Assignment Five has it’s detractors. It’s one which, oddly, doesn’t entirely fit in with the rest of the series. As we have seen with the other Assignments, they are all set “today” with an outside force opening a door to a previous era to allow someone or something to come through. In this one, the force opens the door to send things back. Normally, in a longer running series, we would be able to see this as an escalation in tactics and would have time to get used to the idea. Because of the nature of S&S, rather than a steady escalation this is thrust upon us.
Lord Arthur Mulltrine is throwing a party to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his business partnership. His partner, Dr George McDee, had died some years previous. As a part of the celebrations, Lord Arthur recreates the era by insisting that all the guests dress in period costume, by removing all “modern day” appliances and replacing them with antiques from the time. Can anyone say “trigger”? Sapphire and Steel arrive just before the whole house is sent 50 years back in time.
During the party, the guests notice that they have begun to speak of events that happened then as if they were happening now; before long they are fully subsumed into the time period. Our operatives soon have to act as detectives as people who were not born in the earlier period start to be killed. Soon, the events of the night being celebrated start to recreate themselves as Dr McDee arrives at the party. On that night, he had created a lethal virus but was shot by a jealous lover before it could be released. Time has taken over the lover’s body in order that the virus can, this time, be released.
As ever, and with the benefit of hindsight, we can look at this as a piece of televisual nonsense. But the fine acting from our players mean that it is easy to believe in the events. This Assignment suffers from the same malady a lot of older television does: it does look very much like a stage play. In fact, I would go so far as to say that visual effects aside, this could be transported to the stage with very little change to the script.
There are some lovely touches, one of the guests realises that S&S are not who they say they are and, further, realises that they can speak telepathically. They enlist his help, even going so far as to give him his own name: Brass, and to enable him to communicate with them. There is also some wonderful flirting by the ever lovely Joanna Lumley to the wonderfully stiff David McCallum.
The finish of this Assignment is very well done, the horror that is touched on in other episodes is well realised in this one. The finale is touching and chilling at the same time. Again, as with other Assignments, S&S will move on leving the victims to pull back the pieces of their lives. And yet, with all the great parts of this Assignment, it just doesn’t work as well as others. I think it’s because there are just too many people in the show. S&S is a very intimate, secret thing and it’s easy to imagine the one or two victims carrying on and being believed to be a little odd. In this one, all of the guests are respectable and, presumably, well known people and if they started to discuss the events they would be believed by many people. As well, the dead people would have to be explained away to the modern day police force. Even though there are potentially many many plot holes and loose ends in all S&S episodes, this one has far too many.
Although it fits within the S&S mythology, it doesn’t fit as well as earlier episodes and stands out as a script that was calling out for a different show to be part of.
Posted on 9 May, 2009, in Films, Sapphire & Steel, Television and tagged audiobook, big finish, cult, cult TV, cult tv series, david mccallum, drama, ITV, joanna lumley, paranormal, sapphire, sapphire and steel, science fiction, steel, supernatural, television, tv, UK. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Assignment Five.