Sapphire & Steel
Dead Man Walking

Starring: David Warner and Susannah Harker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: 10.99
ISBN 1 84435 142 4
Available 11 January 2006

Last night, a new inmate arrived at Blackledge Prison. Though he's never been there before, Michael Kent knows every corridor and even recognises some of the guards. Sapphire and Steel arrived this morning, posing as government inspectors investigating the death of another prisoner. Stuart Kilsby hanged himself in an empty cell - but how...?

The first series of Big Finish's Sapphire & Steel audio assignments draws to a close with this supernatural prison drama. In keeping with its setting, the story has a particularly adult flavour to it. With its harsh language and references to child murder and sexual perversion, this hard-edged tale by Nigel Fairs (based on a story by John Ainsworth) is a far cry from the family viewing provided by the original ATV series.

Another aspect of this story that sounds rather unusual is the voice of the young boy, Marcus. If you think he sounds a bit effeminate, that's because he's voiced by a woman, Fairs' former Faction Paradox colleague Suzanne Procter, who played Cousin Justine in the BBV series. What, are there no male child actors or child impersonators out there?

A far more successful aspect of this adventure is the fact that, unlike several recent stories, I did not work out the nature of the time anomaly any earlier than Sapphire and Steel did. The temporal mix-up is a particularly perplexing one this time around.

At 60 minutes' duration, Dead Man Walking is short even by single-disc standards, but the drama is supplemented by a bonus music track and an additional disc promoting Big Finish's other wares (with the exception, rather oddly, of Doctor Who). The good news is that this series is far from dead, and Warner and Harker will be returning with six new assignments in the near future. I trust they will be as well executed as this series has been.

Richard McGinlay

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