Sapphire & Steel

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.

From 1979 to 1982 ATV produced six serials of the supernatural drama Sapphire & Steel, with Joanna Lumley and David McCallum playing the eponymous elementals sent to investigate breakages in time. In this series time is in fact the enemy, a force that tries to break through into every day reality and wreak havoc.

Already established from the late 1960s as a writer of police procedurals such as Z Cars, PJ Hammond was also developing a career as a writer of fantasy drama aimed at children, most notably the popular Ace of Wands. It was in this vein that he originally conceived a half-hour show for the tea time slot which developed into one of the scariest pre-watershed series ever produced. Relying on mood to carry its often obscure plots and the sexy by-play of its leads to ground an often unfathomable and impenetrable show, the result remains one of the last glories of the era of studio taped drama, each half-hour drama playing like a mini stage play, utterly artificial yet handsomely produced, a genre piece that could have been written by Pinter or JB Priestley (or perhaps a combination of the two).

Between 2005 and 2008 Big Finish released three seasons of an audio spin-off of the drama, over 20 years after the original TV series went off the air. This posed several obvious problems as the series was particularly well known for the way it generated its spooky atmosphere through it visuals and impressive production design. With the help of stunning performances from Susannah Harker and David Warner in the lead roles and the important contributions of writer-director-producer-composer Nigel Fairs, the audio version quickly developed a small but dedicated fan following. The results were sometimes controversial and often truly unsettling and for the most part really succeeded in continuing the original series into a new but complementary realm. Adding to the mix, Mark Gatiss appeared as Gold and David Collings reprised his TV role as the flirtatious Silver, adding some welcome continuity. I hope to review all of them, time allowing …

Season 1

Season 2

      • The School by Simon Guerrier
      • The Surest Poison by Richard Dinnick
      • Water Like a Stone by Nigel Fairs
      • Cruel Immortality by Nigel Fairs
      • Perfect Day by Steve Lyons
      • The Mystery of the Missing Hour by Joseph Lidster

Season 3

    • Second Sight by Nigel Fairs
    • Remember Me by John Dorney
    • Zero by Steve Lyons
    • The Wall of Darkness by Nigel Fairs

6 Responses to Sapphire & Steel

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  5. piero says:

    Beautiful actress Joanna Lumley! She was also a beautiful woman when she played this series! . I remember seeing a few episodes in Italy, but it happened several years ago. I have instead clearest memories of another series starring Joanna Lumley, “The New Avengers” in which she starred alongside (I remember) Patrick Macnee, the great Macnee (I remember that he died in one of the 007 films with Roger Moore ).

    • Joanna Lumley is a bit of a national institution in the UK now – she was a big hit as Purdey in The New Avengers (she was probably the best thing in it in fact) but I loved her in Sapphire & Steel, truly one of my favourite fantasy TV series ever. I used to watch it very late at night on Rai (literally about 1 AM I think). Macnee was great in View to a Kill (Bersaglio Mobile I think) and Lumley of course was a Bond girl opposite George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

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