Monday, March 22, 2010

Gem in the Rough?

Did you know that David McCallum (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'s Ilya Kuryakin) and Joanna Lumley (Ab Fab's Patsy) were in a 70's British science fiction series? When we found about about it, we had to queue up Sapphire & Steel: Complete Series: Disc 1. How bad could it be?

Lumley and McCallum play the eponymous Sapphire and Steel, interdimensional time lords agents tasked with preventing problems with time. The first series of 6 episodes deals with an entity or entities from the past that invades an old house, called up by nursery rhymes. The entity steals the grownups, leaving a serious ~10 year old boy and his ~4 year old sister to deal with the ghosts of murderous New Model Army Roundheads and with Sapphire and Steel.

It is a promising premise, but the execution leaves much to be desired. The production values make the old Dr. Who look like The Matrix. For example, the out-of-time entities are represented by a spot of light, like a flashlight beam. There are a half-dozen sets and that's it.

The logic is rudimentary, or missing entirely. Steel uses a circuit from a refrigerator to bring his temperature to near absolute zero to freeze the ghosts of the past. OK, so he can survive near zero, but why the refrigerator circuit? Also, the agents are named after elements like Steel, Sapphire, Diamond and Jet. Not only are none of these strictly elements (Steel is iron with trace impurities, and Sapphire contains aluminum, oxygen and traces), but why are Jet and Diamond, different forms of carbon, included?Why even ask?

The attraction is the Sapphire and Steel characters. As Steel, McCallum is cold and callous. He has no trouble ignoring a frightened child. Sapphire is the sweet, soft one, except she's almost as cold as McCallum, just a little more pleasant about it. Personally, I think they pull it off, creating interesting characters, almost compelling. Whether that makes up for the weak writing and non-existent production values is a judgment call.

One interesting effect of the plot of this first disc (one series of 6 related 1/2-hour episodes) is that anything old can let through the ghosts from the pasts, therefore it is evil. Destroy all antiques and history. Also, since the vanished parents are being possessed by the evil Past, remember that your parents are evil, and you can only be saved by peculiar strangers. Do everything they tell you and ignore your parents. Got that?

1 comment:

mr. schprock said...

One time I was flipping through the channels and happened upon the final 20 minutes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie. Woof! That's where those production values came from.