Mark Gatiss and the Development of “The Empty Hearse”

First appeared in as “Mark Gatiss dan perjalanannya menulis ‘The Empty Hearse’“.

Mark Gatiss and the Development of “The Empty Hearse”


After being broadcast last January in the UK (on BBC) and the US (PBS), now Sherlock’s much talked about third season (S3) is coming to Asia via AXN Asia.

The BBC series adapted from Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective novels has a set of three writers – Steven Moffat (co-creator), Stephen Thompson (co-writer) and Mark Gatiss (also playing, as an actor, Sherlock Holme’s brother Mycroft Holmes).

Gatiss, who co-created the series with Moffat, previously gave us gems such as “The Great Game” episode (S1) and “The Hounds Of Baskerville” (S2). In S3, Gatiss continues his work as an actor and pens the opening episode, “The Empty Hearse”. Here Gatiss will attempt to solve the long anticipated mystery of Sherlock’s resurrection, to give us some answers as to how Benedict Cumberbatch’s titular consulting detective can return to the world of the living after falling off a building.

Ever since the end of S2 in January 2012, the internet has tried its best to circulate all the theories the fans can come up with and Gatiss, as the sole writer of “The Empty Hearse” will have to try hard to match the expectations that rose from those theories. But of course he has already had a plan for quite some time for the season opener.

Gatiss claims that he and Moffat have known what direction they would take for the third season ever since the second season of Sherlock.

We had a very clear idea that the main thing would be the introduction of Mary Morstan as Mrs. Watson,” he explains to us on the phone from Liverpool. “We talked for a long time about doing the story about Charles Augustus Milverton, the blackmailer, which is one of our favorites. And Steven [Moffat] wanted to do that. So we sort of knew that that would be episode 3. And episode 2 would be the wedding. And episode 1 would be the return. And I said I’d like to write it.”

Those who’ve watched “The Empty Hearse” might be asking themselves why Gatiss seemed to need to show that many theories – from fan service to the highly complex – in order to explain how Sherlock managed to survive the fall. Should they even be spending that many screen time just to explain these things? As it turns out, Gatiss insists, the answer is yes.

It’s a big challenge because obviously there’s a massive weight of expectation on it. I think Conan Doyle had exactly the same thing in a way, which is that the story of The Empty House, the original story, is a deliberately quite low key story in which the most important thing is that Sherlock comes back from the dead. And I thought, ‘Actually, that approach is correct,’” explains the actor/writer.

“What people are desperate to know is how he survives. But we can’t possibly just say straight away because there’s been too much talk about it,” he continues. “So I came up with the idea, straight away, that we’d have a fake opening and then it’s just to keep people guessing. We had a lot of fun coming up with all these theories and in the end, when you get the explanation you’re still not quite sure whether he’s telling the truth. But I think that’s the best way because, really, it’s like explaining a magic trick – it can only really disappoint in the end. And it’s quite nice to leave it up in the air. The explanation is perfectly valid, but whether it’s true or not is another matter…”

Another thing that stands out from the third season of Sherlock is the far bigger comedic elements than the previous 2 seasons. In this matter, Gatiss offers this explanation:

“There’s a lot more humor in the original stories [by Conan Doyle] than people give credit for. A lot of the times adaptations go wrong is when they do it extremely po-faced. Conan Doyle didn’t think anything of them, he wrote them for fun and money. They’re very fast-paced, they’re very light, they’re just adventure stories. With the third season, we deliberately made the first two lighter because episode 3 is very dark.”

Does this answer your question? Or do you still want to offer other theories on why the showrunners adopted a tonal change in the third season of this highly successful series? Watch it for yourself to prove (or even argue with) what Gatiss says – Sherlock S3 is  playing on AXN Asia, every Thursday at 21.00 Indonesia time. The next episode, “The Sign Of Three” will be on air on 6 March. Amanda Aayusya


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