Sapphire and Steel : Assignment 4

May 1, 2014 in Cult TV, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest blog by Hevy782

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After a move into a more futuristic tale, we return to a slightly more traditional tale for Sapphire and Steel. This fourth assignment is once more written by P J Hammond and is only four parts this time. Delving once again into the world of horror although having slightly more dominant sci-fi elements, more akin to the first assignment in style than the other two, with the second very much delving into the world of horror and the third delving into the world of sci-fi. After going to two opposite ends of the spectrum it’s nice in this one to return to somewhere more towards the middle. The story itself has a slightly more mundane setting in a rather dingy modern apartment building, but the almost abandoned nature of it puts it slightly more on edge.


The cast is once again a small one but this possible limitation has been turned into an asset in by helping with the abandoned feel and also making it seem like there’s no help that can come to save them if something goes wrong. We of course have Sapphire and Steel, our two main protagonists. Alongside this we have Liz, an occupant of the apartment building, and the creature who is referred to as the Shape in the credits. Rounding up the cast we have Ruth (or more accurately her voice) and a group of children, only one of which really gets a character to herself. Going back to the character of Liz, she’s very much the ordinary person in this and although we do get hints of a slightly darker past she’s still the character you’re most likely to connect with. She reacts very much as a real person would react to these situations, and that’s what makes her an interesting character.

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This story is the first to have a much more tangible, and slightly more traditional, villain who may seem very familiar to fans of Doctor Who with the faceless figure very much being the inspiration for those which appear in The Idiots Lantern. But that aside he is a spectacular villain who often lingers in the shadows for much of this story. Being played by two actors also helps to bring an edge to him and the way he broke in to Sapphire and Steel’s telepathic conversation was chilling. The story behind him is that he was trapped in the first photograph ever taken and has since been stuck in every photo that ever existed. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s in it, it can mean that he may have his back turned or is behind a wall but he’s always there. That in itself is a bold and chilling concept but one thing that wasn’t too thought out was his motive, which was very much unclear.

Now we move on to our regulars, Sapphire and Steel, who are by this point well established to us in the idea of who they are but not where they come from, something that is still as ambiguous as when the show began. Here, we get a couple of hints at who they really are and there relationships but they’re hints, nothing more. Another interesting part is that Steel seems go care a bit more about human life, and has more of a reaction to the deaths in the story than Sapphire does. Another good part is that Sapphire and Steel will often just disappear it’s not clear whether they teleported or whether they simply got up and left but I think the later is more heavily hinted at, especially since we know it’s possible for them. In this story it’s something that I noticed happened a lot more, often while the camera was focusing on Liz talking and suddenly she’d turn around and they’d be gone.

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The children in this story were quite ominous, and the scene where Liz tries to cuddled one and he crumples in her arms like paper is very well done. We also get to see a different side to Sapphire when she interacts with them and at one point she tries to grab them and they all scatter. They ultimately drift more towards the background and serve more a method of increasing the mystery, as you know from the start there’s something off about them. Definitely the most chilling scene is where the Shape burns the photo which Ruth is trapped in, killing her. Her screams are bloodcurdling and it creates a very strong cliff-hanger too. After that it becomes very suspenseful in the final episode and with Sapphire and Steel trapped in a photo and Liz just about to leave it really does feel like all hope is lost. The idea of the Shape coming to hurt them in the photo is very tense, especially since they cannot move and have no defence against him.

The ending to this story is very nice, with the idea that the villain of the story has not been destroyed, only temporarily trapped. Then there is the chilling scene of the Shape, currently trapped, telling Liz that he will find a photo of her and use it against her. Liz’s reaction is great and the way Steel at the end says for her to find every picture of her and burn it and never have another taken is quite a worrying idea, as she will constantly be on edge for the rest of her life and it’s quite a terrifying idea. Then there’s the fact that the Shape just left her alone and let her be there before, it never did anything to directly hurt her. I think that after we went off a bit with the last assignment things are getting back on track once more and the shorter length of this episode helps it not to drag and keep the interest going throughout, which is often a problem with the longer stories.

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Overall, I think this is an amazing story and it features so many great moments which make it a classic in terms of Sapphire and Steel stories. Now that we’re two thirds of the way through there are only two more stories left to go on our journey through the world of Sapphire and Steel.