesterday’s most-watched show of the day. Rave reviews claim the wait was definitely worth it but yesterday’s episode was, however, down about 300K viewers in the overnights compared to last year’s one-off Victorian era special Sherlock: The Abominable Bride. It was also down 1.1M from Season 3’s opener The Empty Hearse, which aired on New Year’s Day in 2014 and remains the show’s highest-rated episode to date.
The Six Thatchers, which also aired yesterday in the U.S. on Masterpiece, picks up following the events of the Season 3 finale His Last Vow, which saw Sherlock exiled from Britain very briefly before being called back as a mysterious “Did you miss me?” message from arch-villain Moriarty appeared all over the UK. It’s packed with modern twists on Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective and Watson, as well as Watson’s wife Mary (Amanda Abbington) and their new baby.
Loosely based on Doyle’s book The Adventure of the Six Napoleons, the episode sees Sherlock wait to see where Moriarty will make his posthumous move. One mysterious case in particular baffles Scotland Yard, but Sherlock is more interested in a seemingly-trivial detail. Why is someone destroying images of the late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher? Is there a madman on the loose? Or is there a much darker purpose at work? Something with its roots deep in Mary Watson’s past.
Produced by Hartswood Films, The Six Thatchers is directed by Rachel Talalay and written by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, who both exec produce. Series four will be delivered in weekly installments followed by The Lying Detective on January 8 and the finale, The Final Problem, on January 15.