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Sherlock: “The Lying Detective” Canon References

All the Canon references in “The Lying Detective.” And yes, spoilers!

 

 

  • “The Lying Detective” is based off the short story “The Adventure of the Dying Detective.” In both, Holmes lays a trap and makes himself terribly ill so Culverton Smith will confess to murdering others while trying to kill the detective. Other features of the short story are Mrs. Hudson forcing Holmes to see Watson (though not with a melodramatic car chase) and Watson falling for Holmes’s masquerade. Of course, this plot brings in Holmes’s drug experimentation. In “The Reigate Squires,” Holmes actually has a mental breakdown. Continuing to play with the storyline, Watson flat-out asks, “Are you faking?” Holmes replies that he’s “Not a malingerer.” In the story, he’s such a professional malingerer that he’s considering writing a monograph on the subject. In both, he babbles deliriously, though in the story it’s an act. Continuing to play with the story’s tropes, Sherlock actually goes to the hospital…for charity. In both stories, Holmes switches the poison for something harmless but comes out of it malnourished and ill. In the story he has Watson eavesdrop since there are no recording devices. This plot seems inspired by a single concept – the man who confesses to the drugged, dying, and dead. Ironically he loves confessing…a good thing since the electronics are inadmissible.
  • The TD-12 chemical Culverton Smith pumped through the veins of his friends and family to make them forget may appear as a plot point. It most resembles Ret-Con from the Doctor Who show Mentally debilitating drugs with science-fiction powers are the culprits in “The Adventure of the Creeping Man” and “The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot.”
  • An unknown person sentenced to death with Holmes trying to work out who is from The Valley of Fear.
  • By this point, Holmes’s game of discerning many clues about people is commonplace. However, this time he’s so manic, he’s lost track of how he sees it all. The first adventure, A Study in Scarlet, suggests he’s always like this, as he says, “It was easier to know it than to explain why I knew it. If you were asked to prove that two and two made four, you might find some difficulty, and yet you are quite sure of the fact.”
  • “Your life is not your own: Keep your hands off it” comes from “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane,” in which Holmes also suspects a hopeless female client of planning suicide and talks her out of it.
  • Watson notes that “everything’s about Sherlock,” a metafictional nod to his role as sidekick.
  • Holmes sometimes communicates by spelling words in Morse code…though he doesn’t walk in circles to write “bollocks” to his brother.
  • Sherlock throws Faith’s gun in a pond, something seen in several cases with a vanished murder weapon.
  • Sherlock’s drug-addled tirade at 221B was Shakespeare’s Henry V: “I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot.” There’s an obvious reason it’s a good Holmes quote.
  • Sherlock Holmes does keep his own handcuffs in the stories.
  • Sherlock notes that in capturing the serial killer “my life will have been worth it.” He expresses similar thoughts in “The Final Problem.”
  • Sherlock hugs Smith to take his phone. While he doesn’t do that in the stories, he borrows pencils, accepts tobacco, finagles handwriting samples, and so on to investigate his adversaries.
  • Smith’s employee doesn’t believe he’s Watson, in a metafiction joke. Everyone loves the blog, apparently.
  • Sherlock considers his “iron chain of reasoning” to be the most important. “Surely my whole chain of reasoning cannot have been false,” he protests in A Study in Scarlet. He also uses the phrase in “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons.”
  • Blessington the poisoner with five suspects references a criminal evading his fellow gang members in “The Resident Patient.”
  • Holmes references a case at Draycliff House with “ten suspects, all guilty.” There was a radio play where everyone in a locked house tried to murder one victim.
  • The “murder at the zoo” with a killer orangutan nods to Poe’s “Murder in the Rue Morgue” or “The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger.” There’s also “The Adventure of the Creeping Man” with monkey serum.
  • Public sparring about the crime between Holmes and the criminal is common in the series and related films.
  • HH Holmes is Smith’s favorite serial killer. He was America’s first famous one, who stalked the fairgrounds of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Thus he was more coincidence than namesake.
  • The book Faith hides the letter in is by Lavinia Smith, the loving aunt of Sarah Jane Smith in classic Doctor Who.
  • Smith hides deaths in the hospital – in “The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax,” one body is buried with another.
  • Watson discusses Holmes’s concept of shooting the wall and stabbing correspondence with a jackknife, both famous in “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual.” However, this time, he and Mrs. Hudson discover a reason – passionate frustration. The correspondence he finds is Mary’s letter.
  • Hudson calls Mycroft a reptile. This instantly conjures the imagery from “The Case of Charles Augustus Milverton”: “Do you feel a creeping, shrinking sensation, Watson, when you stand before the serpents in the Zoo and see the slithery, gliding, venomous creatures, with their deadly eyes and wicked, flattened faces?”
  • A villain built secret doors to dodge the police guards in “The Adventure of the Norwood Builder.”
  • Irene Adler returns (sight unseen) and both men call her “the woman.”
  • Holmes notes he “Caught a triple poisoner in High Wickham.” This may nod to the line from The Sign of Four: “I assure you that the most winning woman I ever knew was hanged for poisoning three little children for their insurance-money, and the most repellant man of my acquaintance is a philanthropist who has spent nearly a quarter of a million upon the London poor.” Of course, Culverton Smith fits as the latter.
  • A husband says his wife is possessed and channeling Satan. Of course, Holmes always disproves such cases.
  • Siân Brooke plays Euros Holmes…named for the East wind. Of course, the concept of a threatening east wind (along with flashbacks to Sherlock’s childhood with his dog) featured in season three. The line of the scary east wind, repeated several times, is from “His Last Bow,” a story that takes place on the eve of World War I: “There’s an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it’s God’s own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.” This metaphor of trouble from the east means the war.
  • Euros was said to bring bad luck and, more specifically, rain – which perhaps explains the wondered-at promo image of Sherlock and John’s flooded Baker Street flat for season four. The sheet music in the photo reads “Miss Me?”
  • The term Sherrinford keeps floating around. Could Sherrinford be the facility where Euros was being kept? Or her doctor? Or her middle name? It could also be that third brother everyone suspects. As Sherlock points out in this episode, everyone always stops at three.
  • At the end of season finale “His Last Vow,” as Sherlock and John are saying goodbye for what could be the last time, the detective tells his friend “the east wind takes us all in the end.” Mary demands of Moriarty, “How can he be back?” to which John replies, “Well if he is, he’d better wrap up warm. There’s an east wind coming.” It’s notable that Euros uses the “Miss Me?” taunt to Sherlock.
  • The words describing the last sibling like “the other one” are so carefully vague that it’s not completely a shock that the last sibling is a sister. It’s odd Watson makes this assumption as this is the very deduction Sherlock gets wrong about him in “A Study in Pink.”

If you enjoyed this, I recommend Sherlock: Every Canon Reference You May Have Missed in BBC’s Series 1-3 now in Kindle and Paperback.

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