Sapphire & Steel - Audio Plays - Articles
Two newly-weds plan to renovate and move into a lighthouse. They arrive there with the architect to discuss the changes to be made and to plan their new life. The lighthouse, however, is haunted by ghosts of the past. Sapphire and Steel are called to the site to stop Time breaking out, but the quickly building electrical storm, coupled with the encroaching time-storm mean that their lives are all in danger. Who is the old man who warns of danger? What is the history between the newly married man and his architect? What went on between the man and his father and who is the middle aged artist who asks young gay men to model for him? And how does it all tie together?
This episode can quite easily be added to a list of Marmite episodes – for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, Marmite is a yeast based spread sold in the UK and the advertising tag line explains that you either “love it or hate it”. There are a couple of other episodes which evoke the same sort of feelings in the fans, but this was the first. It is penned by Nigel Fairs and he has been absolutely interwoven with the revival of this classic British series. The story is a fairly straightforward one, but it is complicated by the fact that it is fragmented and we deal with 4 or more different story lines taking place at different points in time with no real cues as to who the characters are or at what point in time we are meeting them.
As well, for much of the play, Sapphire and Steel are not involved and are mostly just by-standers. Add to this, the story deals with homosexuality and repressed homosexuality – there was massive scope to do this insensitively and just wrongly, but (in my opinion) Fairs pulls it off and makes the characters somewhat sympathetic and believable. But not too sympathetic, at first. It is refreshing to see gay characters being treated as real characters and real human beings, shown to be as capricious and hard and unfeeling and loving and so on as any straight character in the previous episodes. For me, the real test of a characters believability is can the same character be portrayed as a different sex/race with only minor changes and without ruining the whole story? And the answer, in this episode, is yes. Admittedly, the story would probably have less impact if it were between straight characters and would have been more ordinary, but the gay characters do not get a special pass and are not made more sympathetic because of their homosexuality.
This episode presents a departure from the norm for the first time. Fairs is clearly aware of the fact that most of the action takes place inside our heads and therefore he can really experiment with the format. And he does. The storm soundtrack increases in intensity as the action comes to a climax. The audience does not get it’s hand held and walked through this story, you have to listen and pay attention. This really is an adult story: about adults, for adults.
I have to admit, when I first heard the tale I was less than impressed. However, on second and third listens through the power of the story really impressed me and the fact that it made me pay attention really go me caught up in it. Sapphire and Steel are actually called on to detect in this episode, rather than allow events to happen and for them to try to provoke Time. The actors do a magnificent job of portraying their roles and they ensure that the characters move beyond two dimensions – Big Finish really have done a marvellous job of casting the actors and selecting writers and score writers. I would not recommend this as a starter episode – in fact, I’d suggest buying and listening to each episode in order. And please listen to it a few times, you can’t really take it all in on the first sitting alone. This isn’t the last time we will see the format experimented with and we’ll discuss them later on.
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