Credit: Masterpiece

It’s really happening: Sherlock is getting a fourth season — plus a special additional episode as well. Producers announced the news Wednesday morning, confirming rumors that Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman will return with a special one-off episode of the BBC/PBS drama series and a fourth season (which will once again consist of three episodes).

“Series Four!” wrote co-creator and actor Mark Gatiss. “At last! It’s always special to return to Sherlock but this time it’s even more special as we’re doing…a Special! Not only THAT, we’ll then be shooting three more episodes which will take Sherlock and John Watson into deeper and darker water than ever before…The whole ‘Sherlock’ team are terrifically excited to return for four new adventures. The Game is on — again!”

Yesterday we reported on Freeman saying the show was “likely” to return in 2015 with a Christmas episode of the fan-favorite Conan Doyle adaptation. The special will begin shooting in January, with the fourth season shooting later that same year. The toughest issue continues to be the availability of the show’s stars, with Martin appearing in The Hobbit trilogy and Cumberbatch attached to six upcoming films that are in various stages of production. The show’s producers have other series commitments as well. “It’s taken a little while to get the dates sorted as none of the boys are exactly sitting back twiddling their thumbs but there was unanimous goodwill to make this work so we’re thrilled that 221b is going to be inhabited again,” said executive producer Sue Vertue. Yet since the special episode will likely air during the December holiday (just like the 2013 Christmas mini-episode), that means we might not see season four until 2016.

Added co-creator Steven Moffat: “A special, plus a new series of three episodes — it’s a record-breaking run!” wrote . “Of course, it’s far too early to say what’s coming, but we’re reasonably confident that the very next thing to happen to Sherlock and John, is the very last thing you’d expect ….”

So what is the last thing we might expect? A pirate adventure? A Doctor Who crossover? Hmm…