"John, I thought you said you were getting rid of the moustache." © BBC
“Watson, there’s another easter egg there!” © BBC

It’s been more than a day since The Abominable Bride premiered, and man, was it a trippy ride. So many things happened during the episode that it was hard to keep up, but one of the best things about it was the amount of in-jokes that the writers inserted into the script for fans of the show and the books.

While it was hard to miss this incarnation of Sherlock finally saying “Elementary, my dear Watson”, there were a lot of other easter eggs that were more subtle.


1. John’s narration

“Under such circumstances I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained.”

The episode opens up with John Watson narrating the events that led him to Sherlock Holmes, and like before, is based on A Study in Scarlet. What many might not know is that some of the narration comes straight from the first chapter of the novel.

2. The Criterion 

In Bride, Stamford and John have a drink at the Criterion, a real restaurant that still stands in Piccadilly Circus today. The original stories had Stamford and Dr Watson meet at the very same place on New Year’s Day in 1881. A plaque has even been placed at the Criterion to mark its importance in literary canon.

3. The Strand Magazine

John stops a magazine seller to find out how his latest story, The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle (a real Holmes story!) is selling. This is where it gets a bit meta, because Watson has published his story in The Strand Magazine, the very same magazine that published some of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous tales.

4.”Blame it on the illustrator, he’s out of control.”

Poor Watson, no one recognises him without the moustache. ©BBC

Sidney Paget was the real life illustrator for The Strand Magazine. He essentially created an image of the detective that’s still the defining visual reference for Holmes today. However, the deerstalker hat and Inverness cape that Holmes wears in his illustrations were never actually mentioned by Conan Doyle.

5. 221B Baker Street

The set designers did a fantastic job of finding Victorian equivalents to some of the familiar features of 221B, including a stag head with ear horn (instead of a bull skull with headphones) and a famous Victorian print titled “All Is Vanity” (instead of the modern painting of a skull).

But the best visual gag is a more subtle one. The kitchen has now been transformed into a study, and the wallpaper is scarlet, making it…a study in scarlet (groan).

6. Waltz for John and Mary

While Mary confronts John for not telling her where he is, Sherlock attempts to block out the sounds of their argument by playing the violin. The tune he plays is “Waltz for John and Mary”, which he composed as a wedding present for the couple in Season 3’s The Sign of Three.

7. “My Boswell is learning.”

Boswell was a Scottish biographer whose most famous work was a biography of literary giant Samuel Johnson. His name is now a term for someone who is a constant companion and observer, which is why Holmes calls Watson his Boswell in A Scandal in Bohemia.

8. Ricoletti and his Abominable Bride

Sherlock special

The abominable bride and the name Ricoletti come from The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual when Holmes is recounting some old cases that he was unable to solve. The husband is referred to as “Ricoletti of the club-foot”, but sadly the club-foot detail has been left out. Maybe it was too much?

9. Why is Mycroft Holmes so fat?

In the BBC series, Sherlock keeps making jabs at Mycroft’s weight. Surprisingly, this is not just due to sibling rivalry. In The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter, Conan Doyle describes Mycroft as follows:

“Heavily built and massive, there was a suggestion of uncouth physical inertia in the figure…”

Since Bride is basically a trip into Sherlock’s mind, it’s not unlikely that he would endow a fictional version of his brother with a stupendous girth.

10. The Five Orange Pips

five orange pips
Worst. Present. Ever. © BBC

The Five Orange Pips was a story that was previously referenced way back in Season 1, during The Great Game. Here, we get five actual orange seeds, and just like in the original story, they are meant as a warning that the recipient’s death is imminent.

11. Those “abominable bride” costumes”

The Five Orange Pips also involves the KKK, which is probably why the “abominable brides” at the end are wearing costumes that are anything but subtle. Unfortunately, this also means that Moffat is equating the suffragette movement with one of the most vitriolic hate groups in history. Was that even necessary? In what way would anyone think that was a good idea?!

12. “The game is afoot!” 

We’re more used to hearing Sherlock say “The game is on!”, but the original phrase used in The Adventure of the Abbey Grange is “The game is afoot!” It seems only fitting that the original is uttered by the detective in a Victorian setting.

13. Irene Adler

Always The Woman, never the bride. © BBC

Holmes apparently has a picture of Irene Adler in his pocket watch, which may not be very far off from the literary canon. At the end of A Scandal in Bohemia, the detective asks for a picture of her as payment for his services, and it isn’t too much of a leap to imagine him keeping it somewhere close to him.

14. The seven percent solution

The Sign of Four opens up with a pretty graphic description of Sherlock Holmes…well. Shooting up a seven percent solution of cocaine. If you thought that detail was too much, don’t blame Gatiss or Moffat for it because it came straight from the novel.

15. The Reichenbach Falls

Back during The Great Game in Season 1, Moriarty took on the persona of Richard Brook in a bid to prove that Sherlock was a fake. The name “Richard Brook” is derived from its more recognisable German equivalent, “Reichenbach”.

The Reichenbach Falls are where Conan Doyle decided to set the confrontation between Holmes and Moriarty in The Final Problem. “The Reichenbach Falls” is also the name of a painting that Sherlock and John retrieved in the BBC series, which felt like a bit of a letdown.

Still, for those who wanted to see Cumberbatch and Andrew Scott duking it out on a cliff near a waterfall, you’ve finally got it. The scene itself was quite nicely shot, and it was clear that the director drew some inspiration from Sidney Paget’s original illustrations.

Did we miss anything out? Let us know in the comments!