Sapphire and Steel are assigned to Blackledge Prison to investigate the latest outbreak by Time. They impersonate Government inspectors to investigate an unexplained death: Stuart Kilsby hanged himself in an empty cell. At the same time, a new inmate has arrived and he knows every inch of the prison, despite coming here for the first time. This is a prison in which the guards have more power than the Governor, a prison where people die and where Steel risks becoming a part of the story. Can Sapphire and Steel solve the mysteries and save the inmates before Time breaks out?
I have to declare, early on, that I do not like this episode. There is a lot that is right with it, but there is more that is wrong with it. Although this is written by the inestimable Nigel Fairs, it never seems to flow. I think that this is because large and important parts do not ring true. Fairs took a brave step in placing the story within a prison. For a variety of reasons we all have an image of the inside of a prison, particularly one for long term prisoners. The idea of a desolate, remote prison is fine, as is the seeming supremacy of the guards. The problem lies with the prisoners themselves: because these audio adventures are designed to be relatively “family friendly”, the language has to be toned down a fair way. This means that the writer is left with the “milder” swear words and we are left with weak dialogue for the prisoners – in fact, they sound like the inmates of a boys boarding school from a film circa 1955! This is a real shame as the story itself is well plotted and as complex and satisfying as we have come to expect from this series. Read the rest of this entry
A few months ago, I finished the series of posts on the TV series of Sapphire & Steel. If you will recall, they ended in 1982 and were consigned to the television history books. It’s worth noting that although it was somewhat different from most other shows of the time, UK television was pushing the boundaries of what had been possible and were really flexing their artistic muscles. There were shows such as “Play for Today” which started any number of now well known writers and actors on their path to stardom. Was there a real, single, reason for the end of Sapphire and Steel? Probably not, there were any number of factors involved and any creative endeavour will suffer them. The ideas were left on the shelf and became largely forgotten.
In 1998, Big Finish Productions was founded. The company began with the licence to produce audio plays based on the Professor Bernice “Benny” Surprise Summerfield character. These were popular enough that the company were able to expand their range, moving into Doctor Who plays (being the main output of the company to this day), plays based on the 2000AD comics, the Tomorrow People and others. They also produce, of course, the Sapphire and Steel audio series starring David Warner (Steel) and Susannah Harker (Sapphire). They began the series in May 2004 and continued producing them until the end of the third series in 2008. These audio plays are notable for their high production values and the fact that they have been able to have many of the original actors from the TV shows reprise their roles – particularly in the Doctor Who series. Read the rest of this entry