Sapphire and Steel

Season 1 Episode 1

Adventure One, Part 1

Aired Tuesday 7:00 PM Jul 10, 1979 on ITV
out of 10
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Episode Summary

Adventure One, Part 1

A mother and father disappear from their home while reading nursery rhymes to their daughter. The son calls the police but it is the mysterious Sapphire and Steel who respond to his call.

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  • A review of the entire serial.

    The first Sapphire and Steel serial is something of a mixed bag. The good outweighs the bad, but there are some irritating elements in there that I feel I should get out of the way first. The kids are slightly annoying, and yet I think we got off pretty lucky considering they could've so easily been much worse (child actors... you know what I mean!). The little girl playing Helen is absolutely dreadful, but she doesn't really ruin the scenes she's in, which is kind of strange if you think about it. The direction could be just a little bit tighter. It has the tendency to linger on things for a bit too long than necessary, but again it's not a major problem. The show was still finding its feet after all, and future stories would be directed beautifully. That's not to say Assignment One is badly directed, because it certainly isn't - they do wonders considering the limitations imposed by studio cameras in that time period and there are some very impressive moments. One thing that doesn't get mentioned nearly enough is the absolutely incredible lighting. I know that's geeky as hell, but it adds so, so much that it can't be overlooked. It's even more impressive in the subsequent stories. Returning to the acting front, Lead is a bit jarring, frankly. He does add a bit of light relief, but the aforementioned lingering shots do him no favours. It was probably for the best that he didn't get a return appearance, unlike the wonderful Silver.

    Assignment One's best stuff tends to revolve around Sapphire and Steel themselves and the scary bits. There are some quality scary sequences here, from the scene in episode one in Helen's bedroom where Time first manifests itself (the wall disappearing into the distance followed by the mumbling, plague-ridden old man lurching towards the camera is terrifying) to Sapphire getting trapped inside the painting. I'm sure I'm not the only one who got the chills as the two Roundheads appeared outside the window as a panicking Sapphire informs us that a young girl was murdered in the very room she's standing in. "They want me to be a part of it, they want me to be her". Brrrrrr. And what about the fact that this story completely twists parents into dark, cruel, weird-eyed monsters? I bet I know where Neil Gaiman got his inspiration for Coraline. And I bet kids didn't sleep for weeks after watching this, knowing that even the most comforting, reassuring, stable elements of their lives possibly couldn't be trusted. Of course this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to nightmare fuel (coughAssignmentFourcough).

    Joanna Lumley and David McCallum find their feet instantly as the titular characters. Steel is a terrifically compelling character, showing no compunction in bullying small children (hooray!) or doing whatever it takes to get things done, something we would dramatically and horribly be reminded of later. And I love his freezing ability. Sapphire is a suitably mesmerising counterpart - I love how she's initially more approachable and nice compared to Steel, but ultimate she'll be as ruthless and as manipulative as he can be if the situation calls for it.

    It's a good start. Not the best of the best and with a few creases to be ironed out (that are, quickly), but as long as you brace yourself for some Annoying Children Moments then it's as good a place to start as any.moreless

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