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Sapphire and Steel DVD!

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#1 of 7 OFFLINE   Gerry A

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Posted October 09 2003 - 03:51 AM

I got an email from tvshowsondvd.com that a box set of the complete Sapphire and Steel DVD will be released this November.

This is already next month! Is this true? Any confirmation anywhere else?

Man, I've been waiting for this series for just the longest time!

#2 of 7 OFFLINE   Rick P

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Posted October 09 2003 - 07:06 AM

This does not bode well..

1) It's only 5 discs.. I got the 6 disc release from R4 last year.. more squeegaze (word?), and with there being six adventures in the series (6 discs), they're gonna have some weird stacking.

2) the R4 transfers were execellent, the R2 were lacking.. I fear that A&E will get the R2

3) it's A&E, they manage to foul up just about anything they import (re: The Animated Mr Bean being SPECIFICALLY REQUESTED from Tiger Direct in CROP/CHOP instead of the WIDESCREEN it was broadcast in).

#3 of 7 OFFLINE   David Lambert

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Posted October 09 2003 - 08:57 AM

1) It's only 5 discs.. I got the 6 disc release from R4 last year.. more squeegaze (word?), and with there being six adventures in the series (6 discs), they're gonna have some weird stacking.
I typoed...it's 6 discs. In fact, you can look at the picture and count the spines to verify that it's six.

Gord was e-mailed about this release directly by A&E, who wanted us to list it to give the title more exposure. It is an exlusive item for 1 year, I think it is, to Infinity Resources-owned sites, which includes Deep Discount DVD, Critic's Choice Video, and now also DVDPlanet (since Image sold them recently).

I've updated the listing to show the correct number of discs and note the exclusivity...it won't be in stores, folks!

Next question: will I like this show? It sounds cool to me, and the subject is up my alley. So...is it any good?
DAVE/Memphis, TN

...Want to see your favorite show on DVD?

#4 of 7 OFFLINE   Sean Campbell

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Posted October 09 2003 - 11:09 AM

BTW, the boxset from New Zealand is region 0 so all you'll need to watch it is the ability to play PAL.
Sapphire & Steel was similar to Dr Who, shot on video and broadcast in a serial format. It was very atmospheric and quite creepy, adventure 4 being probably the best example. It frightened the life out of me when I was a kid Posted Image

#5 of 7 OFFLINE   Jeff Flugel

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Posted October 09 2003 - 07:49 PM

Outstanding news!!! I was just eyeballing the Region 2 sets and contemplating whether to pony up the huge fundage to buy them. Getting these Region 1 (and for less cash) is a good thing.

Haven't had the fortune to see this series yet, but if all I read/hear about it is true (and in light of the fact that I'm a huge Brit-TV nut) then it's going to be great.

Thanks for the heads-up!

#6 of 7 OFFLINE   Jonathan.e


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Posted October 09 2003 - 08:49 PM

Jeff, why not get the R4 box set? Can be had for a little as $40 (as opposed to $53 at DDD) and is a PAL presentation of a PAL source as opposed to an NTSC conversion. Even on the R4 set the picture is far from perfect but much better than the R2 so a further degradation via NTSC would be best avoided IMO.

Best of all the R4 is available now! Brilliant programme. Have had the set for ages now, one of my best DVD purchases ever.

#7 of 7 OFFLINE   Anthony Neilson

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Posted October 10 2003 - 02:29 AM

This might help you decide. Personally, I'd recommend it.

From `TV Zone' special issue 6 (August 1992)

`Sapphire and Steel' was one of the most bewilderingly strange and perplexing
Fantasy series ever produced for television, and as such is one of the few
that really counts as a cult series. Although it was quite popular when first
shown, perhaps chiefly because of its stars (David McCallum and Joanna
Lumley), the series paradoxically seems to resist appeal to a mass audience.

The characters of Sapphire and Steel themselves are wreathed in mystery, and
we never get more than vague clues about their origins or identity. The series
itself is hard to pin down. On the presentation level, although it has a
supposedly explanatory voice-over after the teaser to each episode, it doesn't
really tell you much, and there are never any helpful touches like story
titles or even episode numbers - but then, this all adds to the mystery... The
series is obviously Fantasy, but with a Science Fiction flavour, perhaps
because of its harshness. Time in that sense is much more credibly dealt with,
and although it is manipulated, it isn't seen as something that can be
disregarded, or treated as a number nine bus. It is the great enemy, although
it is never defeated, our heroes are forever battling to contain it.

Elements of Reason

Time in `Sapphire and Steel' is treated as a kind of magic, where old objects
are held to be dangerous in some way, allowing malignant forces from Time to
invade. There is as little sense in this as there is in `Doctor Who's
depiction of flitting about through the aeons - in `Sapphire and Steel' Time
travel is always related to the present day - attributing age to objects in a
human perception (if you go along with the Big Bang theory) was created at the
same time, and so at the most basic level is all the same age. Rationales that
some property is imbued into materials when they are turned into objects are
not offered. But then magic was never a great one for reasonable explanations.
Similarly, the naming of Sapphire and Steel is done for euphonic reasons, as
neither is actually a single element in itself. Sapphire is aluminium oxide in
crystalline form, while Steel is manufactured from iron and carbon. Most of
the other "medium atomic weights" mentioned in the title sequence, Gold, Lead,
Copper, Radium and Silver are elements, while Diamond is another form of
carbon, and Jet is polished lignite (a rock formed from partially decomposed
vegetation, and so ultimately another type of carbon with traces of oxygen,
hydrogen and magnesium). Curiously, Lead is for some strange reason replaced
by Mercury in the title narration of the last story [and the third episode of
the fourth story]...

Television and film Science Fiction have always been marked by their inability
to find their own forms. `Sapphire and Steel' uses a detective story idiom,
albeit owing more to Agatha Christie for all its would-be Chandleresque
overtones, and yet its Science-as-magic approach is reminiscent of Wells'
spacious yet obviously partly-sincere rambling at the beginning of `The Time
Machine' about the nature of Time. Sapphire and Steel are Time detectives, and
yet the `crimes' they investigate are more like accidents.

Each story is essentially the same: something goes wrong with Time, people
disappear into it or reappear from it, meddle with it - or mysterious forces
try to use it to destroy Humanity. But basically the idea is to set things to
rights, to restore the status quo one way or another. Sapphire and Steel's
sense of values is very human, for all their alien dispassion. They profess to
lack emotion yet they understand it in a way and express it in others. It is
almost as if they have forgotten how to express it rather than never having
been capable of it.

Love in a Cold Climate

There is a definite, if understated, sexual frisson between the protagonists,
which is unusual as Science Fiction on British tv tends to be very chaste and
innocent. On only one occasion does Steel say `love', and even then he's being
as oblique as he can. He is jealous of Sapphire's response to Silver's
flirtations, although at other times Steel's attitude to her is somewhat
peevish. They seem at one and the same time to be a team AND independent.

In the final story, it emerges that both have been approached by the Transient
Beings' superiors - they hadn't discussed the fact, yet neither feels betrayed
or deceived... If one can speculate that Sapphire does feel a human-like
attraction to Steel, it must be the child in him that she likes. Steel is
petulant, forever grumpy, grudging in the extreme in his affections. Given
that there is a perceptible relationship there - although it is perhaps
excusable as part of the bonding that makes them such a good team - it never
seems to interfere with their work, other than to make sure that neither of
them abandons the other: but they are a team, and they need each other to do
their job effectively.

`Sapphire and Steel' is arguably as minimalist a series as television can be
without losing sight of realism. Although the settings, costumes, etc, are
naturalistic, they are done very sparsely. All the houses and buildings are
very barely or shabbily furnished, their colours muted if not in shades of
grey. There is no story where bright colour is an important part of the
production design, other than the colours denoting the central characters, but
they are hardly gaudy. The other elements who appear are in paler grey
(Silver) or black (Lead), and one yearns at times for an appearance by a fiery
Radium, or a radiant Diamond. The number of sets in each story is also very
limited, as each set is a single building, and only one of the stories
features location filming.

The Powers That Be

The individual characters of Steel and Sapphire are what the series is
basically sold on, and although we are given certain facts about them and what
they do, we are never told straight out who they are. Their names are chosen
to reflect their different yet complementary characters, and yet are
deceptive. Steel, hard and unyielding on the surface, has weaknesses, emotions
which occasionally surface and cause at worst problems, at best amusement for
Sapphire. She on the other hand comes across at first as a warm, human
character, at least in comparison with Steel. Her icy blueness is her colour,
however, and she outwardly takes the role of the diplomat, the negotiator,
while Steel handles the `rough stuff'. In fact, Steel's physical feats are
infrequent, one example being his super-human reduction in temperature in the
first story. Often, when confronted by physical danger, he seems to avoid the
worst of it.

Sapphire's superpowers are more obvious. Her telepathy is used to discover
2information about their surroundings, and she can discern the age of objects
and the fate of people. Steel has to ask her these things as his only psychic
ability is telepathic communication with her - but as is shown in the fifth
story, even a mere mortal can use that power. Sapphire's main party trick is
`taking time back', accompanied by throbbing sound effects and her bright blue

The two epitomize the typical detective technique - hot and cold. Whatever
their technique, neither really objects to the other's tactics, although a
number of times Steel urges Sapphire to try harder when her powers don't seem
to be working. In contrast to Steel's supposed physicality, it is Sapphire who
most often bears the brunt of physical attack, several times being spirited
away by evil influences. In the second story she is invaded by the blackness
and, later has her face replace by a hideous, distorted fleshy mass. The two
arrive in each adventure at about the same time, but not always quite
together, and there is a feeling that their mission briefings are not joint.

It always seems a shame that we don't see any other elemental characters than
Lead and Silver. Although Lead is rather `over the top' with his constant
guffawing and singing, Silver is a delightful character, puckish yet
irritatingly deferential. He is a specialist, a technician, and he gets
himself into trouble by being too obsessed with his professional skills. The
only reference to the other elements comes in the first story, when Lead
remarks that Jet sends her love to Steel, and reports that Copper is having
problems with the as yet unseen Silver. [References to other elements also
occur in story IV].

The Surreal Thing

All of the series' supporting characters contribute much of the substance of
the story, rather than being objects to which the story, as a separate entity,
happens to. In the first adventure the children Rob and Helen are surprisingly
convincing, given the usual unsatisfactory stage-school products found when a
script requires children to be involved.

The second story is many people's favourite, and usually the first mentioned
when reminiscing about the series. There is a practical reason why this is so,
because it was the longest of all the stories, not least because the 1979 ITV
strike happened after the second [third] episode, and rather than resume where
they had left off, the serial was started again. The serial is anyway one of
the most atmospheric and well-realized, the characters of the ghosts being
pathetic as well as scary, the various visual and electronic effects
masterful, but by far the best feature is Gerald James's performance as the
doomed ghost-hunter, George Tully, creating a very human, bewildered,
blinkered yet noble characterization.

The third story's Time travellers Eldred and Rothwyn are intentionally weak
characters, but the story's colour is provided by the presence of Silver, and
the grisly nature of the threat Sapphire and Steel face overpowers the viewer
in the end. Another favourite story is the fourth, with its Magritte-inspired
faceless villain and animated umbrellas, and the depressing atmosphere of the
grey-walled flats above a junk shop. Alyson Spiro's nightclub hostess Liz is
one of those lost souls frequently found inhabiting '70s drama.

The fifth story is about a murder rerun in a time warp, when a `present day'
businessman holds a '30s style party which seems to end up in the real 1930s.
It is too busy really, and although the plot is weird, it is, let's face it,
too obvious. There are some nice moments of gruesomeness, but things turn out
rather too well - a fault that can, in fairness, also be levelled at the first

The final adventure is also a contender for the best ever, with elements from
all the previous P J Hammond `Sapphire and Steel's - clocks, ghosts, force-
fields, people out of Time, traps...


Admittedly, `Sapphire and Steel' cannot be said to be a cheerful show, and was
at its best when downbeat, dwelling on death, failure, depression, spoiled
innocence, betrayed trust... However, it produced some classic Fantasy/Horror
moments, some deftly black but subtle humour, and featured two consistently
strong lead performers in David McCallum and Joanna Lumley, who despite their
detractors - Lumley especially - excelled here. It is sadly missed.
I've been going to bed early . . .