Sherlock gets infected with a deadly virus while investigating a murder, forcing him to put his life in the hands of Joan as he tries to solve what could potentially be his own murder.
Inspired by The Adventure of the Dying Detective by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
This was a spec script I wrote in 2016 back when Elementary was in its fourth season. This episode was easier than other spec scripts since, given the procedural nature of the show, it could be placed around any point in the general timeline, though it does take place some time after Sherlock starts training Watson to be a detective.
I’ve released this on November 15, which is the birthday of Holmes actor Jonny Lee Miller. It’s also the same week as November 19th. According to William S. Baring-Gould, the short story “The Adventure of the Dying Detective,” which inspired this script, took place on November 19, 1887.
VIRUSES, MASKS, AND VACCINES
While this was written in 2016, there’s something eerily relevant to 2020-2021 when I revisited the script and saw that it also dealt with a deadly flu-like virus, featured characters wearing masks, and involved a company developing vaccines.
It’s important to note that in the world of this script, the virus that infects Sherlock is less of a flu/COVID-like virus and more of a poison that exhibits flu-like symptoms. Otherwise, the other characters would have been infected. And while infecting Joan, Gregson, and Bell would certainly raise the stakes, it would also force most of them to be inactive in the story. Ultimately, this was meant to be about Sherlock facing his mortality, getting his ego knocked down a couple pegs, and finding how much he needed the other characters to keep him in check.
GENERAL SHERLOCKIAN EASTER EGGS
There are a few obvious Easter Eggs for Sherlockians.
Sherlock’s “Give me problems, give me work” line in his first scene with Watson comes from The Sign of Four .
Sherlock’s expertise in tobacco also comes from canon, with “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” quoting him as saying:
I have, as you know, devoted some attention to this, and written a little monograph on the ashes of 140 different varieties of pipe, cigar, and cigarette tobacco.
Sherlock’s violin had been in an episode but seemed mostly ignored throughout the rest of the series, so I brought it back to help represent Sherlock embracing his human side.
Sherlock does say his famous phrase from “the game’s afoot” (from “The Adventure of Abbey Grange”) and credits it to Shakespeare, since this is actually where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got the phrase.
In the Elementary universe, then, Sherlock is simply crediting his sources when he quotes Henry V, Act 3, Scene 1:
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’
Sherlock later says that he “twisted facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts,” which is also right out of “A Scandal in Bohemia.”
THE ADVENTURE OF THE DYING DETECTIVE
This story is mostly inspired by “The Adventure of the Dying Detective” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection His Last Bow. Like in this script, Holmes is poisoned by Culverton Smith. In the original story, however, Holmes is actually faking his symptoms in order to trap Smith at the end.
I always found this to be a bit of a cop out on Doyle’s part. Holmes, after all, is still human and could still succumb to sickness or poison. It always made me wonder what the story could have been like if combined with the classic noir film DOA in which Holmes actually is dying and trying to solve the case throughout.
How would that affect his deductive abilities? His behavior? His relationships? His viewpoint on his life, especially one dedicated more to work than on human connection?
As a cancer survivor myself, this became even more relevant as it allowed me to channel some of my own thoughts into the character of Holmes in a way that we hadn’t seen before, Holmes rarely faces his mortality in the canon and other adaptations, with Sherlock either faking symptoms in “The Adventure of the Dying Detective” or faking his death in “The Final Problem.”
To me, the heart of the script, and my favorite scene, is Holmes’s impromptu Last Will and Testament to Gregson, Bell, and Watson, as well as the “death” from the title being more of a metaphorical death.
I wrote this spec around the time of Sherlock Season 4 and Toby Jones was set to play Culverton Smith. With a major British actor playing this villain, I thought it was best to do something different and unexpected.
What if Culverton Smith wasn’t one person but two people?
Holmes fans who knew canon would be just as surprised as the people who weren’t familiar with it.
Plus the name Culverton Smith could easily be misinterpreted from “Culvert AND Smith,” as revealed here.
It also provided a rival male-female team to this Holmes and Watson that was too good to pass up.
As for how Sherlock is poisoned, I updated the idea of a hidden needle, moving it to a pen instead of a music box. Like in the original story, however, Sherlock doesn’t actually get infected from it, since he never gets infected in Conan Doyle version (and he’s poisoned by the mask that Culvert gives him in my version).
THE ADVENTURE OF THE GLORIA SCOTT & VICTOR TREVOR/VICTOR SAVAGE
“The Adventure of the Dying Detective” isn’t the only Holmes story referenced in this. The other is “The Adventure of the Gloria Scott” which is, in canon, the first case that Holmes solved. I decided to tie the two stories together, with the Gloria Scott Foundation being involved as well as the character of Victor Trevor, Holmes’s college classmate.
It just so happened that Victor was also the first name of the victim in The Dying Detective– Victor Savage. It seemed too good of a connection to pass up that this would be the same character in the Elementary universe. Besides, Victor Trevor’s father in the original Gloria Scott story changed his name as well, with “Trevor” being his new last name.
This story is also where the name of Jack Prendergast comes from, appearing as a criminal in the original story, though he and Holmes never crossed paths.
Naturally with the title of this being “The Death of Sherlock Holmes,” it was too tempting to resist a reference to “The Final Problem,” the story where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle actually did try to kill off Sherlock Holmes.
The tussle off the rooftop in the finale is slight reference to that, with Culvert falling to his doom in the struggle and Holmes only being able to survive due to the help of his friends. In a way, I wanted to do more of a Reichenbach Falls fight than the Sherlock version, which didn’t have a fight scene.
Culvert and Smith’s first names are references, however, to the Sherlock show as Moriarty in that show pretends to be an actor named Richard Brook, an English form of Reichenbach.
Thus, my villains became Richard Culvert and Brooke Smith.