"Me only cruel immortality / Consumes; I wither slowly in
thine arms, / Here at the quiet limit of the world..." 1949:
the Tithonus Retirement Home, situated deep in an English
Forest. Sweet rationing has come to an end, the lights have
come back on in London, and Matron is in a good mood for a
change. Celebrations are underway when a new resident arrives.
Steel is alone - and tired. Soon he realises that linear time
has stopped, but not just for the people in the home...
& Steel stories often deal with children. This one takes
us to the opposite end of the age range, to the second childhood
of a bunch of residents in a very strange (what other kind
would you expect?) care home. Kudos to director Lisa Bowerman
(who also plays one of the carers) for suggesting the idea
to writer Nigel Fairs in the first place. It's such a suitable
location for one of the agents' assignments that it's hard
to believe they've never visited such a setting before.
This four-part, two-disc tale is a last-minute replacement
to an abandoned Gary Russell script (because he went off to
BBC Wales to work on Doctor Who) - not that you'd know
it from the quality of the story. This possibly indicates
that the secret of writing for this series is not to think
about it too hard, but just to let the weirdness flow out
of you (I'm sure creator P J Hammond was making it up as he
went along most of the time)! The opening episode-and-a-half
are up there with the likes of Assignment
VI in terms of "what the heck is going on"-ness.
Mystery abounds as to how and why the residents have apparently
lived for centuries, all the while remaining trapped in 1949,
and what could be the nature of the "beast" that is taunted
by the so-called carers. Answers are then gradually provided
at just the right pace - meaning whenever I was on the verge
of cottoning on and drawing such conclusions for myself.
When this audio series was first announced, it was rumoured
that it would be set before the cliffhanging final television
tale, Assignment VI. However, it soon became evident,
by implication at least, that these plays take place some
years after the TV series, because the agents keep referring
to the 21st century as the present, just as the 1980s were
the present for their TV counterparts. Here at last they explicitly
refer back to the events of Assignment VI, though there
is still no explanation as to exactly how they managed to
escape from the trap the Transient Beings laid for them. (However,
given the age gap that exists between Susannah Harker and
David Warner, I am inclined to theorise that their liberation
required them to travel in opposite directions through time,
somehow exposing themselves to the ravages of that time, so
that Sapphire ended up appearing younger than before while
Steel seemed to age.)
This serial also follows up on the events of the previous
audio release, Water
Like a Stone, which was also written by Fairs.
And that's just about all I can say without giving away the
plot big time.
With splendid acting from the entire cast, especially Daphne
Oxenford (Listen with Mother) and Lucy Gaskell (Cutting
It), Cruel Immortality deserves to live on forever
as classic Sapphire & Steel.
this item online
compare prices online so you get the cheapest
deal! Click on the logo of the desired store
below to purchase this item.
All prices correct at time of going to press.