Sapphire and Steel : Assignment 5

May 22, 2014 in Cult TV, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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After ghost stories and futuristic tales, we finally get onto Sapphire and Steel’s take on a murder mystery, where a bargain with Time could lead to the destruction of the entire human race. This fifth assignment is six parts long and is written by Don Houghton and Anthony Read, making it the only story not to be written by the series’ creator, P J Hammond. Some may remember these from their writing credits on Doctor Who, with Don Houghton writing stories such as Inferno and Anthony Read being script editor for a while. There are some distinct differences in the writing from previous stories with the most prominent being the fact that Sapphire and Steel are undercover, which works for this story given the style of the murder mystery. Still it very much feels like Sapphire and Steel despite these differences and Sapphire and Steel are quite possibly at their best here, although I’m not sure as to how much input P J Hammond actually had in this story.


Interestingly enough, this story has a lot more characters in it than the others, again thanks to the murder mystery set up. While some last longer than others, they all get to their fair bit and its interesting to see how taking away one of the key elements didn’t really change much, proving that Sapphire and Steel can do practically anything. However, the small sets are kept and with no way out it really does add to the feeling of claustrophobia. Also an essential part of all murder mysteries is the idea that everyone has something to hide and in this story they mostly do. Even Sapphire and Steel are no exception and arguably have the most to hide of them all, although their secrets remain hidden and still do to this day, and I honestly prefer it that way. The mystery is one of the main driving forces of the show and without it I doubt it would be as good. I’ll go into more detail on this next week.

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There is a fair bit to talk about with the characters of Sapphire and Steel in this, with their ”love story” being a bit more prominent than it has been before but in the grand scheme of things is still very much in the background. There’s the fact that in their disguises they are a married couple and we later get a full on kiss between the two of them. However, this changes from story to story there’s no clear narrative to it and it very much gives this idea that theirs a lot more going on between stories. Similar to this, Steel makes an interesting remark about how using someone and loving them are different things on Earth, another hint of the society he and Sapphire come from. Sapphire was quite playful at times in this time from things like her asking Steel which side of the bed he’d prefer to her remark about Steel interrupting her in the card game.

The story itself is actually, despite the multiple murders and heavy subject matter, quite comedic at times which could again be down to the change in writers. The way that they involved one of the humans and nick-named him Brass is quite an interesting one and leads to a fair bit of humour, despite the character’s ultimate death. It’s interesting to see how Steel almost cared for him, saying that he did it only to distract him so that he’d be unaware of it when his death comes. There’s also another scene which I found quite amusing when Steel forgets his cover name and has to quickly ask Sapphire telepathically for it. There are loads of little bits like that which do help to lighten up the mood.

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The deaths themselves in this story are actually quite interesting. First we have the stabbing, then we have the gun shot, then we have the electric shock (which was the most unexpected) and finally we have the virus (which is the most gruesome). It’s interesting that all these end up being reverted and the only real death in the story actually taking place before the story but it is still a great idea and at the time the other deaths really do mean a lot. It’s also interesting to see the rather emotionless reactions to these characters death. There is initial shock but there’s no real acknowledgement afterwards, sometimes it’s even joked about. Some may argue that this is a fault in the writing but for me it helps to set everything even more on edge and I like that about it. Mr McDee, who spends a lot of time locked away in his study, even comments that they’re all sick for talking about what happens to the shares in the company when one of them dies at dinner.

Interestingly enough, I’m pretty sure the idea of someone making a deal with Time to change history is something that very much inspired the Sarah Jane Adventures villain, the Trickster. In fact it seems like Time itself on this show inspired the Trickster with it wanting only to cause chaos. This only really comes up in the last episode and its a pretty adult idea and a pretty adult way of dealing with it too. Sapphire and Steel very much go into the background during this last episode and it’s quite interesting to see them more as observers and to also see the different chances there were to kill Mr McDee, despite it eventually getting quite tedious and the way the event keeps repeating really does get boring after a while. The idea of Mr McDee accidentally creating a virus which would wipe out man kind is also another interesting idea and quite a typical science-fiction one. It does also get darker the further you go into it with less characters around as more murders take place and overall it’s quite dark by the time it reaches its climax. However, it also gets a bit more boring at this point too unfortunately.

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Overall, it was an enjoyable and interesting story with a great murder mystery set up which entertains for the majority of the story. Sapphire and Steel are at their best in this for me and the characters in this are great but overall I still prefer most of the previous assignments. We’re now getting to the end of Sapphire and Steel with the last story coming up next which will end the series on one of the best cliff-hangers in history.