While Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman were off living their Hollywood dreams, fans of Sherlock were eagerly awaiting season three of the dynamic crime drama. Luckily, be for contractual obligation or love, the show’s stars returned to make the festive comeback something to savour.

Sherlock Season 3 castThe Sherlock cast have made the show's return a success

The numbers say it all: the return of Sherlock to BBC One was watched by an average of 9.2 million people, with a 9.7 million peak during the first five minutes of the first episode. It’s not exactly a spoiler to suggest that people were eager to see how Sherlock came back after ‘dying’ at the end of season 2.

Steven Moffat, Sherlock's co-creator, executive producer and writer with Mark Gatiss, called the ratings "thrilling news".

“A tribute to the team who work so hard, and with such pride, on the show, and of course to the genius of [Holmes author] Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,” said Moffat, according to The BBC.

“It's proof that audiences will show up if you give them what they want - though we can't throw Benedict off a roof every week.” Sherlock co-creator Gatiss said he was "delighted our loyal audience tuned in on an appropriately bleak and stormy New Year's night".

He added: "After two years it's fantastic to have this response to Sherlock, John and all the team being back on TV. All this and Dr Watson gets married in three days time!"

Having built a reputation as one of TV’s most unpredictable presences, Cumberbatch as Sherlock was a hit. Seasons 1 and 2 were talked of positively amongst the critics, but season 3 has set a new standard.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin FreemanBut what does Benedict Cumberbatch think of Martin Freeman's new mustache?

“The episode is packed with explosive sparkle too, fizz and whizz and wit. I enjoy the childish na-na-na-na-na sibling rivalry between Sherlock and brother Mycroft, and their game of not chess but … Operation!” said Sam Wollaston in his review for The Guardian.

The Daily Telegraph's Chris Harvey hailed it as "the triumphant return of the most charismatic, most fun character on British television". So now we’ve just got to wait on news for a fourth season…