Sapphire & Steel
The Mystery of the Missing Hour

Starring: David Warner and Susannah Harker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84435 223 4
Available 30 June 2007

All irregularities will be handled by the forces controlling each dimension. Transuranic, heavy elements may not be used where there is life. Medium atomic weights are available: Gold, Lead, Copper, Jet, Diamond, Radium, Sapphire, Silver and Steel. Sapphire and Steel have been assigned - to the Cairo Hilton in December 1926, or so it would seem. An archaeological expedition has arrived from England, ready to uncover the secrets of a long-lost Pharaoh’s tomb. But someone isn’t what they appear to be. It’s lucky, therefore, that when the first impossible murder takes place, two of the other hotel guests turn out to be quite the detectives...


This audio drama is full of dreadfully descriptive dialogue, with characters telling us things that they should plainly be able to see but that we cannot. Many of the performances are pure ham, and the actors keep on fluffing their lines. Fortunately, this is all intentional, because Sapphire (Susannah Harker) and Steel (David Warner) are actually trapped inside an audio drama.

To be sure, there is much fun to be had, including a stereotypical Irish character who keeps saying “to be sure” and a jaunty remix of the signature tune, but writer Joseph Lidster and director Nigel Fairs allow the joke to go on for far too long - for three of the four episodes of this 140-minute production. To make matters worse, the series did “trapped in fiction” very recently, in the Christmas story Water Like a Stone.

There follows some extreme weirdness as the detectives experience distorted sound and silence, and interact with the actors themselves, including the sixth Doctor Who Colin Baker, who plays the narrator, and Superman II star Sarah Douglas, who plays Lady Marjorie, before the whole thing starts to make sense.


This is, in fact, the last ever assignment for Sapphire and Steel, or at least the last to be released by Big Finish - a fact that took me by surprise just as much as when the television series came to an abrupt end in 1982. Just as in that final television adventure, the audio series concludes with the time agents finding themselves trapped with apparently no means of escape. Sapphire takes some comfort in her belief that “There will always be a Sapphire and Steel”. This would seem to suggest that some different agents might assume their duties and names. This in turn implies that the Sapphire and Steel of the audio dramas might not be the same agents that Joanna Lumley and David McCallum played on TV - which would certainly explain the discrepancies that have been noted between the two series.

To be sure, I will miss Warner and Harker’s Sapphire and Steel. It’s just a shame that their final assignment couldn’t have been a less rambling affair.

Richard McGinlay

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