By Emma Dibdin
Wednesday, Dec 18 2013, 5:00am ES
The wait is almost over, Sherlock fans. While the two-year hiatus has felt like a cruel eternity to just about everyone who watched Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock plummet to his faux-death in 'The Reichenbach Fall', consider this: fans in 1893 were forced to wait an entire decade for Arthur Conan Doyle to resurrect their hero on the page.
A decade. So with the gap put in perspective, and third series premiere 'The Empty Hearse' now confirmed to air on New Year's Day in the UK and January 19 in the US, we can relax and look back on our favorite moments from the series so far, in chronological order...
Sherlock whipping a corpse ('A Study in Pink')
It's surprising just how rarely the first meeting of Holmes and Watson has ever been portrayed on screen - most adaptations begin with the pair already established in their odd couple dynamic - but Steven Moffat's first script picked up on an even rarer aspect of Doyle.
In the book A Study in Scarlet, Stamford warns Watson that Holmes's eccentricity takes the strange form of "beating the subjects in the dissecting-room with a stick". Cut to 2010, and Cumberbatch's Sherlock is introduced for the first time in the morgue, whipping a corpse with a riding crop. Like so many of the show's finest moments, it's at once outlandish, brash and utterly faithful to its source material.
John meets Mycroft ('A Study in Pink')
It works beautifully as psychological exposition for John, it shows off Mycroft's deductive skills, and it gives John the first of many opportunities to prove his steadfast loyalty to Sherlock, as Mycroft offers him money in return for information on his wayward brother. A masterclass in character-building.
"So you've got a boyfriend?" ('A Study in Pink')
The scene that launched a thousand shippers – if Sherlock and John's first meeting hadn't already done it. This is one of the first actual conversations the pair share, as they await a murderer in a cosy candlelit restaurant, and Moffat wastes no time in addressing the homoerotic subtext that has been an aspect of Holmes fandom for decades.
It's a scene steeped in intrigue and deadpan wit, beautifully played by Cumberbatch and Freeman, and on a personal note it's exciting for us because the Digital Spy offices are visible behind John's head throughout.
"Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson" ('A Study in Pink')
We've had the introduction of Sherlock Holmes, sharp and cruel and mesmerising. We've had the introduction of John Watson, battle-torn and stoical and lonely. But as the series' first episode comes to its triumphant conclusion, we get the introduction of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, the unassailable yin-yang unit that was already, after 90 minutes, the heart of the show.
John shoots a man dead to save Sherlock's life from a hundred-yard distance, they share a poorly-hidden giggle at the crime scene afterwards, and in that instant their bond is sealed for life. Hero shots don't come much more glorious than this slow-mo climax.
John gets into a fight with a self-checkout machine ('The Blind Banker')
Because we've all been there. As extraordinary and heightened as most of Sherlock and John's adventures are, a huge part of the show's charm comes from its being rooted in a very recognizable, very contemporary London. And in contemporary London, unexpected items in the bagging area are an unavoidable part of life.
The introduction of Freeman's hardened, traumatised John in the first episode left viewers in no doubt about his dramatic chops, but this moment – from the show's weakest episode to date – spotlights his comedic timing.
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