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Sapphire and Steel: Assignment Four

May 14th, 2007 (12:04 am)
current music: Last night's Bob Harris Show, Radio 2

I have been distracted by work and by a job application in the last few days, and don't think I can manage a full review of the latest DocSoc offering...

...but it's been years since I saw any Sapphire and Steel, and was very impressed with how the fourth assignment stands up. Alyson Spiro's Liz has always been the most memorable human helped by our medium atomic weights, and watching the story again I understood a little more why she sticks in my mind. The suggestive background detail of her 'work' is just enough to evade accusations of immoral behaviour being alluded to before the watershed. Her response to the telepathic influence of Sapphire and that of Steel are different in ways which play to the established characteristics of the protagonists, as well as establishing them for newcomers, and also point to the standard modes through which Liz acts with men and women.

The Shape, antagonist in this story, is portrayed with eerie effectiveness. Both actors playing it seem to have worn a blank mask at some stage, an effect which would now probably be achieved through CGI, on the example of the similar blank faces in Doctor Who's The Idiot's Lantern last year. One wonders what damage the Shape could do if introduced to the internet, and how his properties might be changed by digital scanning.


Posted by: ms_rebecca_riot (ms_rebecca_riot)
Posted at: May 14th, 2007 04:58 am (UTC)

wow. I always remember the scary civil war roundheads episode, with the nursery rhymes and the decapitation. And the one about the animals in the wall- um- something to do with animal use and experimentation going orribly wrong.

ps good luck with the job application

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 14th, 2007 09:15 am (UTC)

Assignments one and three, I think.

Thanks for the good wishes regarding the job, too.

Posted by: firin (firin)
Posted at: May 14th, 2007 05:26 am (UTC)

Episode 4 was the first episode of Sapphire and Steel that I saw, courtesy of DocSoc. I think I must have seen them all shortly afterwards, courtesy of J's video collection, but episode 4 stands out in my memory.

"As I was going up the stair, I met a man who wasn't there...he wasn't there again today, I wish, I wish he'd go away."

Chilling stuff, not to mention vindication for those of us who never did like having our photo taken much!

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 14th, 2007 09:21 am (UTC)

It was probably the first one we showed - Trinity 1990, maybe?

Posted by: The Mezzo Mongoose (miss_next)
Posted at: May 14th, 2007 06:18 am (UTC)

Ooh, I used to love that series. I've forgotten all the details now, though, unfortunately.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 14th, 2007 09:21 am (UTC)

Where Sapphire and Steel are concerned, there aren't that many to remember, notoriously!

Posted by: viala_qilarre (viala_qilarre)
Posted at: May 14th, 2007 07:45 am (UTC)

s&s 4 was the last one I acquired on dodgy, many-times-copied video tape, back in the bad old days when such things were not commercially available. Consequently, it's the one I'm least familiar with, since I've probably watched it only three or four times - as opposed to many many times, for all the others. The whole idea of a menace lurking in a photograph - across multiple photographs - is a genuinely spooky one.

I do remember though that my strongest impression about the content of the episode at the time was that Steel seemed to be in a very bad mood, and was being much more unpleasant to Sapphire than usual. (There you are, you see, I always go straight for the ship.) There was a cold, jagged distance between them that wasn't evident in most of the other stories. This is one of the things I loved about S&S - it managed to give an impression of stuff going on behind the scenes, that was never explored and only occasionally hinted at.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 14th, 2007 09:52 am (UTC)

There is the discussion at the beginning about the different powers of 'specialists' and 'operators', and Sapphire and Steel are the latter. It's a while since I've watched the others, though I think that it's in the second story (after the Darkness has taken Sapphire's face) that Steel says that he has 'grown to love' Sapphire, in a way that has suggested to me that (at least when they are in human form) Steel and Sapphire are a couple. Sapphire never says 'he's not my boyfriend' to Liz in the fourth story, either.

Posted by: viala_qilarre (viala_qilarre)
Posted at: May 14th, 2007 12:22 pm (UTC)

"The Sapphire that I've come to know and to love," is the exact quote. I know the other episodes extremely well. ;)

Then there's all the shenanigans with Silver in the one set in a block of flats, where Silver is flirting with Sapphire, and she is reciprocating somewhat, and Steel is glowering around jealously in the background. And in the 'Agatha Christie one' (which wasn't written by PJ Hammond, so imo its canonicity is on shakey ground!) they actually kiss. Yes, there's a lot going on.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: May 14th, 2007 01:23 pm (UTC)

I've never seen Sapphire and Steel, due to the videos/dvds first being released as expensive box sets, and no longer being available. A pity, as everything I've heard about it makes it sound like the kind of thing I like.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 14th, 2007 07:29 pm (UTC)

I think that you probably would like it. The pace of each story is sedate rather than frenetic and the viewer is encouraged to engage their brain.

Posted by: Polly (jane_somebody)
Posted at: May 26th, 2007 10:07 am (UTC)

That's the one with the photographs, yes? I haven't seen S&S in years, but I don't remember it occuring to me when I last saw this one to think about what Liz and Ruth(?) did. I do know that even then, I thought Steel's order to Liz never to be photographed would be impossible in the modern world of all-pervasive CCTV.