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
Ring a ring of roses
A pocket full of posies
We all fall down
– Traditional English Nursery Rhyme
Sapphire and Steel are summoned to a condemned warehouse in the City area of London. There is a team in the warehouse transcribing documents and cataloguing artefacts found beneath the land the warehouse sits on. The warehouse was built over a plague pit dating back to the Black Death.
As expected, the past starts to creep in and affect the present. Why is Sapphire’s voice stored on a wax cylinder recording from 200 years ago? What is in the book that Dr Webber keeps to himself? And why is everyone coming down with what appears to be bubonic plague? Sapphire is trapped and Steel is falling ill. How can our heroes save the day…? Read the rest of this entry
A bit of a change for our heroes this time. Sapphire and Steel arrive at a suburban home to deal with an incursion by time. They meet a normal family – son on holiday from university; daughter still at school and coming into her womanhood; and their widowed mother. All seems to be ordinary, but why does Brahms Lullaby keep playing and why does the television seem to be attempting to communicate… As the story progresses, Sapphire and Steel face death and danger and uncover secrets going back 16 years. Finally, Sapphire and Steel have a hard decision to make that will affect the family deeply.
In the audio plays, it’s possible to see the writers struggling with the format – trying to break away from the set up put in place by the television series. Whereas the television series portrayed isolation by making the settings fairly isolated from everywhere else (the remote farmhouse, a railway station, a filling station by the side of the motorway), the audio plays have more range – the steam train is clearly isolated, but this has a suburban house as the setting: showing that you can be alone even in a large crowd. The characters also show their isolation (and we will see this recurring motif in later episodes) – the family secrets, Philip Burgess with his own secret in 1.1.
This is a choo-choo train
Puffing down the track.
Now it’s going forward.
Now it’s going back.
In this, the first outing for David Warner and Susannah Harker, our eponymous heroes meet on a train. Their “target” is Philip Burgess, a steam train enthusiast and antique book seller. While investigating, they realise that each of the carriages has it’s own time and each of the passengers in the carriage has their own story and their own connection with Philip Burgess. An old detective novel appears to be the trigger for the events. A new operative, Gold (Mark Gatiss), is also on the train in one of his first missions – how will his actions affect the resolution of the case? And what is Philip Burgess’ secret? 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
Well, it’s taken me around 10 months to write up these posts and we’re now at the end of the television series. This series was a big part of my childhood and pretty much spoiled me for “normal” sci-fi or horror. Not for me the joys of “pew pew lasers!” shows or simple non-psychological horror. No, I want my shows to be a little unusual and thoughtful.
Hopefully, I have ignited a small spark within you to find these shows and watch them to see what I’m on about. I am completely serious about wanting these to be returned to the small screen and updated. With the new Dr Who shows, Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, The X Files, Lost, Heroes and so on the audiences of today have also shown that they want shows that are not strictly mainstream and that do interesting things within the genres.