Sapphire and Steel

1979 | United Kingdom

Atmospheric but low budget fantasy series from the pen of P.J.Hammond and starring former New Avengers girl Joanna Lumley and Man From U.N.C.L.E. agent David McCallum, as the enigmatic 'Time Agents' who would appear from nowhere to repair ruptures in the time continuum.

The first story really set the tone for the next five -there were six in all. Whilst Robert Jardine is doing his homework every clock in the house stops ticking. Robert runs upstairs to tell his parents only to find his young sister alone in her bedroom, mother and father it would appear, have vanished. Enter two strangers, Sapphire, a beautifully elegant woman with a pleasing nature and the ability to turn back time for a few seconds -and Steel, like his name suggests, cold and hard and with an aptitude to offend with his no-nonsense unemotional approach to work. Together and with the help of the children the two time agents work out that the house is the focal point for a tear in time itself, the trigger being an old nursery rhyme 'Ring-a Ring-a Roses' (from the time of the Black Plague), recited by the young girl, Helen.

The stories vary in their episode length but curiously none of them have titles, being referred to as 'Adventure One,' 'Adventure Two,' etc. Two is the tale of a ghost hunter who, whilst trying to make contact with the spirit of a World War One soldier, unleashes a melevolent force. Three concerns a tower block that is occupied by observers from the future, and Adventure Four focuses on an evil force trapped in an old photograph. Adventure Five takes place at a 50th Anniversary party in which the past breaks through, making the present day nothing more than a distant memory and finally, in Six -'Sapphire and Steel' find themselves the target at a 1948 service station.

Behind the scenes the series was beset by problems. At first it was disrupted by a long television strike and finally became a victim of ATV's loss of franchise, therefore no more than the six stories were ever made. The entire collection is available on DVD. Sapphire and Steel is a perfect example of what can be accomplished without any flashy special effects and stands up well to the test of time.

Published on January 27th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus (2000) for Television Heaven.