From: 2.1, Elementary 6.19
Title: “The Geek Interpreter”
Reference: in BBC Sherlock, The Geek Interpreter is one of a quick chain of plays on words from canon mysteries that we see breeze by in an illustration of Sherlock’s busy-ness. In this case, it’s a group of young comic book fans that notice the comics are coming true.
In Elementary’s most recent ep of this same title, we watch a brilliant mathematician interpret some data under duress, and her lovelorn PhD advisor hire Holmes & Watson to find her and her kidnappers.
Both shows use this title as a nod to original canon story “The Greek Interpreter,” one of the most chilling and (in my educated and well-read opinion) underrated stories in the canon. Though the ending is pretty anticlimactic–good on the Grenada series for making that right.
From: ep. 2.1, Elementary 6.11
Line/mention: in Sherlock, when Watson expresses excitement at his blog getting hits, Sherlock scoffs. Watson retorts, “this is your living, Sherlock, not 240 types of tobacco ash.” To which Sherlock replies, “243.”
In Elementary, Irregular member The Nose mentions reading Sherlock’s “monograph on the 140 varieties of ash,” and pointing out that his differences in Trichinopoly and Birdseye ash are wrong.
Reference: we first hear of Holmes’ monograph on the 243 types of tobacco ash in the very first story, novel-length A Study in Scarlet. It is mentioned more throughout the canon, including in The Sign of Four, where he declares,
“To the trained eye there is as much difference between the black ash of a Trichinopoly and the white fluff of bird’s-eye as there is between a cabbage and a potato.”
From: Elementary 6.2
Line: SHERLOCK: It was easier to know it than to explain how 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.
Reference: this quote in the Elementary ep is Sherlock’s response to an incredulous FBI agent (no spoilers–this ep aired recently), and this exact same quote, verbatim, was uttered by Holmes to an incredulous Watson, in one of the earliest moments in the duo’s relationship of detective and record-keeper. This exchange took place in the very first Sherlock Holmes story, the novel-length A Study in Scarlet, after Watson couldn’t quite believe how Holmes saw the commissionaire’s situation just by glancing at him out a window.
From: ep. 3.1
Character name: Sebastian Moran
Reference: In the original canon, Sebastian Moran is a colonel, not a peer of the realm, but he shares the distinction in this episode (very nearly named after the original story: “Empty House” = “Empty Hearse”) of being the central villain of the first story after Holmes’ return from his supposedly fatal end at the Reichenbach Fall.
Moran is one of several suspected terrorists Sherlock calls his “rats,” so when we find a bomb set up in a tunnel called Sumatra, we also of course hear the echo of a never-penned, only-mentioned adventure called the “Giant Rat of Sumatra.”
From: ep. 3.2
Event (culprit): The wedding photographer is the (attempted) murderer.
Reference: Well this isn’t from the original canon (though the name of the murderer [Jonathan Small] and the act of Sherlock catching him by handcuffing him to luggage is indeed from the original namesake of this episode, The Sign of Four). However, this particular plot point was so uncannily like an episode from an earlier TV series, one very Sherlockian in nature, that I can’t help but think Mofftiss were inspired by it and lifted it.
In episode 1.4 of stellar TV series Lie to Me, the reason Cal Lightman, micro-expression expert, can’t see malicious intent on any of the wedding guests in the wedding videos after the groom has been shot, is that the would-be murderer is actually behind the camera. The plot there involves a jilted jealous past love, whereas in Sherlock 3.2 it involves revenge against Major Sholto (another character name from the canon original).
From: ep. 2.1 (and also brought up frequently in the rest of Seasons 2 and 3)
Event (costume): Sherlock, in an attempt to hide his face from paparazzi, grabs a random hat from a costume rack as he leaves a building. It’s a deerstalker. He mutters, “I’m a private detective; the last thing I need is a public image.” The resulting pictures of him in the hat become iconic and famous.
Reference: Though in the canon, Holmes only wears hats like this when in the
Original canon illustrator Sidney Paget was a big part of the reason why Holmes has been pictured in this hat since way back then.
country, as is normal for a Victorian gentleman (and the hat is only mentioned in Doyle’s words once, as an “ear-flapped travelling cap”), the most famous image of Sherlock Holmes in global culture is that of his profile in the deerstalker hat (and meerschaum pipe, which is also not from canon). There’s a glorious line in ep. 2.3, when John is admonishing Sherlock about not being careful enough with his fame. He says, “That’s not a deerstalker anymore; it’s a Sherlock Holmes hat.” And he’s right.
From: ep. 4.3
Characters: The Three Garridebs
Reference: Actually, the only reference was to the title of the same name. In the ep, the three men named Garrideb are dangled outside the prison window by evil Holmes sister Eurus, as one of the deadly puzzles she poses to Sherlock in the Saw-like long string of deadly puzzles. The orginal canon tale is a bit more involved and complex, as it follows an American ostensibly trying to find a third man named Garrideb in order to claim an inheritance from an odd will. What follows is rather a chase tale of derring-do, resulting in a counterfeit scheme stymied, Dr. Watson wounded, and what’s probably the most tender and loving description of Holmes’ reaction to same that’s possible.
“You’re not hurt, Watson? For God’s sake, say that you are not hurt!”
It was worth a wound—it was worth many wounds—to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single minded service culminated in that moment of revelation.
From: Elementary ep. 5.18
Character Name/s: Black Peter, John Neligan
Reference: “The Adventure of Black Peter” (canon original) shares a few components with this ep: 1) there’s a pirate called Black Peter; 2) some of the evidence in the central murder case involves blade strikes strong enough to go through the body, implying a very strong arm. In the story, the body is pinned to the wall with a harpoon. In the ep, it’s deep sword stabs. (Also: remember the scene in Sherlock ep. 2.2, with Holmes coming home, blood-covered, harpoon in hand? That’s nearly directly from the original); 3) a subplot involving a log book and someone named John Neligan, intertwined w the murder scene but not a cause nor an effect.
From: Elementary ep. 5.17
Character name: Lady Frances (Carfax)
Reference: “The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax” is one of the most underrated, underplayed mysteries of the whole canon, and on of my personal favorites. It involves a kidnapped lady and has one of the most chilling “gotcha” moments at the end, of any of the canon stories.
Though there are twists and turns in this ep, the Lady Frances is not a woman, but a Carfax Desperado guitar, described as the “Stradivarius of guitars.” Which of course is another reference to Sherlock Holmes’ musical instrument of choice.
From: ep. 2.3
Character name: Gregson
Reference: in this ep, you can only hear the name Gregson overlapped by other dialogue in Lestrade’s protest of his use of Sherlock to his superior, when he says “I’m not the only senior officer who’s done this; Gregson–” before he gets cut off. We never see Gregson or hear mention of him (her?) again. In fact, I have long taken Lestrade’s first name (Greg) as an Easter egg of sorts, referring to Gregson and Lestrade in one character.
In the canon, Gregson and Lestrade are two of the best of the Scotland Yarders that work with Holmes on his cases, or bring them to him. In A Study in Scarlet, Holmes describes the two as competetive “as a pair of professional beauties,” and neither of which would admit to needing or admiring Holmes for what he does for them.
Later in the canon, there are others that Holmes comes to respect, and a lovely moment in “The Six Napoleons” wherein Lestrade tells Holmes just what he thinks of him.