Sapphire & Steel: Complete Series
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Airing in the late 1970s and early 1980s, sapphire and steel was a hit science fiction show from britain unlike any other. Steel (david mccallum) and sapphire (joanna lumley) are a pair of interdimensional operatives who are engaged in guarding the order, if not integrity, of time. Very little is revealed about their purposes or backgrounds in the course of the series, but they seem to be two of several elements that assume human form and are sent to investigate strange events. //
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If you're a fan of The X-Files, you'll LOVE Sapphire And Steel. Especially if you prefer intellectual horror above quantitive gore, guts, and circus acts. Made between 1978 and 1982, this low-budget BBC series used inventive plotlines, a strong atmosphere, and strongly written and acted characters to sell it self. And it packs a whollop. Indeed, some of the stories are so complex that they could be benefitted from a second viewing. (pity VCRs didn't exist when this show was first aired!)
I personally recommend Story 2 ("The Railway Station") for first viewing. It's got the series' premise down pat and despite a lengthy 8 episodes, remains taut and gripping all the way through so the padding to fill out the timeslot isn't noticed. The story puts a new dimension on ghosts and their influence, and episode 8 has some excellent make-up and a grizzly resolution.
Story 4, "The Man Without a Face" is another fan favorite. The malignancy in this story puts photography in a different light. Either by imprisoning people in photographs or taking them out, this story is inventive - and suitably horrific. The final episode isn't as strong as it could have been, but the rest of the story more than makes up for it.
Story 6, with a working title of "The Petrol Station" features a new type of enemy for Sapphire and Steel. This one doesn't use horror in the way the other stories had, but it is highly enjoyable and also keeps one's interest. It's also the series' finale and, as many BBC Sci-fi series' go, this one isn't particularly pleasant.
Story 1, "Escape through A Crack in Time", while having a very good introductory episode, ultimately falls apart halfway through and the denouement rather misses the point of its preceeding episodes. Revolving around children's' fairy tales, this one tries to give a deeper meaning to the tales. As it is an introductory story, you'll note some differences that were not in subsequent stories. As story 2 is so perfect, P J Hammond was quick to correct the errors he'd made. It's still worth a watch, if for episode 1 alone. As with stories 3 and 5, this one is 6 episodes long and contains some padding.
Story 5, "Dr McDee Must Die", was not written by P J Hammond, who wrote the other stories. It feels more like a Doctor Who story. It's got its moments, but is overall mediocre.
Story 3, "The Creature's Revenge", is the one and only turkey. Indeed, it's a turkey complete with beaks and claws. Watch it for the sake of completeness and the introduction to Silver, who is seen again in story 6 of course. But what little plot exists is padded out so extensively that re-watchings are mandatory. and, unfortunately, this story is so dull and uninvolving that re-watching is simply impossible to do. The plot, as far as I can make it out to be, revolves around some human science teams traveling back in time a couple thousand years to experience how their ancestors lived in 1980. There's a creature that kills on contact for some reason, the pair taking the role of a 1980 couple (despite being ~25 years different in age) are being tormented by visions of wild animals or food animals, and their futuristic but disguised pod is basically an old apartment building (both outside AND inside, sigh...) with a cheap mod and 1979-looking aluminium kitchen table set as a visual effect for the inside of another pod. Episode 1 is actually reasonably good and its cliffhanger is marvelous, but it totally fails after that.
There were some audio commentary extras that were interesting, but not spectacular.
The menu system looks nice, but a "Play all" button would have been nice.
The packaging for the region 1 (US) version is vastly superior to any of the other region releases available. It's uniform and has a proper feel.
The audio transfer is reasonably well, no argument here.
The video transfer is quite good, though it's clear that only a mundane amount of video restoration was used; the prints could have benefitted from a full restoration/embellishment process to eliminate the problems that the source tapes have (the only real problems are with the cameras and recording equipment of the time. Skin tones look great and there's little artifacting to be found.) But that would be very expensive, the show is British therefore the British owners would do the actual restoration work, and this is a niche show. Besides, I've seen far, far worse.)
There is a rumor that the discs will not play the video at proper frame rate on some players. The discs will play, but the video has a film-like motion to it. As this series was shot on video tape, this effect isn't normal. But even with this effect (it happens on my set-top player but not my computer's DVD-ROM drive), I don't find the effect jarring. In fact, I think it HELPS many of the stories because it feels like a film transfer. (only videophiles will care about the difference, but I thought I'd say it anyway. :-) )
A&E released this set. So it's no surprise that this set is as solid as it is. Definitely a buy for fans. Easily worth a renting for newbies and ultimately worth the buy.
I was amazing it lasted as long as did.
I am really glad the whole series is on DVD as the VHS versions are real clunkers in that each adventure is on two tapes, so you end up with a HUGE collection of video tapes if you wanted the whole series.
I think Joanna Lumley and David McCallum are great as Sapphire and Steel, two beings sent to sort out rips and problems in time that could devastate the universe if left unchecked.
My favourite adventure was the railway station, it was very atmospheric but all of the adventures had their own merits and I loved the quirky way that Lumley and McCallum bounced off each other, one wry, the other droll, both human but not human.
Many people think this series has dated badly but I actually think it has done okay, considering it was a pioneer in its own genre and well worth buying and watching again just for the sheer brilliance of what the writers and producers were trying to do in a time of bad hair, bad clothes, bad songs, bad movies and even badder actors!
While the show itself is excellent the DVD's themselves don't live up to their potential. The extras are rather thin (although the introduction voice-overs by P.J. Hammond and Shaun O'Riordan at the beginning of each assignment are very insightful). The other problem is that the episodes were not transferred from PAL to NTSC (the U.S. video encoding standand) properly so the video images have a slightly jerky film-like motion to them. (Episode 5 of Assignment 5 is the only episode that was transferred properly) Although the problem is not distracting, it is a shame that A&E couldn't have got it right the first time. Maybe this set will be rereleased with the flaws fixed (as they did for some episodes of Space:1999).
Overall, this is a great series that anyone who likes original writing and spooky atmosphere will enjoy. A must have.