Benedict Cumberbatch has shrugged off criticism of his female co-star’s nude scene in TV’s latest season of Sherlock.

The War Horse star said that while it may be an effort to sell papers, it also helps the drama about a modern-day Sherlock Holmes in which he co-stars with Martin Freeman.

Benedict told the US Television Critics Association: “It’s great publicity, isn’t it?

“I think there’s an awful lot of support for the way that we did it (the scene) and the taste that we did it with. And if it creates more interest in the programme, thank you very much for that.”

In last week’s episode, A Scandal in Belgravia, Holmes has a close encounter with a whip-smart dominatrix, Irene Adler (Lara Pulver), who gets under his skin by flashing much of hers.

There were claims the scene was too racy to be screened before the watershed, when children are more likely to be watching TV.

“It’s not supposed to be a source of stimulation for the audience,” Benedict said. “It’s supposed to throw (Holmes’s) radar off, which is exactly what it does.”

He played it coy on whether the hit series about Conan Doyle’s great detective and sidekick Dr Watson (Freeman) will return for a third season, pretending to seek legal counsel when asked if he would sign up for more Sherlock.

The Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy star also consulted another fictional lawyer when queried about his role in the forthcoming Star Trek sequel from filmmaker JJ Abrams.

“I’m just getting my head around the fact it’s happened… I’ll give you my headline on it, which is, ‘I’m over the moon.'”