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"Medium atomic weights are available...Sapphire and Steel have been assigned."
December 12, 2011 8:35 AM   Subscribe

"While most other notable British Science Fiction shows were over-ambitious in their special effects, with results ranging from the troubling (Doctor Who) to the disastrous (The Tomorrow People), Sapphire & Steel [ATV, 1979 - 1982] simply did not try to do anything the budget wouldn't allow. The result called for milking surreal horror for all it's worth, creating a show that is, while definitely not for everyone, quite capable of reducing so-inclined viewers to quivering little heaps behind the sofa."
posted by Iridic (28 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
There had to be some kind of technical trickery in getting lumley's hair to look like that.
posted by The Whelk at 8:40 AM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Television in the 70s had a distinctive kind of creepiness. Maybe it's the way writers were allowed to pace things more slowly and didn't feel the need to interrupt the weird atmospheric stuff with jocularity or an action sequence the way we do now.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:48 AM on December 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


That show is solely responsible for my deep fear of large clocks. And the unsettled feeling I have at train stations at night.
posted by veedubya at 8:49 AM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here is the first episode, be warned, it will take 3 hours for them to ASCEND A STAIRCASE.

That being said I've forgotten how sinister S&S are to the children, they're not comfortable, wise-cracking heroes.
posted by The Whelk at 9:03 AM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ooh, excited to check this out.

Was the original Tomorrow People so bad? I'm only familiar with the very 90s 90s reboot, which was awesome(ly 90s).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:06 AM on December 12, 2011


I'd be interested to hear your reaction PhoB, I remember being very impressed with the cost-saving creepiness and limited sets and mood, but I had to bail after assignment three cause I had just about enough of Intense Glaring.
posted by The Whelk at 9:10 AM on December 12, 2011


Hey - quit picking on The Tomorrow People! As a pre-teen (American) in England in the late 70s, it was pure awesome!
posted by davidmsc at 9:17 AM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Tomorrow People was pretty awesome as a twelve-year old. Big ups to TVO for carrying it.

Tell me, are you blue or green?
posted by bonehead at 9:23 AM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


And the ending to the Sapphire and Steel? My God! I assume the actual intent was to come back and change it in the next season.
posted by tyllwin at 9:35 AM on December 12, 2011


Yeah, and I don't know what was worse, the music in the holograph scene from the Inspector Spacetime Christmas special, or the holography itself.
posted by AugieAugustus at 9:37 AM on December 12, 2011


S&S was fantastic; one of the best of the 70s British TV shows.
posted by rodgerd at 9:42 AM on December 12, 2011


(Huh, I wonder what is the absolute cheapest you could produce a scripted TV show for these days while using guild actors and union tech?)
posted by The Whelk at 9:44 AM on December 12, 2011


Sapphire and who know? I feel like Abed suddenly discovering Inspector Spacetime.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 9:50 AM on December 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh Sapphire and Steel. I first came to it for the Illya Kuryakin. I stayed for the goddamn this is creepy.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 10:00 AM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Add me to the chorus of people objecting to your picking on the Tomorrow People.

The 70s Tomorrow People theme song is my cellphone ringtone right now.

True story.
posted by edheil at 10:03 AM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


(Huh, I wonder what is the absolute cheapest you could produce a scripted TV show for these days while using guild actors and union tech?)

I don't know, but count me in for the Kickstarter.

And, you know, if you're looking for a PA or anything ...
posted by penduluum at 10:14 AM on December 12, 2011


I hereby cheerfully disassociate myself from the Tomorrow People abuse in the quoted article.
posted by Iridic at 10:15 AM on December 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is a brand new thing to me, and I am lodging a complaint to the universe that my local PBS affiliate did not insert it into my younger me's brain at the same time it did The Prisoner and Doctor Who and Space 1999 and the like. A couple youtube parts of Assignment 1 and now I'm going to be watching the rest of it.
posted by Drastic at 10:28 AM on December 12, 2011


Reading from my phone, I came in here to defend Iridic as a good soul who was using someone else's quote. But he's already done it himself. And anyway, the 'disastrous' was surely only referring to the special effects themselves of The Tomorrow People -- as 'beloved by millions three decades later after creation on budgets of much less' wouldn't be considered a disaster by any other definition.

Sapphire & Steel is one of those things, as a hardcore Doctor Who fan, I just kept things I just kept coming across frustratedly in my youth, as I figured I'd never have a chance to see it. The Internet, as it did with many other assumptions youthful Mike made, proved me wrong.

As noted in the Wikipedia article, Big Finish Productions, beloved for keeping the flame of Doctor Who alive through the dark times with their audio adventures, has a Sapphire & Steel line of audio dramas as well. I've never listened to them but have always figured the series would lend itself to an audio treatment.

All that said, I was super psyched when I heard the show's creator Peter Hammond was going to be writing a episodes of Torchwood, though I wasn't particularly a big fan of either of his episodes.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:38 AM on December 12, 2011


I saw the last few episodes of S&S when it originally aired (I moved to England in the summer of 1982). I wanted to see it for years and finally found it on Netflix and was very happy with what I got--but I love old skool Who and the slower pacing. And I had no idea Hammond had done any Torchwood. Figures one of the few episodes I liked was by him.

(When I get finished with Classic Who sometime in 2020 or so, I'll have to check out Tomorrow People.)
posted by immlass at 11:06 AM on December 12, 2011


Oh, David McCallum when he was still young and handsome :) The scariest Sapphire & Steel is the fourth "assignment", with the photos. One of the episodes has an ending which would be horrifying for kids.

The 70s Tomorrow People was pretty disastrous, but as a kid I thought it was the most awesome thing I'd ever seen and today some of the episodes are hilarious in their awfulness (hello, 'A Man for Emily'). I can recommend the DVDs purely for the commentaries, which involve the main actors drinking beer and abusing the show and their younger selves in highly entertaining fashion.

Also it had one of the best theme tunes/title sequences ever.
posted by andraste at 11:49 AM on December 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also it had one of the best theme tunes/title sequences ever.
posted by andraste at 11:49 AM on December 12 [+] [!]


THAT TERRIFYING HAND.

As a little sebmojito I used to have to hide behind the couch when I saw that.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:07 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I always thought that Torchwood was much closer in mood to S&S than to Doctor Who. They embody more of the same bleak sort of possibilities. You want to go on holiday with the Doctor. Torchwood or S&S would be the people you'd only call if things were so bad you had nothing to lose.
posted by tyllwin at 1:13 PM on December 12, 2011


Time snatches parents; time-savvy aliens pop in from nowhere to crack the case & mystify the unsupervised children.

Young Steven Moffat must have peed himself!
posted by Superfrankenstein at 1:16 PM on December 12, 2011


Also it had one of the best theme tunes/title sequences ever.

I'm guessing that would be the credits for Fringe if they did a '70s reboot.
posted by bruzie at 4:13 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is interesting, but it's so slow-paced it is hard to watch.
posted by winna at 5:21 PM on December 12, 2011


Can't wait to revisit this. Unless it's the one with the faceless man, cos good fuck, did that mess me up. It's literally the only S&S memory I have, and I used to wath it all the time.
posted by Iteki at 10:01 PM on December 12, 2011


I have to say, after checking out 3 S&S assignments so far, that I am finding it much more entertaining, better paced, scarier, creepier, and with a more logical and internally-consistent plot than the last season of Doctor Who, which I found really disappointing. Thanks for this post, Iridic.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 8:52 AM on December 17, 2011


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