on 25 February 2009
Sapphire & Steel was one of the most genuinely original, not to mention thought-provoking, atmospheric and unsettling, series ever broadcast. All but forgotten now, except by those who saw it when it was on air, it really is ripe for rediscovery. Very slow moving and extremely minimalistic by today's standards, this is actually one of it's greatest strengths as it allows a superbly foreboding atmosphere to build up and the fact that nearly all the episodes were filmed in the studio with sparse sets and a very small cast, helps to add to the claustrophobic and spooky feel. The characters of Sapphire and Steel are wonderfully mysterious and enigmatic characters, it's never really explained who or what they are or where they come from they just turn up at the start of each adventure and the occasional oblique references to 'other elements' just makes them all the more tantalising. Joanna Lumley and David McCallum are superb in their roles and have an extraordinary chemistry together. The stories themselves are all highly imaginative and thought-provoking, dealing with such concepts as time being a physical force that can break into the present and cause havoc, a malevolent 'darkness' that feeds on the emotions of dead WW1 soldiers, a couple from the future living in the present in at time bubble as an experiment but being terrorised by the force that keeps them there, a faceless shape that exists in every photograph ever taken.....that's just a small example of the sheer strangeness and imagination on display in this wonderful series. The series has a reputation for being scary, and it certainly lives up to it - it's the only series I've ever seen that actually manages to induce that childhood feeling of being scared of the dark and the feeling that there are strange 'things' lurking just out of sight in the shadows. The direction is simply stunning - lots of shots of dark empty corridors and shadowed rooms. The sets, while minimal, are still very effective - the old house in the first story being particularly convincing, the music is often spine-chilling (especially in the second story, which I also think is the masterpiece of the series) and the special effects, while quite simple still hold up pretty well today. Overall, I can't praise this series enough - it is a totally unique, still feels incredibly fresh and original today, and still manages to be frightening after all these years. Worth every penny.
on 6 February 2009
I barely remember Sapphire and Steel on TV. I was only 6 when it endedon ITV. I still have great memories of being scared by the faceless man!
This DVD has the complete and unedited episodes and includes the original "End of Part One/Part Two" captions. The picture is very clear although the sound is still in mono.
There are two commentaries from the creator/writer and producer, a nice booklet to read about the shows history and a 25 minute documentary that interviews Lumley, McCallum and the producers about why it was successful and who they think Sapphie and Steel really were.
This show maybe slow for today's audience but the fact its tightly written and each assignment set in an isolated place (Train Station, Garage cafe, house) makes it more effective and spooky. My personal favourite will always be Assignment 4 with the Faceless man and the photos.
Then of course theres the end. Shame we never had a resolution to the cliffhanger at the end of Assignment 6 but great shows always go out with a great ending.
Buy this NOW!
on 17 December 2007
As the previous reviewer attests, this boxset is indeed a gem and to be recommended.
I have fond memories of Sapphire and Steel from childhood (originally broadcast 1979-1982)and watching this brings it all back for me. In fact the entire series has already been released on DVD (comprising six stories in all) but I'm pleased to say this version is far superior, certainly in terms of picture quality. I don't know if it's been digitally remastered (there's nothing in the packaging mentioning this and the sound definitely sounds like mono) but the picture on this Network release is significantly better than the Carlton one. There's some nice extras too including a documentary (admittedly rather short) and a wealth of photos from each "assignment". I also like the way that they've kept the "End of Part One" / "Part Two" bits for some of the assignments (gives you time to go and make a cuppa) and the "ATV" logo/intro as well (I kept expecting it to break into the "Crossroads" theme tune though). Nostalgia ahoy!
What about the programme itself? For the uninitiated, the best way to describe Sapphire and Steel is as a kind of UK precursor to the "X Files". Sapphire and Steel are two detectives from another place and time (we never DO find out their precise origins!), assigned to investigate "breaks in time" and related to this, various supernatural and unexplained events. As Sapphire describes it, "Time" is like a corridor, populated by creatures and "beings" who are constantly looking for ways to break into the present day and cause trouble. Elements from the past - e.g. old photographs, a ghost from World War 1 haunting a railway station, even something as simple as a child's nursery rhyme - act as triggers which allow the creatures to break through. And that's where S & S come in! Slightly unwieldy though it sounds, this is nevertheless an interesting concept and one which allows for endless dramatic possibilities.
The first and second stories, set in a farmhouse and a deserted railway station respectively, are particularly effective.
Story one uses the neat device of telling the story from the point of view of two young children, whose parents have vanished into thin air - thus drawing in the programme's desired audience - scary for kids though the show undoubtedly is! Never again will I be able to hear "Ring a Ring a Roses" without imagining something nasty coming out of my bedroom wall...
Story Two is a fan favourite and with its strong references to WW1, powerful stuff and probably the best of the run. Highlights include Sapphire transformed into a war-time girl and Steel trapped in a barbed wire fence, whistling soldiers and some horrible swirling darkness. And what happens to Sapphire near the end is totally freaky. The station set is utilised effectively too and looks brilliant (and this was 1979!)
Story three is a bit of a clunker though and a confused mess - all about scientists from the future carrying out some kind of "experiment", crossed with a bizarre plotline about animals and vivisection amongst other things. It doesn't really work and the bits with flying pillows and Steel being menaced by a stuffed swan now just look daft. Not to mention the very silly-looking monster at the end (and you thought Dr Who was bad sometimes...)
Regardless of this aberration, the remainder of the "run" is pretty good - including a 1930s Agatha Christie style story - and very watchable indeed.
By today's standards, some may say that Sapphire and Steel is slow moving, and without enough action, but I hasten to disagree. True, it can be quite "talky" but there is definitely enough to hold one's attention. The show is also low budget (it was shot almost entirely in the studio) but this works in a positive way - the quality of the show derives from the writing and the direction, not to mention the imaginative use of sets and lighting (the railway station set as I said is a highlight). There's a definite sense of unease and tension (leading one to wonder why S & S was billed as a kid's show - some parts really are unnerving to watch), also aided by some creepy incidental music (check out the jarring "piano" bits in Story Two!)
And last but definitely not least, the reason for the show's success can surely be attributed to the excellent performances of its lead actors. David McCallum as Steel lives up to his character's name - cold, terse and emotionless, preferring to focus on the logistics of a situation and sometimes quite ruthless as a result. Like all good heroes he also has superpowers (forgot to mention this, didn't I?) and can freeze objects to absolute zero, as well as possessing immense physical strength (handy, eh?)
Joanna Lumley as Sapphire is nothing less than wonderful. This is Ms Lumley post-Purdey (New Avengers) and pre-Pats (Absolutely Fabulous) and it's great to watch her in this role. Her cut-glass diction and posh demeanour don't detract from the excellence of the character - ultimately more caring than Steel, she is sometimes a bit of a "mother" character (looking after the children in Story One). As for her superpowers - she can, amongst other things, turn time back - cool! Cue lots of shots of her eyes glowing blue and a freaky "boom boom" heartbeat sound. Wish I could do that. And the males will be pleased to hear she wears some nice outfits during her tenure (okay, a little bit dated now e.g. the "hippy" dress in Story One and the hilarious "robot" wig in Story Three are fashion casualties - I really like her 1930s flapper look in Story Five though).
One more thing - the ending of the final story is not what you'd expect and I am still living with the aftershock today. Sapphire and Steel was an excellent and unusual piece of drama and one which I'd urge you to check out.
on 22 February 2011
I bought this as I remember how much I enjoyed it as a child. I sat and watched it straight through and enjoyed it just as much - the station is just as spooky as I remember,the old house where time stops can put you off nursery rhymes for life! However, this is not for you if you require spoon feeding or have the concentration span of a gnat, there are no easy answers -in some cases no answers at all. This is for people who can see round the fact that the special effects were what were available for television at the time and that this was not made with a million pound Hollywood budget. If you can't then don't buy. To buy something made in the late 70's early 80's and then say the special effects are dated says more about the reviewer than it does about the item reviewed.
on 7 September 2007
It's tricky to know what to say about this. It left a huge invisible cartoon-like question mark above my head when I watched it as a young lad, and now as a grown up fellow, it's still there. That's not a bad thing of course, it's good to have to work on things. Who were Sapphire and Steel? I've absolutely no idea at all! Kind of supernatural trouble shooters. The enemy? Time. The concept of time being a molevolant being. Sounds weird? It is. BUT...it is also completely brilliant! It has such an unnerving vibe to it and at times is still very scary. The story that is about a deserted railway station is not one to watch with the lights off. It seems strange to think this was on at 7.30 on a weekday evening on ITV. It just would not get made these days, which is a shame as it is excellent and odd. Joanna Lumley and David McCullum are ideal as the lead roles and work off each other beautifully. Creepy and very entertaining. Strangely for Network, I don't like the cover of the dvd though; it looks a bit naff. Don't let this winge of mine put you off though. This is a gem!
on 22 January 2010
I saw this series on TV when I was a little lad back in the 70s/early 80s. I remembered scant details, but never forgot the chilling atmosphere that pervaded each episode. Watching all the assignments again I can understand why. It is always atmospheric, often creepy, and sometimes disturbing. My wife was frequently covering her eyes.
While the special effects are poor by today's standards, the sets, dialogue, story lines and acting are all superb. It's a fine example of how special effects really don't matter that much.
This is worthy of five stars. If I could give 6, I would give them!
on 19 November 2010
Never seen Sapphire & Steel before, but my better half raved about it from when she was a wee bit younger.
A definite 60'/70's feel to it, but well written, and, very welcomed in this modern age, not at all rushed. Plenty of time is given to tell the story, and characters actually have time to develope subtly, rather than in your face development of both plot and character.
The concept and stories are interesting, meandering to their conclusions, with enough surprises along the way. Mysterious and unexplained.
Don't expect to get everything (or indeed anything) explained for you. These need a bit of brain. Nothing is spoon fed, and if you can't both think and use your imagination, you will be left thinking 'what just happened?'
Gets the thumbs up from me......
I'd love to meet the Lunatic who thought that this program was appropriate Children's Tea Time viewing, It's a wonder any child in the Late 70's got any sleep at all between being terrified by Dr Who and Deeply Psychologically scared by this. Sapphire and Steel do share the similar plot vehicle of time with Dr Who but that is the only thing these alien Time Detective/ Police share , the similarities end there and it's the differences that make this a must for SCI FI fans.
Watching this program as an adult it's easier for me to appreciate it's quality script and excellent characterization, David McCallum has always been an excellent actor, we've always known that but who was to know that Joanna Lumley wasn't just a pretty face, There's never that many actors in any of the episodes, the stories are small ensemble pieces usually set in small claustrophobic environments, The rather subdued lighting heightens that feeling of being hemmed in by intimidating mystery, the stories themselves seem slightly confusing, again this only adds to the mystery, as if everything going on is slightly beyond your feeble comprehension, these are matters for aliens who's knowledge far surpasses your own. There are no weak stories on this collection, there all quite excellent and all as equally weird, You couldn't make a program like this now'a'days, it's too visceral, too weird and unsettling, How they managed to get that amazing cast for a children's Teatime program I'll never know, in fact why is it a childrens program??, this is a very adult program to be watched late at night with the lights down, prepare to be captivated and disturbed by this classic.
Classic tv of a kind that ITV used to make. Originally planned for children but then shifted to an adult slot, but great viewing for discerning viewers of all ages.
Time is like a corridor. Sometimes, things from outside the corridor want to get into it. They will trick those inside into helping them do so. And if they get in, then all of reality could be at threat.
Two mysterious beings, from a mentioned group of many more, appear to deal with the situation whenever this happens. Steel, a brusque no nonsense tough man played by David Mccallum. Sapphire. An elegant and classy lady. Both have special powers. And their origins are shrouded in mystery. Played by Joanna Lumley.
Over the course of six stories, they deal with threats to reality, In old houses, abandoned train stations and similar places. These are classic ghost stories.
And they can be very scary with it. The limited budget and relatively cheap special effects means the show has to rely on the strength of the performing and the imagination of the writer to succeed, and it does this ever so well. The fourth story is probably the scariest bit of tv I have ever seen. Particularly the unforgettable horrifying ending to part three. This is not gory. It uses sound and the mind of the viewer fills in the rest.
Along the way you do get to meet a couple more of sapphire and steels kind. Big strong black man Lead. And David Collings appears twice as the wonderfully fey technical expert Silver.
The six stories run in varying lengths from four to seven episodes, and all the episodes are spread across six discs. The previous dvd release of the show wasnt of the greatest technical quality but this box set fixes all that.
There are no subtitles and the only language track is in english.
There are commentaries from the writer and members of the production staff on the first and last episodes, image galleries from all stories spread across the discs, plus one of various bits of publicity material.
Further publicity material, plus designers plans and one script can be accessed as PDF files via opening the disc on a computer.
The only other extra is a twenty eight minute long making of documentary. Featuring excellent contributions from the shows creator, the producer, plus David Mccallum and Joanna Lumley, it's a very good watch. I would have been interested in hearing from David Collings as well, but his absence is a minor complaint.
You also get a very comprehensive booklet to go with it, that details the making of the show and the life of the characters in other media.
So all in all this is a quality package for a quality bit of tv and well worth getting.
Sapphire and Steel is an intriguing series. It is imaginative. In this series we are asked to believe that Time is like a Tunnel with different time zone spread along itself. Outside there are dark forces that take advantage of any weakness. When they do find these weaknesses they enter and wreak havoc. All of these events can be handled by elements controlling each dimension. Medium atomic weights are Gold, Lead, Copper, Jet, Diamond, Radium, Sapphire, Silver and Steel. Sapphire and Steel work together. They take on human form to resolve problems in time in a human world but they have their special powers. They can see through time, see the history of an object, turn the clock back a short while and have strong strength.
Sapphire, (Joanna Lumley) wears blue. Steel, (David McCallum) wears grey. He is cold and humourless.
In some episodes we see Silver and Lead who help out.
The basic idea is interesting and original. The stories have many variations. The first story has a time warp develop after the reading of historic nursery rhymes. This brings Roundhead soldiers to the 20th Century. There is also the story of a haunted railway station that tries to draw things into world war one.
The dark forces get stronger the longer they are present within a dimension of time. They even taunt Sapphire and Steel.
Generally the idea behind this series was very good. The production lacks a bit of pace on some stories. I felt that some stories go on too long. There are not many scenes in each story and it lacks gloss. But the originality of the idea is so strong it is appealing to investigate them.