It’s one of the most eagerly-awaited festive TV offerings; the return of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in “Sherlock”, which will take viewers back to the original Victorian period when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the stories.
Even now, more than a century later, Holmes is one of the world’s most famous literary characters and although his author died in 1930, his name lives on for posterity.
Yet perhaps many people aren’t aware of how close the Scottish writer came to meeting his Maker long before he had even written a word about Holmes and Watson.
It was back in February 1880 when the 20-year-old medical student with an insatiable desire for adventure, decided to embark on a whaling expedition to the Arctic.
Doyle had no idea what he was letting himself for when he was employed as a ship’s surgeon by John Gray, the captain of the Peterhead-based vessel “Hope”.
But he soon discovered the risks and regularly flirted with death once the ship had left north-east Scotland.
His job involved tending to the bruises and injuries sustained by the crew – the majority of whom were Scottish, with a significant contingent from Shetland – but Doyle was also required to join the sailors’ largely unsuccessful efforts at whaling.
The youngster kept a diary of his experiences and some of the entries make for grisly reading.
On April 4, for instance, he wrote: “Working all day. I fell into the Arctic Ocean three times, but luckily, somebody was always there to pull me out in time.
“The danger is that with such a heavy swell on the ocean, you may be cut in two by two pieces of ice coming together.”
Just a few days later, on April 7, even Doyle thought his goose was cooked.
He said: “I tried to get on the ice and I was swinging down onto it by a rope.
“But suddenly, the ship gave a turn of her propeller and I went into the sea with minus 28 degrees of ice on it.
“It was freezing and you couldn’t survive long in these conditions.
“But fortunately, I was hauled out [by his colleagues] and was carried back on board. It was hard, hard work.”
It was to be another seven years before Arthur Conan Doyle earned immortality by writing “A Study in Scarlet” and bringing Sherlock Holmes into the public gaze.
So, as you sit back and enjoy Cumberbatch and Freeman’s latest romp, just remember how close Doyle came to being denied the chance to regale us with the Baker Street stories in the first place.