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Sapphire & Steel: Assignment Two

I forgot I hadn't posted this yet. Actually I forgot I hadn't written it yet, but I guess posting episode reviews in slow motion is kind of fitting in this case. So, yeah. "Assignment Two", then. Which I actually watched over the new year, which could make recapping it interesting. Fortunately it's my favourite bit of Sapphire & Steel, so I've watched it more than I have the rest. This will either help or it won't.

Sapphire & Steel is, of course, slow. Famously, luxuriously slow. Whereas most shows, especially nowadays, like to tell you things in as little time as possible, preferably whilst cutting back and forth like a demented seamstress, Sapphire & Steel likes to wander across your television screen in no hurry at all, letting the story tell itself (or not, whichever takes its fancy). "Assignment One" was six meandering, slow motion segments; and one of the things that I like most about "Assignment Two" is that the programme makers, when wondering how they could improve upon the first adventure, didn't think 'Let's speed it up!' Instead they clearly thought that the one thing better than taking three hours to tell a story, would be taking four hours to tell it instead. The other thing that I love about "Assignment Two" is that not a minute of those eight episodes is wasted. It may be slow, but slow is exactly the right speed. So here is "Assignment Two", in photo-story format. Provided I can remember, heading for two months on, exactly why I chose to take these particular screencaps. There will have been a reason for every one of them. It's just that I probably left those reasons behind, somewhere back in January.


In a dark, shadowy, disused railway station, there lurks a man and his awesome tape recorder. They're hunting ghosts. As everybody knows, the best way to hunt ghosts is to creep around in the dark, because ghosts are drama queens. It is an awesome tape recorder, though. I miss tech like that. Nowadays he'd probably use the voice recorder on his mobile phone, but that's just dull. Anyway. Bloke in a disused railway station (he's called Mr Tully).

Mr Tully and his candle. In Sapphire & Steel nobody puts a light on unless they absolutely have to. It's a rule. Here, Mr Tully has just encountered Steel on the stairs, in full evening dress, for no readily apparent reason. This sets the scene nicely for the rest of the adventure. We are in for eight episodes of (very well-dressed and extremely polite) stair-climbing and standing in shadows. That's pretty much the entire plot.

Stair-climbing, shadows and flowers. Here Sapphire discovers some unexpected flowers in previously empty pots beside the rail tracks.

They're evil, demonic flowers, that possess Sapphire, and turn her into a young woman seeing her young man off to war. You can tell they're evil, as it's suddenly daylight. Sapphire and Steel are allergic to that.

Told you ghosts are drama queens. This is Sam Pearce, the ghost of a young soldier. He was killed moments after the end of the First World War, and he's really, really pissed off about it. He leads a band of ghosts with similar grievances, and they've assembled at the railway station to wait for something. Since this is clearly the same something that Sapphire and Steel are here to fight, Pearce is less than delighted to meet them.

Eagle-eyed viewers may recognise him as Nova, the ill-fated wannabe member of Blake's original not-seven, in the ever-erroneously named Blake's 7. Nova was of course shaving-creamed to death in an access tunnel during the second episode. Poor guy. They could at least have let him live long enough to get a ride on the Liberator.

Sapphire and Steel are a little alarmed by the arrival of a ghost. It's not actually the ghost they're worried about as such, but the dark and menacing, unnamed power that he's working for. It's a different dark and menacing, unnamed power to last time. I suppose there must be quite a lot of them.

I honestly have no idea. Timotei commercial? It's definitely not a pop video, I'd have remembered that.

The evil and unnamed lurking-shadowy-monster-thing is completely unfair in its attacks. It presents Sapphire with ghost flowers, and gives her sporadic war widow angst, but it turns Steel into a World War II fighter pilot, and then sends him spiralling out of control. No fair, evil lurking shadow thing. Don't be sexist.

Fortunately, due to their shared mental link, Sapphire realises that something is up with Steel. She therefore proceeds to stand on a staircase for ten minutes, before walking up it very slowly. Rescuing people quickly is not good for the blood pressure. Turning the light on first, so that you can actually see what you're doing, would be downright reckless.

She gets there in time, though. Even if it does take her until the next episode.

The evil shadowy power is more evil than anyone realised. Turning the corridor into a sunken submarine, in which Sapphire, Steel and Mr Tully are doomed to suffocate, it also turns Steel's rather fetching tux into that.

Fortunately the shadowy power is not as strong as it thinks it is, and the Attack of the Evil Knitwear is mercifully shortlived. As an added benefit, we're even allowed to see what's going on for a little while. Well, sort of. It's slightly less dark, anyway.

The evil power at the heart of this adventure. Last time, the bad guy was a little patch of torchlight, and this time it's a shadow. I love how they shamelessly advertise their total lack of budget.

Steel spies on the assembled army of the reluctant dead. Sadly the reluctant dead are well aware that he's on their trail, and are none too happy about it. Neither's their evil shadow leader.

And this time it's World War One that jumps up to bite him.

The moody Sam Pearce amuses himself beside the dangly Steel. Who I have got to stop calling Steele. One is an inhuman adventurer in time and space, and the other is a bouncy Irish jewel thief. Just because they're both given to wearing tuxedos is no reason to keep confusing them.

Gloating merrily away, Pearce soon disappears, and leaves Steel to dangle in peace until next week.

United once again, Sapphire and Steel find themselves stranded twelve days ahead of time; and in a place that's suspiciously well lit, so clearly evil must be afoot. I'm glad they don't bother trying to hide the height difference between the two of them. Hollywood would always be wanting Steel stood on a box, or Sapphire in a hole or something, like poor RDJ and Gwyneth Paltrow in the Iron Man movies. Anyway, they set out to do battle, and restore the murky darkness that should by rights be obscuring their every move.

This involves Sapphire acting as a conduit for the evil shadow monster. Sapphire is not exactly filled with boundless enthusiasm for this project. Steel, however, is all about the urgency.

The way that they talked in "Assignment One" heavily suggested that time and space and all of existence might be at risk if they didn't win, so I suppose that's reason enough for Steel's determination. As Sapphire prepares to contact the evil shadow monster, Steel is busy turning his ruthlessness up to eleven.

Aware that something's afoot, the ghost army begin to get twitchy.

Whilst Sapphire is no longer Sapphire. The evil shadow monster discusses its plan with Steel. It feeds on resentment, and is planning to entertain itself with the grumpy ghost army, having assembled it by falsely promising to return them all to life. Steel is willing to offer it a deal. A much better source of resentment, in exchange for letting the ghosts go, and buggering off and leaving everybody in peace.

The monster says yes. Step one is for the gang to get sent back the twelve days that they got displaced for, which involves standing really awkwardly, so that everybody fits on the television screen. 16:9 has noticeable benefits where this sort of thing is concerned.

Sapphire gazes forlornly out at the world. Steel's plan to save history/the universe/the railway station/some other, undefined variable, is to let the shadow monster kill Mr Tully. He will then be dying several years earlier than he should have done, which will piss off Time to the extreme. The evil shadow monster can then feed off Time's mega-grump to its heart's content. Sapphire does not like this plan.

You know, everybody always comments on Steel's ruthlessness here, and yes, it is a splendidly cold-blooded plan. He does inquire as to whether Tully's cat will be looked after, though, should anything happen to Tully, so he's not entirely merciless. Or he cares about cats anyway, which makes everything better.

Mission accomplished. The shadow monster has been banished, the ghost army dispersed, and darkness has once again settled upon Britain. Sapphire plays with a flower, and mourns poor Mr Tully. Steel, on the other hand, is probably at the most cheerful we've ever seen him.

Celebrate while you can, Steel. I've seen what's coming up next, and it ain't pretty.


( 15 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
Mar. 2nd, 2013 11:32 am (UTC)
"…most shows, especially nowadays, like to tell you things in as little time as possible, preferably whilst cutting back and forth like a demented seamstress…"

Perfect! I couldn't have said it better. People prone to motion sickness and dizzy spells should not watch modern TV. I think one of the worst offenders on Amer. TV right now is the new Dallas. But I'm not sure, I haven't been watching. :hides.:

You always manage to creep me out with one screen cap. Black eyes do it every time. So Steel's personality is exactly like his name, and Sapphire, well, she looks good in blue. Funny post!
Mar. 2nd, 2013 04:07 pm (UTC)
Oh, hello Inexplicably Wavy-Haired Pilot Movie Bogg. :)

Motion-sickness. Yes. But you should try new "Dallas"! Season two has been great so far for Bobby. Although I think we've now run out of episodes featuring JR (I've been avoiding spoilers, as I don't want to know in advance how they're handling his death, but I fear it must now be imminent). I'm going to miss the evil old coot.

They do play up to their names rather, yes. We only meet two other beings like them during the series, but they sort of do too.
Mar. 2nd, 2013 04:53 pm (UTC)
LOL! I think that was Jon's natural hair, if you look at his high school pics- all straight. vs. the curly perm by episode 2! haha.

Sad, there was so much more evil works for J.R. to do to ruin Ewing Energies. I wonder how long the show will last now? It could still be a hit.
Mar. 2nd, 2013 11:26 pm (UTC)
I hope it lasts for at least a bit longer. Lee Majors has been hired for season three. :)
Mar. 2nd, 2013 12:46 pm (UTC)
Demented seamstresses and Evil Knitwear!!! This was brilliant -- I can't wait for Assignment Three!! (Even though I'll have to wait. Because that's what S&S is all about.)
Mar. 2nd, 2013 04:09 pm (UTC)
I haven't watched it yet, so you'll definitely have to wait. ;)

Poor O'Neill. He looks as though the red light means loads of extra paperwork.
Mar. 2nd, 2013 11:14 pm (UTC)
Mar. 2nd, 2013 11:26 pm (UTC)
Scary brochures! :D
Mar. 2nd, 2013 01:31 pm (UTC)
This is wonderful :)
Mar. 2nd, 2013 04:13 pm (UTC)

I mock it a little, but it really is great TV.
Mar. 2nd, 2013 01:43 pm (UTC)
This is the one made famous (and even longer) because of the ITV strike.

The final solution sounds a bit like the Weeping Angels zapping people back in time and feeding off their unused days.
Mar. 2nd, 2013 04:13 pm (UTC)
It is a bit like the Weeping Angels, isn't it. I hadn't thought of that. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was an influence on Moffat, though. It's very much the sort of thing he seems to like.
Mar. 3rd, 2013 11:26 am (UTC)
I agree with you on the tape recorder. I like the 'timotei' screenshot, S&S in prettiness shocker! Hollywood must have special soundstages to compensate for short actors and tall actresses by now.

Oh I dunno, I wouldn't mind living in the flat in assignment 3, shame about the soft furnishings. I look forward to seeing the beige.
Mar. 3rd, 2013 09:59 pm (UTC)
It's not the worst flat ever, but I could definitely do without the psychotic pillow. ;)

I don't know how Hollywood does the height thing, although I know that Robert Downey Jr wears lifts in his shoes. He jokes about it in the audio commentary for "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang", as Val Kilmer is about three feet taller than him. It's the obvious assumption that the hero can't be short that confuses me though, rather than the mechanics of the camera trickery itself. You can't be heroic and short?!
Mar. 4th, 2013 12:54 pm (UTC)
I'm glad I have to use anti-allergy pillows because I'm allergic to feathers:p

Apparently not! Except for Two & Jamie. Some male actors are sensitive about their height aren't they? Good to hear Downey isn't.
( 15 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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