Enigmatic time agents Sapphire and Steel have been assigned
to investigate the disappearance of two children's parents
from a remote house by the sea...
One gets the series off to a good start. The mysterious
characters of Sapphire (Joanna Lumley) and Steel (David McCallum)
are established through their interaction with the young Helen
(Tamasin Bridge) and her initially distrustful older brother
Rob (Steven O'Shea). Thus we learn that the agents are far
from human, but rather are elemental forces assigned to investigate
and deal with time anomalies. We never fully discover the
exact nature of these characters or their abilities, but this
is all part and parcel of the appeal of this curious and unique
actor Steven O'Shea is impressive as Rob, although the younger
Tamasin Bridge doesn't enunciate all that clearly at times.
is a low-budget production, but the programme avoids the pitfalls
that often beset Doctor Who by never attempting to
over-reach its own limitations (apart from a rather poor-looking
fake swan that appears in Assignment Three). The principal
"monsters" in each of the three stories in this pack are all
basically lighting effects - white light in Assignment
One; darkness in Assignment Two; and swirling coloured
light in Assignment Three - although the darkness also
involves some clever use of video effects. Each of the stories
confines itself to a single basic, usually spooky, location:
a coastal house in Assignment One; a railway station
in Assignment Two; and a tower block in Assignment
retrospect, this story had to come first, because of its more
upbeat ending. By contrast, Assignments Two and Three
both come to bittersweet conclusions, with some particularly
callous actions being taken by Steel. The production team
were wise to establish their protagonists as here before going
on to highlight their alien morality.
ghost hunter makes contact with what seems to be the spirit
of a World War I soldier. In so doing, he arouses the wrath
of an evil force that feeds off the resentment of the dead...
eight episodes in duration (the other two stories are six
apiece), Assignment Two is a bit on the long side,
to say the least. The story could easily have been told in
six episodes or less. But then, Sapphire & Steel was
never known for being a fast-paced adventure.
essential attribute has always been its atmosphere, and plenty
of that is generated on the dimly lit set of the disused train
station in this serial. The programme has a knack of tapping
into primal fears and childhood nightmares, from the creepy
parental impostors of Assignment One to a character
with pitch-black eyes in this adventure. The low light levels
lead, appropriately enough, to some "ghosting" in vision,
but this is a quality inherited from the original videotape
recordings, rather than a fault in the conversion to DVD.
the entire series, the performances of McCallum and Lumley
couldn't have been better. Following his starring roles in
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Invisible Man,
McCallum plays an entirely different kind of character as
the cold and logical Steel. The lovely Lumley gives one of
her greatest performances as the more empathetic - though
never weak-willed - Sapphire. During this story, she convincingly
portrays several different personalities when Sapphire acts
as a medium.
27 in the 1980s house. All the time-travelling housemates
are awake, except Eldred, who's still in bed. His wife Rothwyn
is troubled by visions - can the house be coming to life to
Three uncannily predicts certain aspects of the reality
TV shows Big Brother and The 1940s (or whatever)
House. Eldred and Rothwyn, time-travellers from millennia
hence, re-enact a 1980s lifestyle while inhabiting a replica
of a contemporary high-rise flat, each room of which contains
a camera to record their activities and opinions. There is
even a room that resembles Big Brother's Diary Room!
coincidental factors aside, Assignment Three is my
personal favourite Sapphire & Steel adventure, and
is certainly the most unusual of the bunch. Instead of the
usual ghosts and images from the past, the agents have to
deal with a threat from the future. And in contrast to the
previous two assignments, the budget stretches to a little
location work, which, although it is confined to the roof
of a tower block, nevertheless gives a significantly different
look to the show.
story also sees the first of two guest appearances by David
Collings as the charming but vain technician Silver, an appealing
and distinctly Doctor Who-like character. Indeed, Collings,
who notched up a fair few appearances on Who over the
years, would have made a great Doctor. The success of his
performance as Silver, which makes a great contrast to the
straight-faced Steel, led to his eventual return in Assignment
other guest stars, playing the time-travelling family, are
also notable, particularly because of their very weirdness.
The querulously voiced Eldred (David Gant) constantly defers
to his wife Rothwyn (Catherine Hall), who is shorter in stature
but infinitely stronger in character. Meanwhile, Russell Wootton
gives an unnerving performance as the Changeling, their infant
son, who is aged to adulthood by a vengeful Time Force.
without special features, this collection would still have
been excellent value for money. As it is, the DVDs also include
text articles and background information originally published
in TV Times, plus cast biographies and a stills gallery.
This entertaining package will truly allow you to "take time
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