Certain TV shows from one's youth leave lasting impressions. In 1979 I was a sensitive 8 year old who was terrified of Doctor Who and was bullied by my best friend, collapsing in tears anytime anyone was angry or a little bit cross with me. Sat quivering behind the sofa at Doctor Who, and scared of all the death and ruthless loss in Blakes 7, it was all I needed for ITV to pull a number as well.
I'm 38 now, and Sapphire And Steel believe you me is still in 2009 a disturbing experience.
Victim of the ITV shake up in the early 80's, we only get 6 stories which are however in the main true class. The slight datedness, and a slow pacing that they could never get away with now, are nothing to the unnerving atmosphere that pervades every episode.
The two leads are perfectly cast and when it hits the heights there is an air of true horror at work here.
That they could get away with all this at teatime is quite a miracle.
Why ITV didn't resurrect this in answer to the rebooted Dr Who I will never know, but that is their loss.
I won't explain the background to the series-you either know already, and if you don't go out and order them. You will be spending time in the company of well written, intelligent science fiction.
The highest points for me would be Adventure 2 in the Railway Station- which is a very dark piece of work, with some truly scary moments and a very twisted conclusion that is brave given the nature of our relationship with the titular heroes.
Adventure 4 terrified the pants off me when I first saw it, the cliffhanger on one of the episodes is so chilling I defy you not to go white in the face.
Lastly to Adventure 6...I'll be honest I watched this when it was first shown, and have not since for the single reason of it being so unsettling and scary it has taken me this long to brave it to approach these 4 episodes again.
I have been moved to review this as I am having a re-watching of the series and have made a pact with myself to view Adventure 6 and it's infamous last episode once again all these years later. I hope to god I make it, few TV series have had that much effect on me and this did.
Watch with the lights off, in an old house with old things.
Repeat after me "Ring a ring a roses..."
This was a strange one! ‘Sapphire and Steel’ was a relatively short- lived Sci-Fi show that took a different approach to the genre. CAST Joanna Lumley.... Sapphire David McCallum....Steel David Collins…Silver Steven O'Shea...Rob Patricia Shakesby ....Anne Shaw David Suchet ....Voiceover in titles Directed by David Foster, Shaun O'Riordan "All irregularities will be handled by the forces controlling each dimension...Sapphire and Steel have been assigned" Only six stories were made of this strange, and weirdly atmospheric show. Its run started in 1979 and ended in 1982 a new series never was made. It starred Joanna Lumley who had just achieved huge success as Purdy in the New Avengers and David McCallum who was well known as one of the ‘Men from UNCLE’ and more recently as the ‘Invisible Man’ The series was written by PJ Hammond and told of the adventures of two extraterrestrial agents ‘Sapphire’ (Joanna Lumley) and ‘Steel’ (David MaCallum) who turn up on Earth when the integrity of the time continuum is threatened by evil forces. THE CONTINUUM AGENTS We know very little about them, they look human but they are really made up of pure energy, each has special abilities, which varies with their nature. We were led to believe that there were many of these interdimensional continuum agents protecting the timeline but during the show’s short run apart from the main characters we meet few of the others. From what we know it seems that male elementals are metals, and female elementals are gemstones. The 127 Continuum agents can be split in to two groups Elementals and Field Ops. These tow groups have very different powers and roles to play. ~FIELD OPS~ 75 Field Ops exists al
l named after minerals or alloys apart from Sapphire and steel we also hear about Jet and Diamond during the series. Field Ops seem to be the first line of defence when something disrupts the time stream. They are called in first to assess the problem and affect a solution. Usually this involves finding weakness in the time fabric known as a ‘Pressure Point’, which has allowed Time to leak. SAPPHIRE is a Mineral operative she has primarily powers of detection and persuasion. She is able to sense distortions in time or detecting the presence of alien minds. In addition she is a telepath and uses her powers as well as her appearance to stabilize situations, especially when humans have been caught in a time anomaly. She also has the ability to ‘take back time’ in very short bursts so that situations can be replayed. STEEL is an Alloy operative, his powers are only hinted but they appear to be more physical abilities such as control over matter and energy (in one episode he lowers his body temperature to Absolute Zero!). Steel uses these powers to physically repair the damage to the time stream. He can communicate telepathically with other Continum agents but his powers in this regard are weaker than Sapphire’s ~ELEMENTALS~ 52 Elementals exists each having specific powers and representing elements in the periodic table. The elementals are more powerful than the field operatives and are called in only when the field ops he problem. The elementals are far more specialized and their powers are more specific than the filed operatives. During the series we meet Silver and Lead but we also hear about Radium, Copper and Gold. ~TRANSURANICS~ 12 of the 52 Elementals are Transuranics These Elementals are highly unstable and cannot be brought in to an area where life exists. Bordering on insanity these rogue elementals possess great power but are of little practical use in most
situations. We never see any in the series. THE EPISODES (34 episodes each of 30min duration) The series ran for a total of six stories each varying in the number of episodes. All the stories were imaginative and the show itself was very different form most other Sci-Fi on TV at the time. The episodes didn’t have official titles being simply known as Episode One, Episode Two etc. Adventure One (1979- 6 episodes) A small boy is at home doing his homework. He can hear his parents reading a nursery rhyme to his younger sister in the bedroom when suddenly the voices go silent and the clock stops ticking. He runs upstairs to find his sister alone, his parent shave disappeared. Sapphire and Steel are called in to must prevent beings from the ‘Corridor of Time’ from breaking in to the present by the use old nursery rhymes. Eventually Lead is called in to help. Adventure Two (1979- 8 episodes) A psychic expert is investigating an old disused railway station, which he believes is haunted. He tries to contact the spirits but instead of ghosts he comes face to face with a much more dangerous entity. The railway station is in fact a ‘Pressure Point’ and a malignant force known only as the ‘Darkness’ has already crossed in to the present and is feeding of the hatred of the dead, gradually collecting an army to destroy the time stream. Sapphire and Steel are called in repel these invaders. Adventure Three (1981-6 episodes) A block of flats has an invisible top floor, inhabited by people from the future. The presence of these people has created a disturbance in time, which Sapphire and Steel have to rectify. The people seem to be from a time further in the future than the Continuum. The operatives eventually need the help of Silver Adventure Four (1981- 4 episodes) The development of a new technique to combine old and ne
w photographs leads to trouble when the people involved start to vanish. Sapphire and Steel are assigned and discover that the people have been trapped inside the photographs by a mysterious entity known as ‘The Man Without A Face’. Mercury also features in this story. Adventure Five (1981- 6 episodes) On the night of a 50th anniversary celebration where everything has been set up to copy the original 1930’s date leads to a rift in time sending the entire party back to the 1930’s. Someone or something wants the future to change and guests born after 1930 begin to die so that the original events can be replayed as accurately as possible in order to prevent the death of a scientist at the party. This change in events would lead to the destruction of the planet. Again Sapphire and Steel have to ensure that the future remains intact. Adventure Six (1982- 4 episodes) At a service station café people are not what they seem. They are all from different times. Sapphire and Steel are called in to repair what seems to be a simple tear in the fabric of time but soon realise that other forces are also at work. Dangerous forces known as ‘The Transient Beings’ might be behind the mystery and the whole area seems to be caught in a time loop that even the elementals struggle to control. Silver is brought in to help but during the battle with the opposing forces Sapphire and Steel are trapped in the café, which is now outside of time. The story was obviously meant to be continued in the next series but since that was never made the fate of our heroes was left in the balance. OVERALL VIEW A series featuring Joann Lumley in the late 70’s would be expect to generate a lot of interest. After she played Purdy on the New Avengers she was a massive TV star as well as giving her name to a haircut! David McCallum might not have been so popular but was still a very we
ll known actor and the programme maker would have expected a reasonable audience. Initially the series did indeed prove to be very popular with audiences achieving high ratings but unfortunately it was dogged by bad luck. Halfway through the second story a TV technician’s strike meant that the show was off air for two months, when it returned it seemed to have lost its momentum and it never reached the rating it had done originally. Despite this it carried on for another four stories but production finally stopped when ATV the production company lost its ITV franchise. Looking back on it this series had a very novel approach to the Sci-Fi genre. The stories were shrouded in mystery and the principal characters themselves were never properly explained. The main theme seemed to be that Time is a chaotic force constantly trying to break the fabric of the universe. The continuum is set up to oppose this and in turn Time uses humans and other beings to create weakened areas which it can use to break through. Apart from Time there are also forces outside the corridor of Time that also want to disrupt the work of the Continum. The idea of Time being the enemy, a force of evil rather than simply a dimension to be manipulated by other beings (as in Dr Who) is quite radical and I don’t recall any other Sci-Fi series using this approach. Despite its lofty premise the series was made on a low budget and thus suffered from poor special effects and pedestrian sets. Due to the nature of the stories this lack of funds did not detract much from the enjoyment of the show. In many case the use of small sets inevitably poorly lit created a ghostly atmosphere to the events. The idea of the programme makers was to as much as possible to personify the elements that the characters represented. David McCallum played Steel as being unemotional, tough and short-tempered He was always seen wearing steel/grey suits. Joanna Lumley as Sapphire was left to
be more enigmatic much more sensitive and attuned to the forces around her. She always looked beautiful and wore deep blue (sapphire) dresses, her eyes also glowed blue when she used her powers. The relationship between them was never explored but we got the feeling that they knew each other well. Lead is seen as a huge figure possessing enormous strength while Silver is a grey-haired elegant man that can alter the structure of metals with his bare hands. Again this was an innovative approach. The lack of detailed explanation to the exact nature of the Continum the origin of its operatives or the source of their powers in addition to the paranormal nature of the stories gave the show an air of mystery and served to intrigue the audience. I remember enjoying the series at the time it was first shown but I had forgotten how interesting it was until I was shown some episodes on video by a friend. It’s a pity that no more were made. Sapphire and Steel show that good sci-fi need not have expensive special effects of exotic locations (take note George Lucas), if the stories are good enough then the programme will succeed. They are only infrequently repeated on TV but I think they are still available on VHS although they maybe hard to find. Thanks for reading and rating this opinion. © Mauri 2002
“All irregularities will be handled by the forces controlling each dimension”. So started each episode of Sapphire and Steel, that wonderfully crap ITV sci-fiction attempt from the late 1970s / early 80s. This was ITVs low budget answer to all the Star Trek series that America was churning out to such success at the time. Well, I used to love Sapphire and Steel, simply because it was so different, so baffling, you felt this must be a programme on another intellectual plane from the one the rest of us are on. And make no mistake it was popular at the time, lasting several series, and even getting a comic strip in Look-In magazine (remember that!?) Basically, Sapphire (played by Joanna Lumley) and Steel (David McCallum) are time detectives. They are part of the elemental body guards who are ensuring that time travels correctly, and no bad entities can burst through it and ruin our humdrum existence. Unfortunately, there are lots of dark forces trying to corrupt time and space, thus being a time detective is a pretty full time job for these guys! Sapphire and Steel used to possess special time-type powers to manipulate things – and Sapphire in particular was spooky and her eyes went all bright white whenever she was doing her business. They used to talk a load of babble that no-one really understood, and even watching the videos today, I still can’t make head nor tail of the stories! But they were wonderfully different. For a start there’s virtually no cast. Just Sapphire, Steel and maybe two or three others. And, like Doctor Who, the stories were spread over 4, 6 or even 8 half-hour episodes, so took quite some stamina. Cheap does not describe the sets – usually there weren’t any, just a black empty background! But it was the sheer uniqueness of it all that made the series compelling watching – you have to watch just because it is unlike any series before or since! An
d you can’t help feeling there is a deep meaningful message there … somewhere! The series is repeated from time to time on satellite, and the episodes are available on video!
SAPPHIRE & STEEL was first aired in the early 1980s. It starred David McCallum as Steel and Joanna Lumley as Sapphire. The concept of the show was an intriguing version of time travel. As a viewer, first you have to envisage time as being like a tunnel. Different parts of history occur in different parts of the tunnel – for example the year 1468 is in one part of the tunnel whereas 2001 is in another. Outside of this tunnel there exist the forces of chaos and destruction, and these forces are always trying to get into the tunnel. The job of our heroes is, surprise surprise, to stop these forces. There is one major problem with this concept, which is that we as the viewer never know where Sapphire and Steel come from, nor who is sending them on their missions. All we know is that they have to stop these evil forces. I never much cared for this show – McCallum and Lumley can be fine actors, but in this show they never seem to emote much, they are wooden beyond belief. Storylines are complex, and in the final episode their characters are stranded outside the tunnel of time and the show finished without us finding out if they survived and got back. Thankfully however there has never yet been a sequel show to find out, but in this day and age of mass nostalgia, a remake or update of some sort can’t be too far away.