24 December 2013 6:15 AM, PST | Digital Spy | See recent Digital Spy - TV news news »

A mini-episode of Sherlock has been released by the BBC ahead of the show's return.

The seven-minute instalment - titled 'Many Happy Returns' - serves as a prequel to the upcoming series, which will hit screens on New Year's Day.

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The episode's synopsis reveals: "Sherlock Holmes has been gone for two years. But someone isn't quite convinced that he's dead…"

Written by Mark Gatiss and and Steven Moffat, it stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes), Martin Freeman (John Watson), Rupert Graves (Di Lestrade) and Jonathan Aris (Anderson).

'Many Happy Returns' will also be screened via the BBC Red Button from Christmas Day.

Gallery - Sherlock series 3 in pictures:Sherlock's third series begins with 'The Empty Hearse', which will air on BBC One on Wednesday, »

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