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1.5 – Dead Man Walking

Cover Art for Sapphire and Steel 1.5 - Dead Man Walking

Copyright ©2008 Big Finish Productions

Sapphire and Steel are assigned to Blackledge Prison to investigate the latest outbreak by Time. They impersonate Government inspectors to investigate an unexplained death: Stuart Kilsby hanged himself in an empty cell. At the same time, a new inmate has arrived and he knows every inch of the prison, despite coming here for the first time. This is a prison in which the guards have more power than the Governor, a prison where people die and where Steel risks becoming a part of the story. Can Sapphire and Steel solve the mysteries and save the inmates before Time breaks out?

I have to declare, early on, that I do not like this episode. There is a lot that is right with it, but there is more that is wrong with it. Although this is written by the inestimable Nigel Fairs, it never seems to flow. I think that this is because large and important parts do not ring true. Fairs took a brave step in placing the story within a prison. For a variety of reasons we all have an image of the inside of a prison, particularly one for long term prisoners. The idea of a desolate, remote prison is fine, as is the seeming supremacy of the guards. The problem lies with the prisoners themselves: because these audio adventures are designed to be relatively “family friendly”, the language has to be toned down a fair way. This means that the writer is left with the “milder” swear words and we are left with weak dialogue for the prisoners – in fact, they sound like the inmates of a boys boarding school from a film circa 1955! This is a real shame as the story itself is well plotted and as complex and satisfying as we have come to expect from this series.

As ever, we have the themes of loss, isolation, despair and revenge. We have the unexpected consequences from making a seemingly great deal with Time (or it’s agent). Sapphire and Steel (as characters) and Susannah Harker and David Warner (as actors) do a wonderful job of suggesting that Sapphire and Steel are completely alone and cut off and that the success or failure of the mission hinge entirely on their actions and reactions. The supporting cast do a masterly job of taking us along the story line and not revealing too much or too little. And the score itself brings us all of the tension and release during the action that we have come to expect. Despite this not being one of my favourite episodes, it is still well put together and a great addition to the series.

Back in my post on The Lighthouse, I mentioned that there are a few episodes that were not universally loved. This is one of the, thankfully, small list. Another shame, because this is the end of Season 1 for Sapphire and Steel; it would have been great to have gone out on a much higher note than this. However, taken as a whole, this first series achieves it’s aims: it reintroduces the characters of Sapphire, Steel and Silver to us; it introduces the series to newcomers; it provides some very strong stories and begins to expand on the themes and idea from the television series. In all, this series doesn’t stray too far from the path laid out in the television series and is a good way to revive the franchise.

In Season 2, we will see the writers get a little more creative and begin to separate the original series from the new one.

Buy it here or get all of season 1 here.

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