Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch on bromance, babies and the big screen as the hit BBC1 show returns for a fourth series

Anticipation is high for series four of Sherlock after last year’s Victorian-themed episode left us with countless questions. Is Moriarty really back from the dead? What will happen when Mary and John’s baby is born? And will Sherlock ever escape his mind palace?

TV Times went on set, where Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch revealed what’s in store for his detective character and Watson (Martin Freeman)…

We’re delighted Sherlock is back! What can we expect from the new series?
There’s lots of be excited about because there are huge pay offs in this series. I can’t give anything away, but the audience will get to see things they wouldn’t necessarily expect, even for Sherlock. Each episode feels very different too, but you have to watch all three – they’re fine branches in the jungle of Sherlock and you have to keep swinging from one to the next to really understand what’s going on. The rewards are massive.”

How did you react when you first read the scripts?
Reading them for the first time is always amazing but the scripts were very, very late this year. I was filming Doctor Strange in America, saying, ‘Please, you really have to send them to me now, I don’t have time to learn my lines!’”

How do John and Sherlock cope with John and Mary’s baby?
Sherlock’s reaction is mild indifference. He’s not quite as in love with babies as I am, let’s put it like that! He’s got a lot going on, he can’t stick around to change many nappies. But he does have a deep affection for the child, because it belongs to two people he cares a lot about.”

Is it true this is the darkest series yet?
I’d say it probably is, but the show is definitely not going to lose its trademark humour. The scripts switch tone in the most precariously brilliant way, it’s incredible how some scenes are really high stakes, but then they make you laugh out loud a moment later.”

Toby Jones plays the new villain this year, Culverton Smith. What can you tell us about him?
It’s beautiful and brilliant working with Toby. He’s an old friend and a phenomenal actor at the height of his powers – wait until you see what he does in Sherlock, it’s extraordinary.”

There have been worrying rumours that this series will be the last… say it isn’t so?
“I never have to be persuaded to do a new series, we just need to make sure we keep it fresh and do things with the show that we haven’t done before, otherwise there’s no point. It’s all to be discussed – in the future we might do one-offs or a film, or another series, but in a few years’ time. Who knows?”

 We like the sound of a Sherlock movie – could it work?
“The thought of transposing it scares me a little bit because although it sounds very old fashioned, I like the idea of a family sitting around a television set watching the show on the night it airs.

“I know lots of people watch on iPlayer, but our viewing figures show that the series is still a phenomenal event and people do tune in. A film is a very different thing. But then think of the volume of people in the same room for a film – we’ve had screenings where it’s been wild!”

Sherlock series four premieres on New Year’s Day on BBC1