If you were the sort of person who used to hide behind the sofa when watching Doctor Who then you’d better build a barricade out of the cushions as well if you watch Sapphire and Steel! Â Whilst it may not have been a kids show it was shown in the early evening so I definitely remember watching the show. Â I may not have understood much of it at the time, but it certainly left a big impression on me.
Sapphire (Joanna Lumley) and Steel (David McCallum) were “elemental forces” who were assigned to clear up problems in the space-time continuum. Â OK, this was a bit of a misnomer, as neither sapphire nor steel are elements, but ignore that because the show itself was otherwise very cleverly written, and was capable of scaring the willies out of you quite easily. Â The idea was these substances could take human form to solve problems, with the aid of their special powers.
Sapphire was able to control time, winding it back for brief periods and sensing when time wasn’t quite flowing the way it should. Â Steel on the other hand was strong and had a very cold demeanour, so it was just as well he was partnered with Sapphire. Â During their adventures we also met other agents including Silver, who was a very jokey, laid back character who obviously had a bit of a thing for Sapphire, and Jet, who was a large muscley black guy! Â More were mentioned in the title sequence, but we sadly didn’t get to meet all of them.
In total Sapphire and Steel embarked on six adventures, which in the style of the old Doctor Who were serialised into several parts, each with a cliffhanger ending. Â Some of my favourites were the one where children are being captured in photographs by a mysterious faceless man, and another involving a haunted train station. Â The final story was also a big favourite of mine as it finishes with Sapphire and Steel apparently stranded in a petrol station that has been literally plucked out of time and into the void!
The show ran from 1979 to 1982 and was the creation of P. J. Hammond, who is still writing today for the likes of Midsomer Murders and new Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood. Â More recently new adventures for the time travelling agents have been released on audio CD, although sadly they are neither written by Hammond or feature Lumley and McCallum. Â Sapphire is now played by Susannah Harker and Steel by David Warner, although David Collings, the original Silver, does reprise his role for some of the new stories. Â I haven’t heard any of these myself, although Interweb opinion seems to be they aren’t as good as the original TV series.
If you’ve never seen or heard of Sapphire and Steel then I suggest you seek out a story or two. Â They’re really spooky, a nice mix of science fiction and ghost story, and I heartily recommend them. Â I’ll leave you with the equally spooky title sequence…