In the new BBC series of Sherlock, what does Mycroft actually do?

He seems to have a lot of power, seeing as how he can people spied on, deals with terrorists, foreign threats etc. But then he also deals with the private problems of Royals, knows the Queen.

I would have thought he would be something like the head of MI5, but then he stays too much in the background. I don't imagine him, for example, briefing the MPs on the threat of cybercrime.

Does he have some sort of a special position? A job created just for him?

  • 5
    He would be a civil servant presumably with a suitably unassuming job title.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 10:13
  • 8
    I haven't seen much of the newer BBC series, but in most versions Mycroft Holmes is a bureaucrat within British Intelligence - not the director or anything, but someone who can hand out assignments and access classified information.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 17:36
  • 2
    Maybe it's like Barney Stinson's. Nobody knows what the real job description is. (Barney's was revealed only after 8 seasons)
    – NVZ
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 5:04
  • 2
    – xDaizu
    Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 8:39

5 Answers 5


His official position is never stated, either in the TV series or the canon Doyle stories.

Essentially, in the TV series, he is a troubleshooter for the British establishment granted (or assuming) great powers and abilities.

In line with the the Doyle stories, he is referred to by Sherlock as follows:

"He is the British Government – when he's not too busy being the British Secret Service or the CIA on a freelance basis."

A Study in Pink

This is very similar to the Doyle description...

"Practically he is the British government [...] the most indispensable man in the country." He apparently serves as a sort of human computer, as stated in "The Bruce-Partington Plans":

He has the tidiest and most orderly brain, with the greatest capacity for storing facts, of any man living. The same great powers which I have turned to the detection of crime he has used for this particular business. The conclusions of every department are passed to him, and he is the central exchange, the clearinghouse, which makes out the balance. All other men are specialists, but his specialism is omniscience. We will suppose that a minister needs information as to a point which involves the Navy, India, Canada and the bimetallic question; he could get his separate advices from various departments upon each, but only Mycroft can focus them all, and say offhand how each factor would affect the other. They began by using him as a short-cut, a convenience; now he has made himself an essential. In that great brain of his everything is pigeon-holed and can be handed out in an instant.


"Well, his position is unique. He has made it for himself. There has never been anything like it before, nor will be again

A. Conan Doyle - The Bruce-Partington Plans

  • 14
    Both brothers' positions are self created in books. Sherlock is the only consulting detective while Mycroft being what you said
    – Vishwa
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 9:40
  • 13
    It's really kind of scary when you realize that Sherlock Holmes himself considers Mycroft to be even smarter.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 17:40
  • 2
    Mycroft is more unpredictable than Sherlock in the tv series. in books Mycroft is just a calm guy with pleasant attitude.
    – Vishwa
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 6:46
  • 2
    @Omegacron: I think it's more a matter of Mycroft wielding more executive power, rather than being actually smarter. At least in the show, Sherlock and Mycroft seem to respect each other's intelligence and general capabilities, but they disagree on how their skills should be applied. Mycroft focusing on government and order, Sherlock focusing on truth/correctness over government/order. Most stabs at eachother (barring little personal attacks) stick to this idea: Mycroft is a control freak (according to S), Sherlock is a loose cannon with little regard for refinement (according to M)
    – Flater
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 10:10
  • 5
    Also, in the books, Mycroft has no interest in adventures (or any kind of physical exertion). He likes the intellectual challenge of problems, but leaves the running around to others. Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 12:59

It was answered in the first episode A Study in Pink only, here is that conversation:

Dr John Watson: He's your brother?

Sherlock Holmes: Of course he's my brother.

Dr John Watson: So he's not...

Sherlock Holmes: Not what?

Dr John Watson: I don't know... criminal mastermind?

Sherlock Holmes: Close enough.

Mycroft Holmes: For goodness sake, I occupy a minor position in the British government.

Sherlock Holmes: He is the British government when he's not too busy being the British Secret Service or the CIA on a free-lance basis. Good evening, Mycroft. Try not to start a war before I get home. You know what it does for the traffic. - IMDb

  • 9
    Everyone was expecting, with the M monogram, that he was Moriarty, I'm sure. Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 18:59

According to Mycroft Wiki:

Mark Gatiss plays Mycroft in the 2010 BBC television series Sherlock of which he is the co-creator. In this contemporary version, Sherlock and Mycroft exhibit smouldering animosity toward each other (which Dr. Watson characterises as "sibling rivalry" and Mycroft himself refers to as a "childish feud"). Mycroft is part of the Cabinet Office, and is so powerful that he can use mass surveillance to track Sherlock.

In the beginning of the Season 4 Episode 1 (The Six Thatchers), it's shown an image of a classified notice indicating a top secret information, and the addressee: The Cabinet Office

 The cabinet office image

Although in Baker Street Wiki, it's said that he has even a higher level clearence than the Cabinet Office:

Mycroft claims to merely "occupy a minor position in the government." However, according to Sherlock, he functionally is the British Government, acting as the control centre or "clearing house" for all government actions and decisions.There are signs throughout the series that Sherlock Holmes is right about Mycroft's high position in the UK Government, such as his ability to control CCTV cameras at will. He also is shown to have the ability to hack into cash machines and make them display messages he wants the user to see. "The Reichenbach Fall". Sherlock (2010). Series 2. Episode 3. BBC One.

Reflecting his high position is his priority level "Ultra" and clearance level higher than the Cabinet Office or even the Prime Minister: him and a group of peers with certain codenames are the only people to know what really happened at Appledore and doctored the footage that will go public and even managed to clear Sherlock of his crimes. He is also implied to have a great say over certain policies: the fact that the British Government stopped using freelance agents for missions after the incident in Tbilisi is his initiative. With his priority level, he has access to MI5's top secret archives.

Some details about the Cabinet Office:

The Cabinet Office is a department of the Government of the United Kingdom responsible for supporting the Prime Minister and Cabinet of the United Kingdom. It is composed of various units that support Cabinet committees and which co-ordinate the delivery of government objectives via other departments. It currently has just over 2,000 staff, most of whom work in Whitehall. Staff working in the Prime Minister's Office are part of the Cabinet Office.

The Cabinet Office's core functions are:

  • Supporting the Prime Minister to define and deliver the Government’s objectives, implement political and constitutional reform, and drive forward from the centre particular cross-departmental priority issues such as public service improvement, social exclusion and the third sector;
  • Supporting the Cabinet – to drive the coherence, quality and delivery of policy and operations across departments; and
  • Strengthening the civil service – to ensure the civil service is organised effectively and efficiently and has the capability in terms of skills, values and leadership to deliver the Government's objectives, including ensuring value for money to the taxpayer. This also includes working with the Treasury to drive efficiency and reform across the public sector.

Other functions include oversight of the Crown Commercial Service and the accreditation of Social Impact Contractors.

  • @Paulie_D Not really, I'm relying on wiki here. And I grabbed only the information about the BBC Series Version... Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 15:36
  • Yeah..but that comment is unsourced so it's not verified...unless it is. That could be a fun find. I'll see if there is actually a reference somewere in the transscripts
    – Paulie_D
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 15:45
  • @Paulie_D Added an image of an episode, maybe it will help a bit. =/ Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 21:29

In His Last Vow, S03E03, Magnussen is reviewing his mental files on Sherlock. Sherlock's file reads, in part:

Brother: Mycroft Holmes
M.I. 6 (See file)

While it's not stated explicitly that he's the head of MI6, it's on screen that he works there.

enter image description here

  • Very interesting. All the other answers suggest we dont know, but this answer says it clearly. But maybe that's how Sherlock has filed his brother's file? Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 9:55

From the books.

He has NO official position, nor would he want one on a permanent basis and that would involve him having obligations.

However, all the people who have a great deal of power and/or influence know of him and know if they ask him for a solution, they are going to get a very very good one. Hes basically the most intelligent person on the planet by quite a long way (More so than Sherlock by a fair margin) but is too lazy to have any desire for power or ambition.

“All other men are specialists, but his specialism is omniscience.”

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