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#Setlock: The fans who stalk the ‘Sherlock’ film set

The 'Sherlock' set is locked up tighter than Fort Knox, but that isn't stopping fans on the #setlock hashtag.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Posted on Jan 15, 2015   Updated on May 29, 2021, 6:30 pm CDT

The wait between new installments of Sherlock is long and painful. The BBC has aired nine episodes in four years, with the next one—yes, just one episode, a lonely Christmas special—scheduled for December 2015.

Some Sherlock fans prefer to avoid spoilers, but others find the long wait too frustrating to handle. Between Sherlock‘s love of cliffhanger endings, the BBC’s fanatical spoiler-phobia, and the lengthy gaps between seasons, #setlock was born.

“Setlock” is a term used by fans who painstakingly research (and occasionally stalk) the show’s filming locations, desperate for clues about upcoming episodes. So far, no major spoilers have been unearthed for the 2015 Christmas special, but we do know that John and Sherlock will be wearing Victorian garb at some point.

The first stage of setlock addiction is following Sherlock‘s actors, writers, and behind-the-scenes crew members on social media. But let’s be honest here, that’s amateur hour. A more dedicated setlocker also keeps track of public casting calls and potential location rumors, just in case someone connected with the episode accidentally shares something—anything—that might contain some clues about the next episode.

The top tier is for those who actually visit the set in person, although they may find this more difficult than it was in previous years.

After hundreds of fans showed up to some of the filming locations for earlier seasons, Sherlock‘s showrunners grew wise to the setlock phenomenon. In an interview with the Radio Times, writer Mark Gatiss admitted that they were now trying to “minimize” the number of scenes set in recognizable outdoor locations.

“When we were filming Baker Street exteriors last time, the fact you’ve got about 300 people behind crash barriers is…interesting,” he said. The crowds of onlookers were so difficult to avoid that the first episode of season three includes some accidental cameos from fans who were caught in the shot. 

In less nuanced terms, here’s actor Martin Freeman’s reaction to people trying to take photos on the Sherlock set last week.

To be fair, there’s a big difference between personally spying on the Sherlock set and just checking the hashtag every day because you’re impatient for new spoilers. Unfortunately for the many fans patiently waiting for useful setlock updates, the pickings have been very slim.

After four years, the cast and crew have become battle-hardened experts at avoiding spoiler leaks. The most reliable source of information right now is still Mark Gatiss’ official Twitter account, on which he posts frustratingly vague messages from the set.

Thanks for that blurry photo of a shadow, dude. That will definitely keep us warm during the 11 long months until the episode airs.

Den of Geek has compiled a list of everything the setlockers have learned about the new episode, including a handful of clandestine photos, a couple of casting calls, Mark Gatiss’ Twitter hints, and some unconfirmed rumors. What it doesn’t include is the episode’s title, plot, or the identity of most of its guest stars.

Godspeed, setlock. Hope springs eternal and all that.

Photo via star-stregoica/Wikimedia (CC BY 3.0)

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*First Published: Jan 15, 2015, 11:13 am CST