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Sapphire & Steel: Assignment One


Sapphire and Steel was a British SF/F series that ran from 1979 to 1982. It starred ex Man from U.N.C.L.E. David McCallum and ex Avenger Joanna Lumley as... Well, the DVD cover describes them as "detectives from another dimension", but I don't think that makes sense as the credit narration clearly states that they are from this dimension.

Sapphire and Steel are medium-weight "elements" (even though neither are elements in the chemical sense) whose job it is to rectify disturbances. I liked that the title sequence hints at a broader mythology, a universe where the heavy elements are reserved for places that aren't inhabited by mere humans.

The series followed the Doctor Who format (the one that the new Doctor Who series doesn't follow) of serialised half-hour episodes interrupted by rather arbitrary cliffhangers. Benefiting a British genre show of the 70s the special effects are neither special nor effective. But these shows have never hung on their production values, rather on the writing and acting.

The principals are both fine - McCallum presents an icy, commanding Steel, Lumley an elegant, charming Sapphire, who seems to be the more powerful of the two (capable of manipulating time), even though Steel is clearly the senior partner.

Less successful are the guest cast. Writer/creator Peter Hammond unfortunately chose to feature child parts prominently in the first serial and neither the young boy nor girl featured acquit themselves terribly well. Still, they weren't as annoyingly jocular as Val Pringle who appears as another member of Sapphire and Steel's agency - Lead. Think Doctor Hibbert from The Simpsons. Only much, much worse. Heh. Heh. Heh.

The writing also suffers from obvious padding imposed by the serial form. It also wasn't clear to me if the show was aimed at adults or children. The M rating on the DVD cover implied the former, but the prominent use of children and lack of mature material indicated otherwise.

I think the show had promise, especially with the interaction between the two leads (that's leads as in cords, not leads as in two pieces of heavy metal). But ultimately I wasn't inclined to sample Assignment 2 on the same DVD despite it sitting on the TV shelf for two weeks accumulating late fees. Maybe another time.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 12, 2005 11:33 PM.

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