Why the cheap chips of sapphire and steel will haunt us forever

Ghost: Sapphire and Steel by David McCallum and Joanna Lumley – Alamy

A man and a woman stand in front of the window of a service station coffee shop, staring into space. As the camera pans back, the greasy spoon is revealed in a deep, icy void. It’s creepy, and the ITV production values ​​of the early eighties are alien to everyone.In fact, one of the pair is Joanna Lumley, a national treasure even in 1982.Her companion is David McCallum, best known for playing the blue-eyed hero in Uncle

But when they were filming the final scene of Sapphire and Steel, he was more creepy than icy standing next to Lumley. One of the strangest TV shows ever made, the series follows the adventures of a pair of time-travelling super-agents – Sapphire (Lumley) and Steel (McCallum) – as they outwit ghosts, Aliens and other malicious entities.

These nightmares were brought on by a production team that worked hard on shoelaces. However, the terror parade they created is terrifying. The disturbed spirit of plague victims, a man in a bowler hat without a face, the diver suffocated to death. Once seen, none are easily forgotten.

Sapphire and Steel terrified audiences in the evening hours of six seasons before saying goodbye to all the mothers of the shocking ending.

The scene is a restaurant at a truck stop to which Sapphire and Steel are lured by evil characters called Transient Creatures – the predecessor of Hugo Wevin’s Agent Smith matrixThe final twist came when Sapphire and Steel discovered that the cafe had been relocated to deep space. That’s how Lumley and McCallum bowed — through a cosmic cliff that never had any solution.

The plan is to bring back Sapphire and Steel. Alas, organizational changes within ITV led to its cancellation (Luther Creator Neil Cross tried unsuccessfully to reboot it a few years ago). It did so well, though, that the truck stop episode was listed as one of the most-watched shows of the week.

Given the paranormal themes, it’s fitting that Sapphire & Steel lived a ghostly afterlife in the intervening decades.its spiritual infusion Lazarus Project, From the Sky’s massive new prestige thriller about an elite squad of agents traveling through time to fix glitches in the fabric of the universe.Sapphire and steel are also present in russian dollA Netflix hit in which time has its own mind and actively intervenes in the life of Natasha Lyonne’s character.

In Sapphire and Steel, time is likewise a sentient and slightly malevolent force. We know this because Steel said so in the first episode, where he and Sapphire investigate the disappearance of a pair of parents in a spooky house with too many clocks and not enough light sources. “You can’t get into time,” Steele told the missing couple’s horrified son. “But occasionally, time can enter the present…break in…break through.”

If Sapphire and Steel is remembered in 2022, it will be a tragic aid to the “ghostology” of the late seventies and early eighties. It was the heyday of utterly scary public information videos and children’s television, so creepy that today it would issue a health warning for adults, let alone kids under 12.

Time Joanna Lumley as Sapphire and David McCallum as Steel - Shutterstock

Time Joanna Lumley as Sapphire and David McCallum as Steel – Shutterstock

Sapphire and Steel is undoubtedly part of this tradition (it started out as a children’s show, in the vein of Son of Stone). Watched in the 21st century, however, it’s clear that its legacy extends beyond this niche corner of pop culture.

“it is X-Files,” Lumley declared, noting the similarities between her and McCallum’s characters and the iconic ’90s duo of Mulder and Scully. It’s hard not to imagine David Lynch hadn’t met Sapphire and Steel at some point. Understated The grotesque and creepy ways it makes the mundane Twin Peaks.

As with Twin Peaks, the show’s creator, Peter J. Hammond, refuses to explain too much, in large part because of how weird it is. A popular theory is that sapphire and steel are aliens sent to Earth (they have quasi-magical powers – steel reduces temperature; sapphire rewinds time). However, their extraterrestrial identities were never confirmed – instead, we only know they were part of a team of interstellar investigators named after elements, gems, and compounds (we were introduced to two others, lead and silver). “I don’t want to give up too much,” Hammond said, “because once you say where they’re from, you’re already committed.”

Hammond is a job-seeking TV writer who worked on such well-known material as Dock Green and Z Cars’ Dixon before graduating to Emmerdale and The Sweeney. Before Sapphire and Steel, his breakthrough project was Ace of Wands, a children’s show about a remote-controlled stage magician.

Joanna Lumley as Sapphire - ITV/Shutterstock

Joanna Lumley as Sapphire – ITV/Shutterstock

Its success convinced Thames Television to commission him to write another children’s series, The Time Mendler. However, it was deemed too disturbing – even in the seventies – and was shelved. Enter the ranks of pirate producers and Svengali Lew Grade – no stranger to the TV that greenlit Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner in 1967.

He was snapped up by Time Menders for his ITV franchise, United Television. Rebranded as Sapphire and Steel and reconfigured for adults, it appealed to Grade because, if scary and esoteric, the reliance on indoor locations and a dialogue-driven plot ensured it could be put on shoelaces.

It is essential to understand smart casting at the level. So he opened his checkbook for the superwatt duo of Lumley and McCallum. By the time she got to the set, Lumley likely already felt that most of the budget was being spent on her salary. “It was made for potato chips — like everything else back then,” she said.

But the lack of resources didn’t let her down, and she was as serious as Sapphire – even though her performance was rated very nasty alongside the more stern McCallum. They were a partnership in creepy TV heaven, and over six seasons – each made up of many related episodes – created arguably one of the greatest British sci-fi shows of all time .

Sapphire & Steel Follow Interdimensional Agent's Task Force - ITV/Shutterstock

Sapphire & Steel follow task force of interdimensional agents – ITV/Shutterstock

Despite the pre-watershed period, the horror factor is still ahead. The first season takes place in a haunted house where a young girl is chanting Ring a Ring o’ Roses. Even more terrifying is the scene in season 2 of an abandoned train station, followed by the ghost of a World War I soldier who shoots and kills hours after the armistice. Later, Sapphire & Steel introduced the war on meat-eating aliens and the aforementioned Transient Beings, who dressed like regional bank managers but had red eyes.

However, as creepy as it is, sapphire and steel are usually easy on grey matter. Everyone involved felt obligated to make TV for the general audience. “My mom used to have a cleaner, Mrs Putock,” McCallum would say, “and she watched the first episode and said to me, ‘I like it, but I don’t get it’, so we always try to Make the story mildew-proof.”

Still, the potential audience for creepy time-travel TV made on a micro-budget is always limited. So in 1982, after ATV was acquired by CCTV, the plug was pulled. As such, the suspense of sapphire and steel being lured to the restaurant at the end of the universe is doomed to never be resolved. To this day, it is angry with at least one of those involved. “I hate it,” Lumley bemoaned. “I’m still up there. I’m stuck at that gas station.”

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