When the BBC hit gold with the original Doctor Who other British TV networks did what Hollywood does and try to ride the bandwagon. However, they were more willing to try new things, only looking to imitate the creepy, near-horror vibe. ITV had The Tomorrow People, which aired for the US on Nickelodeon, who would later revive the show in the 1990s as part of their UK version starting. Then there was that sub-par remake on the CW that frankly should have been a remake of Jumper.

Another of ITV’s attempts focused on its own take on time compared to the guy in the blue box. Sapphire And Steel treated time as an invading force into the present, but also claimed other forces also threatened the “corridor of time”. Each season, at least as Shout Factory posts it, was it’s own serial. The first one, referred to as “Escape Through A Crack In Time” (apparently the names came from a magazine and aren’t otherwise official), has two guardians of time, the titular Sapphire and her partner Steel, investigating a disappearance in a house that takes two children’s parents right in front of the sister. Enjoy.

From Wikipedia:

The programme centres on a pair of interdimensional operatives, the eponymous Sapphire and Steel. Very little is revealed about their purposes or backgrounds in the course of the series but they appear to be engaged in guarding the continuing flow of time. They are two of several elements that assume human form and are sent to investigate strange events; others include Lead (Val Pringle), who takes the aspect of a jovial, friendly giant, and Silver (David Collings), a technician who can melt metals in his hands.

In the series, it is explained that Time is like a progressing corridor that surrounds everything, but there are weak spots where Time – implied to be a malignant force – can break into the present and take things. There are also creatures from the beginnings and ends of time that roam the corridor looking for the same weak spots to break through.

It is heavily implied that Sapphire and Steel are not human, given their abilities and manner. Steel, for example, often has gaps in his knowledge of human culture and even Sapphire’s grace is tempered with a cool detachment from the humans they interact with. In Adventure 5, Steel confirms that they were alien, “in the extraterrestrial sense.” The two also refer to being involved in the mystery of the Mary Celeste, and in one case state they will be waiting for a ship to surface in seventy-five years. This could mean they are either exceptionally long-lived or some kind of time travel is involved. P. J. Hammond confirmed the former hypothesis in a 1993 interview.[2]

I admit I’m not sure what I think about the show. It doesn’t seem to have a high budget and apparently little is ever explained, which may be something they were also taking from early Doctor Who, so maybe as the show went on we would learn more about the elements, what “Transuranic, heavy elements” are and why they can’t be used where living beings exist, and what the agency was. Apparently the series (not this serial but the full series) ends on a cliffhanger that is still not resolved, even by the later Big Finish audio dramas, after the two performers playing the main characters left. I guess they didn’t come up with the idea of new forms of the elements until the audio dramas from what I read in the wiki entry. Somehow I think I was a little TOO in the dark and I reject the show’s premise that history is a bad thing (yes, you can dwell too much on the past, but neither should you forget it, nor does it impede progress as Wikipedia suggests the show implies) but what it lacks in lore it makes up for in concept.

But you can check it out for yourself. Sapphire And Steel is currently available at Shout Factory TV , or order the DVD through Shout Factory.


About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

3 responses »

  1. Gary says:

    I’m old (and British) enough to have watched these first time round and loved them then, and still love them now. The stories were intriguing and you’re right, not a great deal gets explained; you the viewer are seeing this through their eyes/actions so there’s no exposition beyond what the characters would normally mention and – for me – that adds a wonderful level of depth.

    Yes, Adventure 6 (they had no over-arching story titles just Adventure and a number) ends on a cliffhanger and to my mind, that just added to the whole mystique – leave them wanting more, I say!

    I would happily watch any run of Sapphire and Steel over any version of Dr Who. 🙂


  2. Sean says:

    Sapphire and Steel appears to be a high quality science fiction show. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. It’s very suspenseful. Another British sci-fi show dealing with time….I’d like to see more of these episodes. I’m curious to find out if Sapphire and Steel are able to return the parents to their proper time and location.


  3. Sean says:

    Just found out there is a novelization of the first Sapphire and Steel story (one of the story’s episodes featured here). It was the only Sapphire and Steel story set into novel format. That’s one book I’d love to read.


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