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We’re all fans of the original Sherlock canon, but the intent of the show is not to modernise those stories. It’s more about drawing from the mythology and the spirit of the characters and applying that to new cases. But keep an ear out for direct quotes and references to the canon. We love doling out those Easter eggs to our fellow Sir Arthur Conan Doyle devotees!

— Corinne Brinkerhoff and Robert Doherty[src]

This is a list of references made to the canon of Sherlock Holmes.


  • In "While You Were Sleeping," Joan finds an old violin that Sherlock owned. The original Sherlock Holmes played the violin while thinking.
  • Sherlock is seen in several episodes to own a phrenology bust. In the original stories, Sherlock Holmes had studied phrenology.
  • In "You Do It to Yourself" Sherlock tells Marcus Bell that he is considering writing a monograph on the effect of tides on crime scenes in New York. The canonical Sherlock Holmes wrote several monographs.
  • Both Joan Watson's mother Mary Watson and her ex-boyfriend Ty Morstan, are named after Dr. John Watson's first wife, Mary Watson (née Morstan).
  • Sherlock using a singlestick is a reference to the original Sherlock Holmes who also used the weapon. It was Jonny Lee Miller's idea to make the singlestick a part of Sherlock's backstory.[1]
  • Mycroft Holmes' restaurant in New York is named Diogenes as a reference to the gentleman's club Diogenes Club (which is co-founded by Mycroft) featured in several Sherlock Holmes stories.


A Study in Scarlet[]

001 A Study in Scarlet 250px

Cover of Beeton's Christmas Annual for 1887, featuring Arthur Conan Doyle's story A Study in Scarlet.

  • "Attic theory. I’ve always believed that the human brain is like an attic. A storage space for facts. But because that space is finite, it must be full with only the things one needs to be the best version of one’s self. It’s important, therefore, not to have useless facts." said by Sherlock in "While You Were Sleeping" is inspired by a quote from A Study in Scarlet: "I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. [...] It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. [...] It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones."
  • "From a drop of water, a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other." said by Sherlock in "Child Predator" is a quote from A Study in Scarlet.
  • The opening scene of "Lesser Evils" in which Sherlock is choking a corpse, was inspired by a reference in A Study in Scarlet in which Sherlock hit corpses with riding crops to study post-mortem bruising.[2]
  • Sherlock mentions in "A Giant Gun, Filled with Drugs" that he has written monographs on how he can identify 140 cigarette and cigar brands by their ash alone. His counterpart mentioned this in A Study in Scarlet.
  • "There is no branch of detective science which is so important and so much neglected as the art of tracing footsteps" said by Sherlock in "Déjà Vu All Over Again" is a quote from A Study in Scarlet.

The Sign of the Four[]

  • "While the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty. You can, for example, never foretell what any one man will do, but you can say with precision what an average number will be up to. Individuals vary, but percentages remain constant. So says the statistician." said by Sherlock in "M." is a quote from The Sign of the Four.
  • "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth." repeatedly said by various characters in "The Leviathan" is a quote from The Sign of the Four, which also appears in several other stories.

The Hound of the Baskervilles[]

  • "Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable knack for stimulating it." said by Sherlock in "A Landmark Story" is a quote from The Hound of the Baskervilles.
  • "A loaf of bread and a clean collar." said by Sherlock in "Blood Is Thicker" is a quote from The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Short stories[]

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes[]

A Scandal in Bohemia[]

  • Sherlock calls Irene Adler "The Woman" in "Risk Management," and that in his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. A Scandal in Bohemia opens with "to Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex."[3]

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes[]

The Adventure of the Crooked Man[]

The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter[]

  • In "The Grand Experiment", Mycroft tells Watson how 15 year old Sherlock described Mycroft to their father: "He has no ambition and no energy. He will not even go out of his way to verify his own solutions, and would rather be considered wrong than take the trouble to prove himself right. Again and again I have taken a problem to him, and have received an explanation which has afterwards proved to be the correct one." This is a reference to The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter, where Sherlock says the same thing when describing Mycroft.

The Final Problem[]

  • On the opening shot of the episode "The Red Team," a photo of Napoleon with the note "The Napoleon of Crime" is featured on the wall of the Moriarty clues Sherlock has gathered. Sherlock called Moriarity "The Napoleon of Crime" in The Final Problem.
  • Moriarty, or a man claiming to be him, describes himself as a "spider in the center of a web" in "Risk Management." This is based on a quote in The Final Problem by Sherlock Holmes describing Moriarty.[4]
  • In You've Got Me, Who's Got You? (Season 4, Episode 17), Sherlock makes a reference to one of the Midnight Ranger comic book superhero's deaths - "pushed over a waterfall, locked in an embrace with his nemesis" - as one of his favorites. This is a reference to Sherlock and Moriarty's supposed deaths at the Reichenbach Falls in The Final Problem.

Silver Blaze[]

  • The episode "The Marchioness" takes its storyline from the short story Silver Blaze.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes[]

The Adventure of the Norwood Builder[]

  • In the episode One Way to Get Off, Sherlock find out that the fingerprint found on the crime has been planted, as a reference to the thumbprint in The Adventure of the Norwood Builder.

The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton[]

  • The case of "Dead Man's Switch" is inspired by the story The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.[5]

His Last Bow[]

The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans[]

  • The inspiration to drop a body onto a moving vehicle in the episode "Blood Is Thicker" came from the story The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans.

His Last Bow[]

  • Sherlock having a hobby of beekeeping is a reference to the fact that the real Sherlock Holmes took up the occupation of beekeeping after he retired from being a detective. In "Pilot," Sherlock tells Joan he is writing a book called "Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen," which the real Sherlock wrote in the original novels.