Assignment Six

So here we are, after almost a year we are now at the final episode of Sapphire and Steel.  I really thought that this wouldn’t take me all that long to do.  For such an inventive television series, six series seems very short.  Many other shows ran on for much longer and stand the test of time (no pun intended) far less well.  We have seen them solve problems in an isolated farmhouse, a railway station, a stately home, an antiques shop and a futuristic invisible living space.  And now, for this final showing, we are at a lonely service station just off a British motorway.  This is fitting as all of these shows are set in innocuous locales where that sort of thing just doesn’t happen.

Silver (the ever smooth David Collings) the technician, is already there.  The three adjourn to the cafe attached to the service station to wait developments.  A couple drive up in their car.  However, despite the service station being located in the present day, the car and the couple are both from 1948 and they seem to have little interest in anything that is from their future.  Later, they see the station as it was in 1925 and a traveling musician from 1957 arrive.  S&S quickly realise that this is a trap set for them: technicians always arrive after operatives, the service station is stuck in a time loop lasting a few seconds and all the people who should be there have disappeared.

These new people are all Transient Beings, Beings who are so powerful that they have had to be trapped in their own areas of the time stream.  Interestingly, both Sapphire and Steel had been approached separately by the Transients with an offer to join them.  They are the enemies of the organisation that S&S work for and they are here to trap S&S as part of the bargain that gave them their freedom.  They have “time box” that they use to trap S&S in an inescapable trap – an area of ‘no time’.

This one stands out as an excellent finish to this series of shows.  Lumley and McCallum give it their all, and so they should as they no longer wanted to continue as the characters.  We see another new power – this time Sapphire is able to create an entire image of a car that will bear a close look (as long as you don’t touch it, of course).  The Transients are acted fantastically well, they all have a chilling sense of regret and determination – as if they have a job to do which they don’t enjoy.  But a job which they will see through to the end.

This episode also fills in a little more detail about the “universe” of S&S.  We now have the enemy, Time, the organisation that our technicians and operatives work for and now a third power: the Transient Beings.  In Assignment One, Steel scoffed at the idea of S&S being angels, so we know that there’s no shoehorning in of religion to the series, but their organisation remains a mystery.  It’s fun to think that if the series had continued we could have had a fuller background to the battle between the powers and maybe a few new sides and characters introduced.

The thrilling part of it is that they have to play their parts until all three are together and the loneliness and isolation of the service station makes the trap all that more chilling.  There are some wonderful performances by all of the actors.  As this was the final episode of the series, I have no idea how the writers would have freed S&S from their eternal prison, though it’s fun to guess.