The Great Game (Sherlock)

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"The Great Game"
Sherlock episode
Episode no.Series 1
Episode 3
Directed by Paul McGuigan
Written by Mark Gatiss
Produced by Sue Vertue
Featured music
Editing by
  • Mali Evans
  • Charlie Phillips
Original air date8 August 2010 (2010-08-08)
Running time89 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
"The Blind Banker"
"A Scandal in Belgravia"
List of Sherlock episodes

"The Great Game" is the third episode of the television series Sherlock . It was first broadcast on BBC One and BBC HD on 8 August 2010. This episode introduced the character of Jim Moriarty, the "consulting criminal". It featured a number of linked cases for Sherlock to solve, with numerous allusions to the works of Arthur Conan Doyle. Critical reception was highly positive.

<i>Sherlock</i> (TV series) British crime drama television series, first broadcast in 2010

Sherlock is a British crime drama television series based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes detective stories. Created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, it stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Doctor John Watson. 13 episodes have been produced, with four three-part series airing from 2010 to 2017, and a special episode that aired on 1 January 2016. The series is set in the present day, while the one-off special features a Victorian period fantasy resembling the original Holmes stories. Sherlock is produced by the British network BBC, along with Hartswood Films, with Moffat, Gatiss, Sue Vertue and Rebecca Eaton serving as executive producers. The series is supported by the American station WGBH-TV Boston for its Masterpiece anthology series on PBS, where it also airs in the United States. The series is primarily filmed in Cardiff, Wales, with North Gower Street in London used for exterior shots of Holmes and Watson's 221B Baker Street residence.

BBC One is the first and principal television channel of the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Channel Islands. It was launched on 2 November 1936 as the BBC Television Service, and was the world's first regular television service with a high level of image resolution. It was renamed BBC TV in 1960, using this name until the launch of the second BBC channel BBC2 in 1964, whereupon the BBC TV channel became known as BBC1, with the current spelling adopted in 1997.



John receives news of an explosion on Baker Street and rushes back home, only to find Sherlock safe and Mycroft pressing Sherlock to investigate the murder of an MI6 clerk and the disappearance of a flash drive with important defence plans. Sherlock refuses and is then called to Scotland Yard. Inside the bombed-out flat was a strongbox containing a mobile phone similar to the one belonging to the victim from "A Study in Pink".

Sherlock Holmes Fictional private detective created by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes is a fictional private detective created by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Referring to himself as a "consulting detective" in the stories, Holmes is known for his proficiency with observation, forensic science, and logical reasoning that borders on the fantastic, which he employs when investigating cases for a wide variety of clients, including Scotland Yard.

USB flash drive Data storage device

A USB flash drive is a data storage device that includes flash memory with an integrated USB interface. It is typically removable, rewritable and much smaller than an optical disc. Most weigh less than 1 oz. Since first appearing on the market in late 2000, as with virtually all other computer memory devices, storage capacities have risen while prices have dropped. As of March 2016, flash drives with anywhere from 8 to 256 GB were frequently sold, while 512 GB and 1 TB units were less frequent. As of 2018, 2TB flash drives were the largest available in terms of storage capacity. Some allow up to 100,000 write/erase cycles, depending on the exact type of memory chip used, and are thought to last between 10 and 100 years under normal circumstances.

Scotland Yard Headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service, London

Scotland Yard is a metonym for the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), the territorial police force responsible for policing all 32 boroughs of London, excluding the City of London.

A message leads Sherlock to a pair of trainers. He then receives a call from a terrified woman, reading a message from a third party. If Sherlock doesn't solve the puzzle in twelve hours, the explosive vest she is wearing will detonate. While Sherlock examines the trainers, Molly Hooper interrupts him and introduces her new boyfriend Jim. Sherlock deduces that Jim is gay, and Molly storms out. Sherlock traces the shoes to a schoolboy drowned in a pool in London years ago, the first case Sherlock was interested in as a youth. He proves the boy was poisoned with botulinum via his eczema medication. Sherlock announces the solution to the bomber. The woman hostage is freed.

Explosive belt explosive device that an individual wears

An explosive belt is an improvised explosive device, a belt or a vest packed with explosives and armed with a detonator, worn by suicide bombers. Explosive belts are usually packed with ball bearings, nails, screws, bolts, and other objects that serve as shrapnel to maximize the number of casualties in the explosion.

Botulinum toxin Neurotoxic protein produced by Clostridium botulinum

Botulinum toxin (BTX) is a neurotoxic protein produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum and related species. It prevents the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from axon endings at the neuromuscular junction and thus causes flaccid paralysis. Infection with the bacterium causes the disease botulism. The toxin is also used commercially in medicine, cosmetics and research.

A second message shows a blood-stained sports car, and another hostage phones Sherlock to give him eight hours to solve the mystery of its missing driver. Sherlock interviews the missing man's wife, then the owner of the car rental, and deduces that he was recently in Colombia. Finding the blood in the car had been frozen, Sherlock concludes the lost man paid the agency owner to help him disappear. Sherlock announces the solution. Once again, the hostage is freed.

A faked death, also called a "staged death" and pseudocide, is a case in which an individual leaves evidence to suggest that they are dead to mislead others. This is done for a variety of reasons, such as to fraudulently collect insurance money, to avoid capture by law enforcement for some other crime, escape from being held hostage by abductors or as a practical prank.

A third message and hostage point Sherlock to the death of a television personality apparently from tetanus from a cut. However, the wound was made post-mortem. Sherlock pins the crime on the housekeeper, also her brother's lover, who murdered her by increasing her botox dose. Although Sherlock solves the puzzle, the blind hostage starts describing her kidnapper's voice. The kidnapper detonates the bomb, killing her and eleven others.

Tetanus A serious infectious disorder that follows wound contamination by the Gram-positive bacterium Clostridium tetani. The bacteria produce a neurotoxin called tetanospasmin, which causes muscle spasm in the jaw and other anatomic sites.

Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is a bacterial infection characterized by muscle spasms. In the most common type, the spasms begin in the jaw and then progress to the rest of the body. Each spasm usually lasts a few minutes and spasms occur frequently for three to four weeks. Spasms may be severe enough to cause bone fractures. Other symptoms of tetanus may include fever, sweating, headache, trouble swallowing, high blood pressure, and a fast heart rate. Onset of symptoms is typically three to twenty-one days following infection. Recovery may take months. About ten percent of cases prove fatal.

The fourth message is a photograph of the River Thames without hostage calls. At the matching riverbank, Sherlock finds a security guard's corpse, identifying it as the work of an assassin called the "Golem". [Note 1] Sherlock tracks him down, but is too late to stop another murder, an astronomy professor whom the guard talked to after he realised a recently discovered painting by Vermeer was a fake. While Sherlock is examining the painting, the fourth hostage, a child, calls and gives Sherlock ten seconds to prove the forgery. He spots a supernova within the painting that occurred centuries after the real painting was made, just in time to stop the bomb. The museum curator confesses the forgery and that her accomplice was called Moriarty.

River Thames river in southern England

The River Thames, known alternatively in parts as the Isis, is a river that flows through southern England including London. At 215 miles (346 km), it is the longest river entirely in England and the second-longest in the United Kingdom, after the River Severn.

Investigating Mycroft's case in secret, Sherlock and John trace the MI6 clerk's death to his prospective brother-in-law, who confesses he stole the flash drive and accidentally killed him. The man still has the drive since he had no idea how to sell it. Sherlock uses it to lure out Moriarty, but John shows up instead, wearing an explosive vest. Moriarty appears and turns out to be Molly's boyfriend, Jim. He tells Sherlock to stop interfering, but Sherlock refuses. Moriarty leaves momentarily, and Sherlock takes off John's vest. Moriarty soon returns with multiple snipers targeting both Sherlock and John. Sherlock aims his handgun at the explosive vest – mutual assured destruction.

Sources and allusions

As with all episodes of Sherlock, the plot combines those of a number of works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


According to the DVD commentary, "The Great Game" was the first episode of Sherlock to be produced after the BBC accepted the series. [3] The series was filmed in reverse order because co-creator Steven Moffat, the writer of the first episode "A Study in Pink", was busy with the fifth series of Doctor Who . [4]

Andrew Scott made his first appearance as Jim Moriarty in "The Great Game". Moffat said, "We knew what we wanted to do with Moriarty from the very beginning. Moriarty is usually a rather dull, rather posh villain so we thought someone who was genuinely properly frightening. Someone who's an absolute psycho." [5] Moffat and Gatiss were originally not going to put a confrontation between Moriarty and Sherlock into the first three episodes, but realised that they "just had to do a confrontation scene. We had to do a version of the scene in 'The Final Problem' in which the two arch-enemies meet each other." [3]

Sherlock's residence at 221B Baker Street was filmed at 185 North Gower Street. [6] Baker Street was impractical because of heavy traffic, [7] and the number of things labelled "Sherlock Holmes", which would need to be disguised. [3] The laboratory used by Sherlock was filmed at Cardiff University School of Earth and Ocean Sciences. [8]

"The Great Game" was partly set in a disused sewage works. [9]

Broadcast and reception

"The Great Game" was first broadcast on BBC One on 8 August 2010. [10] Overnight figures had been watched by 7.34 million viewers on BBC One and BBC HD, a 31.3% audience share. [11] Final viewing figures rose to 9.18 million. [12]

Critical reception was highly positive. Chris Tilly of IGN rated "The Great Game" a 9.5 out of 10, describing it as "gripping from start to finish". [13] Of Moriarty's appearance, he said it "didn't disappoint either, the villain of the piece being unlike any incarnation of the character yet seen on screen". He also praised the writing, saying, "Credit should go to writer Mark Gatiss, his script the perfect combination of classic Conan Doyle storytelling with modern-day plot devices and humour, creating a sophisticated mystery that was the perfect marriage of old and new.", and the performances of Cumberbatch and Freeman. [13] John Teti, writing for The A.V. Club, awarded the episode an A- and called it an "extraordinarily dense 90 minutes". He further singled out Andrew Scott for praise, writing that his "portrayal of Moriarty is a thrilling departure from earlier incarnations of the man". [1] The Guardian 's Sam Wollaston was optimistic for the programme, describing it as "smart, exciting, and just the right level of confusing" and described "The Great Game" as "a mash-up that totally works" and "an edge-of-the seat ride".


  1. Not the Golem of Jewish legend; possibly a nod to Peter Ackroyd's fictional serial killer, the "Limehouse Golem"

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  1. 1 2 3 Teti, John (7 November 2010). "The Great Game". The A.V. Club . Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  2. Wollaston, Sam (8 August 2010). "TV review: Sherlock". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  3. 1 2 3 Cumberbatch, Benedict; Martin Freeman; Mark Gatiss (2010). Audio commentary for "The Great Game" (DVD). Sherlock Series 1 DVD: BBC.
  4. Wilkes, Neil; Levine, Nick (17 April 2010). "Mark Gatiss talks 'Who', 'Sherlock'". Digital Spy . Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  5. Frost, Vicky (10 August 2010). "Sherlock to return for second series". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 March 2012.
  6. "Sherlock – did you know?". BBC Entertainment. Archived from the original on 3 February 2012. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  7. "Sherlock Holmes, and the riddle of the packed sandwich bar". Daily Mail. 15 August 2010. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  8. "University's starring role". Cardiff University. 27 July 2010. Archived from the original on 27 November 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  9. Benji, Wilson (1–7 August 2009). "One Final Question: Mark Gatiss". Radio Times. BBC Magazines. p. 146.
  10. "Network TV BBC Week 32: 7–13 August" (Press release). BBC. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  11. Millar, Paul (9 August 2010). "BBC One's 'Sherlock' surges to 7.3m". Digital Spy . Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  12. "Weekly Top 30 Programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board . Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  13. 1 2 Tilly, Chris (9 August 2010). "Sherlock: "The Great Game" Review". IGN . Retrieved 4 April 2011.