Sapphire And Steel: Assignments 1-3 (Box Set) [DVD] 
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DVD Special Features:
TV Times article
Audio: English Mono
Subtitle: English hard of hearing
One of the oddest shows ever mounted for mainstream UK television, Sapphire & Steel was one of ITV's many short-lived attempts at grabbing the sci-fi cult status of the BBC's Doctor Who. Ex-Man From U.N.C.L.E. David McCallum and ex-Avenger Joanna Lumley play human-looking incarnations of the eponymous substances, mysterious investigators working at the behest of an apparent God of Order and zipping about TARDIS-like to cope with anomalies in the time-stream that manifest as apparent supernatural forces in remote English locales like an isolated farmhouse (Adventure One), a deserted rural railway station (Adventure Two) and a high-rise block of flats (Adventure Three).
McCallum and Lumley play their "medium atomic weights" with blank style and a few touches of baffled humour, not to mention visual flair in the case of Lumley's blue fashions and occasional glowing eyes. But the lengthy serial format, strictly limited guest casts and claustrophobic confinement to studio floor sets tend to mean individual serials straggle on with a great deal of repetition, providing longeurs as six or eight-part stories seem to take forever to get moving and then resolve. Shot on video, with a few strange 1970s effects (evil follow-spots, floating pillows), this remains prime cult material, though it's hard to sit still for more than one episode at a time. It will take an extremely devoted fan to get through all three adventures in under six months.
On the DVD: Sapphire & Steel on disc has to be reckoned a disappointment when compared with the wealth of extra material included on the Gerry Anderson or Doctor Who DVDs. This set stretches only to a few press releases and a TV Times article from the launch of the series that tries hard to build up a mystique about the show which it would take some years to actually acquire. There are basic bios of the two stars, and some unresonant stills. Image quality-wise, this looks much the same as previous VHS releases: shot on video, with only a few tiny film inserts for Adventure Three (on the roof of a London building), the series' transfer to DVD is plagued by artefacting of various kinds (some of which can just about be passed off as visual effects), but then again so were the original transmissions. The pristine look is especially unfortunate in exposing the extremely ordinary trickery as far less terrifying than the onscreen characters make them out to be. --Kim NewmanSee all Product description
Top customer reviews
At a time when Dr Who was degenerating into pantomime farce, this series is a darker, more eerie twist on the time travel theme.
The duo are agents of a vaguely defined authority who are called to intervene in situations where 'time breaks through.' Time is here a malevolent force, seeking to undo life and creation bound within its laws.
In the first episode a literally faceless character uses photographs to move around and imprison people in the photographic world. There they share the fate of whatever happens to the photo', and in one chilling scene, the 'man who wasn't there'disposes of characters trapped in a photo by setting it alight. This is a chilling, nightmarish moment, typical of the jolts the series can deliver. The atmospheric location (junk shop in this case) is also typical of the series.
The second assignment concerns the machinations of time in taking advantage of a 1930's period dress party to turn the clock back and change history so a terrible plague, averted in real time, occurs. This assignment is adveresely affected by 'padding' (the string of 'whodunnit' murders seem almost superfluous) being 6 instead of 4 episodes in length, but still builds to an effective denoument.
The third assignment brings the series to an abrupt close, with an ending that pulls the rug out from under you, and haunted this reviewer during a sleepless night. It leaves you wishing the writers rescued the pair for a further series, but alas...
The pairing of Mcallum and Lumley is inspired. An understated, effective, fire and ice performance.
Having seen these tales, Ive ordered the first lot. Recommended.
So I took home my pack of twenty 25min episodes (three assignments of six, eight and six episodes respectively and sat down to watch. Have they managed to get audio 5.1 out of this? er.. no! Not even bog-standard stereo! This offering is strictly MONO! Ahem! But no, not as bad as it might appear as the audio recording quality was as good as radio 4 on a clear day, with rich deep tones. The picture processing is a bit soft but clearly digitised for optimum quality.
The creepy atmosphere is definately still there and the episodes are still riviting. And the story lines seemed to stand the dating of those twenty-odd years without too much effort especially considering the tiny cast used in shooting. My only criticism is that Carlton have decided to issue the lot as separate episodes, each with its title and end sequence (coupled with the same title sequence as introduction to each of the three disks' menus) which, when you recall that the first opening 2 minutes of each episode is a review of the previous episode's closing sequence, you find yourself doing an awful lot of fast-forwarding to continue the story. I, personally would have preferred each assignment presented in it's entirity.
But did I enjoy? YES! Definitely! Maybe it will prove to be purley nostalgic for those of us who can recall the first airing of the series, but if you like broody sci-fi, and are not looking for something which is too scientifically and technically correct, then this old-timer still has a lot to offer the newcomer. There's a kind of pre-dated X-Files about it and we're never quite sure of how much we trust the characters but this only adds to the intigue.
I have already dropped a few hint for Christmas about the second boxed set and have suitably booked holiday time to spend a few late nights saturated with assignments 4-6!
The stories, all based around the theft of time, are well written and despite being firmly in the realm of fantasy are all quite logical and don't lose the viewer. The pace may not be as attention grabbing as modern drama, but on the whole this is much better than 95% of the viewing we get today.
For those old enough to remember the series when it was on TV I would recommend it highly, nostalga, nostalga. For those younger I would only recommend it if you really do enjoy a story rather than an experience that leaves nothing to the imagination.