The Great Game Is…

…One of the Raciest BBC Sherlock Episodes
Out There!

Sherlock: “Look, it doesn’t matter to me who’s Prime Minister or who’s sleeping with whom…”

John: “Whether the earth goes round the sun…”

Sherlock: “Not that again. It’s not important…”

When I think of Sherlock’s The Great Game, the word that comes to mind is: fast-paced. 

I mean generally, there’s one gripping case in a Sherlock episode but in The Great Game, there are five fantastic cases in one single episode!

My wife says I compare everything with food.

If I had to compare The Great Game with food, I’d say it’s like that five-course meal which is so delectable and startling that you can’t say one word till you finish it all. 

When I finished watching the episode I said to myself, “Wow. This is a work of art.”

Fans watching The Great Game!

Now that I’ve praised The Great Game to distraction, time for my ratings for this episode. 🙂

Average Rating: 8.75/10

So, What’s the Mystery/Puzzle Here?

Someone’s playing a game with Sherlock.

The game seems to be fun: if Sherlock solves a bamboozling mystery in a given time, he wins the challenge.

The problem is: if Sherlock doesn’t solve the mystery, a human being who’s been taken hostage, dies.

It’s quite a dangerous game.

Sherlock is simply sent picture after picture by this secretive, crazy guy who’s playing this game.

That’s it.

And the pictures are completely confounding.

For example, the first picture is that of a shabby, unkempt room.

First picture that Sherlock receives in The Great Game

The second one is that of a car accident. The third one is a famous dead TV show host’s picture…

…Well, you get the point.

Sherlock has to figure out what each picture means and reconstruct each mystery from scratch.

It’s all like a treasure hunt with dangerous consequences if you don’t move on to the next round.

And then there are always these questions hanging in the air:

Who is doing all this and why?

What is ‘he’ gaining from this ‘game?’

Top 5 Magical Moments From The Great Game

1 When Sherlock Doesn’t Know About the Earth Going Round the Sun!

This is one scene that made me laugh when I read it in the original Holmes stories…

…And I laughed all over again when I watched it in The Great Game.

Sherlock doesn’t know and what’s more doesn’t care that the earth revolves around the sun!

Here’s what he says to John when John is stumped by Sherlock’s lack of who revolves around whom:

“So we go round the Sun!

If we went round the Moon, or round and round the garden like a teddy bear, it wouldn’t make any difference.

All that matters to me is my work. Without that, my brain rots. “

Now I know Sherlock has his reasons but it’s always fun for me to watch this moment or read it in A Study in Scarlet because come on, this is THE Sherlock Holmes. 

And he has no idea about what goes around what! And – he doesn’t care.

Here’s a spoof about this moment that I had fun creating:

Sherlock thinking about the Solar System and the Earth revolving around the Sun.

(By the way, here’s another ridiculous picture about this moment that made me roar 🙂 )

2 The Moment When Seargent Sally Donovan Talks to John About Model Trains…

Seargent Sally Donovan, Inspector Lestrade’s assistant, is always pissed off with Sherlock because he’s crazy.

It’s fun to see her trying to wean John off Sherlock.

It’s fun because she comes up with all sorts of ridiculous ways for John to have fun beyond Sherlock.

So, while Sherlock’s examining a battered car, she sneaks upto John and says..

“You’re still hanging around him…Opposites attract I s’pose. 

You should get yourself a hobby. Stamps, maybe. Model trains. Safer.”

Then, while John and Sherlock are investigating this ‘car case,’ she suddenly shouts out to John,

“Fishing. Try fishing!”

Now I know this isn’t like the funniest line in the world or anything.

But the way it’s shot makes it ridiculously funny.

When you watch this scene, I bet you won’t be able to stop yourself from smiling.

I definitely smiled. 🙂

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t watched The Great Game yet, skip the next few points and move on to the Trivia Section!

3 The Moment When Sherlock Solves the Ian Monkford Case

One of the cases that Sherlock needs to solve in The Great Game involves a car accident. 

Ian Monkford is the name of the guy whose car has crashed. It wasn’t his car really, he had rented it out from a company called Janus Cars.

One more thing: this Monkford guy’s body has not been found. 

Ian Monkford’s blood has been found in the car, though.

Is it just a simple car accident or is there something sinister going in the guise of a car accident?

Here’s a fascinating picture that shows exactly how Sherlock finds out each piece of this puzzle and fits in its proper place!

Sherlock's cool observations in the Ian Monkford accident case

4 The Moment When Sherlock Deduces That the Lost Vermeer Painting Is a Fake

In every Sherlock episode, there are some deductions that make you say ‘wow.’

That’s one reason why I like BBC Sherlock: the deductions compete neck and neck with the original Holmes’ deductions!

The ‘Vermeer painting’ deduction is one of those awesome deductions.

So, there’s a body that’s been found on the bank of the river Thames.

Sherlock takes a good look at the body and says:

“But I’ll tell you one thing: that lost Vermeer painting’s a fake.”


This Vermeer painting is a recently discovered painting worth $30 million that’s currently there at the Hickman Art Gallery.

The deduction is eye-popping because: what on earth might the connection between a body found on the bank of the river Thames – and that famous Vermeer painting be?

It’s a bit like looking at your friend’s red shirt and saying, “I think the budget will have tax-cuts this time.”

It’s a bit bamboozling, shall we say?

Here’s how Sherlock arrives at his crazy Vermeer deduction:

The cool Vermeer painting deduction by Sherlock

As John puts it:


5 The Moment When Jim Moriarty Enters the Scene

This has to be one of the best moments in the entire series.

Jim Moriarty – Sherlock’s arch rival first appears in The Great Game….

…And he appears in unmatchable style.

Take a peek at his first look here:

Jim Moriarty's first look in BBC Sherlock

His expressions convey pure evil.

Jim Moriarty's crazy, evil expressions are priceless in the episode.

His style and sense of humour made me flinch but they also made me say “Wow.”

Jim Moriarty looking like a...lizard in The Great Game

Andrew Scott’s done a fabulous job as Jim Moriarty.

If there’s one scene that’s better than Sherlock’s deductions in The Great Game, it is the ‘Sherlock meets Jim’ scene.

I won’t describe it much – you’ll have to watch it to ‘feel’ it.

But I couldn’t move my eyes away from the screen when this scene was going on.

The Great Game: Cool Trivia!

Must-Know Info About the Episode!

So who wrote The Great Game? When was it first telecast?

Here’s some info about the episode that you definitely need to know!

Must-know info about Sherlock: The Great Game

2 The Pen That Arthur Conan Doyle Used is Mentioned Subtly in The Great Game!

In The Great Game, Sherlock receives a parcel with a phone, right at the beginning.

It is on this phone that some secret guy calls Sherlock and plays  a game with him asking him to solve one case after another.

Now, the thing is that the writing on the parcel is written using a Parker Duofold pen with an iridium nib. Sherlock deduces this as he examines it.

The fascinating thing here is that the Parker Duofold pen with an iridium nib was the pen that Arthur Conan Doyle himself used!

They say he definitely used it to write most of the Sherlock Holmes stories after 1921.

Parker Duofold pens from the 1920sThat’s a picture of the kind of Parker Duofold pens that were produced in the 1920s. 

(So, maybe, Conan Doyle used one of these pens? )

From this, we can clearly deduce just how much fun Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss – the creators of Sherlock – have with this series!

They love connecting the original stories to the show in their own fun way. 🙂

3 What Does ‘The Great Game’ Really Mean?

So, why did the creators of Sherlock name this episode ‘The Great Game?’

Well, of course, there is a cool game that Sherlock takes part in this episode, that’s true.

But the phrase is a pun! 

The great game that Sherlockians play

Yes, most Sherlockians love this game.

They love thinking:

What if Watson and Holmes were real people and Conan Doyle was just a literary agent?

What if all those stories were true?

So, playing this game means admitting Sherlock Holmes was really born in 1854. He did really exist and solve cases in the 1880s, 1890s and 1900s. And what Watson wrote was true!

This is fun because then, you can ask some more interesting questions like:

Who were Sherlock Holmes’ Mom and Dad?

Why does Watson’s wife keep coming and going in the stories?

When did THAT particular case take place?

Did Sherlock Holmes ever have a ‘child?’

And Sherlockians love to invent all the stuff that’s not mentioned in the stories.

So, there’s this Sherlockian scholar called William Baring-Gould and he played the ‘great game’ so well, that he wrote an entire biography of Sherlock Holmes that he imagined.

In that biography, he named Holmes’ dad Sigerson, second brother  Sherrinford and mom Violet!

He also wrote that Sherlock Holmes died in 1957 with the last words, “Irene, Irene!”

Then there was Christopher Morley who said Sherlock Holmes’ birthday should be on January 6th.

Then there was Nicholas Meyer – a die-hard fan who said Sherlock Holmes’ mother was cheating on his dad….

…while writer Nancy Springer said Sherlock Holmes’ sister was Enola Holmes!

Sherlockian Brad Keefauver has created an exhaustive story chronology here  (mind you, not all the dates are mentioned in the original stories!)…

Of course, Sherlockians disagree about all these real details about Sherlock Holmes all the time. But that’s what’s fun.

The debate over how many wives Watson really had, why Sherlock Holmes was definitely a Capricorn or not and what Watson’s full name was….

…That’s what makes ‘the game’ fun!

Yes, it’s all imagined and you might say: Sherlock Holmes is fictional, come on!

But if it keeps us thinking and talking about Sherlock Holmes’ world, what’s wrong in making up some fun stuff and playing the game?

Spoiler Alert: Not seen The Great Game yet? Maybe you should skip the other trivia-bits and watch the episode!

4 Where Are the Places Mentioned in The Great Game?

The Great Game mentions loads of interesting locations.

There’s that place where Sherlock finds a body on the bank of the river Thames.

There’s Andrew West’s body that’s found on the railway tracks near Battersea Station.

There’s that fascinating planetarium where there’s an unforgettable fight scene between Sherlock and John and the Golem.

There are plenty of other locations too.

So,Where are these places? Where did the filming take place?

Here’s an interesting picture about 5 of the locations shown in the episode.

5 Places Mentioned in The Great Game

5 The Swimming Pool Where Jim Moriarty Meets Sherlock Has Some History Behind It

There’s this swimming pool where Jim Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes have a spell-binding conversation at the end of the episode.

The cool thing is that in reality, this is the swimming pool where Mark Gatiss – one of the creators of the show – learnt how to swim!

The swimming pool is located in Bristol in the United Kingdom.

6 What on Earth Is Clostridium Botulinum?

There are these bacteria called ‘Clostridium botulinum’ that Sherlock Holmes mentions again and again in this episode. 

Those are the bacteria that were used to poison the boy whose shoes are found in the first case.

Those are the bacteria that were used to kill a TV show host –  Connie Prince – in the third case.

When I saw all that, I was like: Do these bacteria really exist?

Are they that poisonous?

The answer is: Yes, they do exist and yes they are that poisonous!

Clostridium botulinum is a ‘bacterium’ that’s rod shaped. It can survive without air.

Here’s how the bacteria look:Clostridium botulinum is a bacterium that produces the most lethal toxin in the world.

Now these guys in the picture produce a toxin called botulinum. This botulinum is the poison that kills people in The Great Game.

Not just that, it is the most lethal toxin on earth!

OK, take a look at this: 50-80 nano grams of botulinum can kill a human being. That’s 0.00000005 grams! A sand-grain is a million times heavier than that weight…

Just to compare, around 6 million to 12 million times this weight of nicotine is required kill a human being. Around 60 million times this weight of potassium cyanide is required to kill a human being.

Botulinum toxin fact

You get it: this botulinum thingy is one heck of a poison.

As if all these facts aren’t enough, the weird fact here is that botulinum is marketed under the brand name Botox. That Botox that’s used to enhance ‘beauty’ – that’s actually this same botulinum!

Of course, incredibly small amounts are used. One Botox injection, for instance has around 0.007 to 0.014 nano grams. This is less than one thousandth of the lethal dose.

7 Who Is ‘the Golem?’

Before Sherlock solves the mystery behind Vermeer’s painting in this episode, he’s got to fight a towering guy called the Golem. 

This killer guy whom Sherlock and John fight is actually huge.

So, the doubt in my head was:

Why is his nickname ‘the Golem?’  What does the Golem mean?

Apparently, ‘Golem’ means ‘shapeless mass’ in Hebrew.

The Golem is a part of many Jewish legends.

It is a figure made of mud that is brought to life in many mythical stories.

In many of these stories, this ‘alive’ Golem causes a huge amount of destruction because things go wrong. Finally, someone removes life from this mud figure and all’s well.

The Golem is the killer in The Great Game who kills the security guard of Hickman's Gallery.

The most famous Golem legend is the Prague legend.

According to this one, in the 16th century, the Rabbi of Prague (in the Czech Republic) activated a mud-made Golem to protect the Jews from an attack. He made the Golem come alive by putting a magic capsule called shem into his mouth.

This Golem was supposed to do good work and protect the Jews which he did. All was well.

The only rule was that the Golem had to be deactivated before Saturday – the Sabbath (rest) day.

Now, the problem was: one fine week, the Rabbi forgot to remove the life out of the Golem on Friday night!

The Golem became crazy and destroyed the heck out of that city. 

Finally, after a lot of ruckus, the Rabbi pulled out the capsule and deactivated the Golem.

And all was well again!

Some legends also talk about a special sacred word pasted on the Golem’s forehead. When the ‘holy’ word is ’emet’ (truth), the Golem is alive and when the word is ‘met’ (death), the Golem is, well, dead.

Today, people call guys who’re a bit dumb but madlydestructive, the Golem.

So, maybe, that’s why the killer in The Great Game is called the Golem…

…After all he’s crazy, huge, brute-like and a bit dumb.


8 Was the Van Buren Supernova Real?

When Sherlock figures out that Vermeer’s painting in the episode is a fake, he says:

“The Van Buren Supernova, so-called. Exploding star, only appeared in the sky in 1858.”

The Vermeer painting shows the Van Buren Supernova (1858) but it was apparently painted in the 1640s, so it’s a fake.

Now my question was: did the Van Buren supernova really occur in 1858?

Short answer: no. It was made-up.

There was no such supernova.

In fact, the last observedsupernova in our galaxy (the Milky Way) was seen in  1604.

It was witnessed by this famous scientist you may have heard of: Kepler.

Since then, exactly one more supernova ‘nearby’ has been observed – in Andromeda, our neighbouring galaxy in 1885.

What is a supernova by the way?

It’s a mind-blowing explosion that takes place in 2 situations.

First, when a star’s about to die and just collapses into itself due to gravity.

Second, when there’s a star called ‘white dwarf’ in a 2-star system, and this star just sucks matter from the second star and gets super-revived!

View of the Delft by Johannes Vermeer

By the way, here’s one more fun fact about the Vemeer painting that’s shown in The Great Game: it’s based on an actual painting by the actual artist Vermeer!

It’s called ‘View of the Delft.’ That’s the painting you can see in the picture.

If you haven’t watched The Great Game yet, well, I’d definitely recommend it.