Sapphire & Steel
Perfect Day

Starring: David Warner and Susannah Harker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: 14.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 84435 222 7
ISBN-10: 1 84435 222 6
Available 30 April 2007

Eight years ago, the luxury yacht Perfect Day vanished without trace, together with its captain and thirteen of its passengers. Their removal from Time has caused ripples, which have been gradually widening, and now agents have been assigned to investigate. Sapphire, Steel and Gold gatecrash the shipboard wedding of Richard Charles Muldoon and Jennifer Louise Holloway - but they aren't the only uninvited guests. Somebody has seen the future, and they don't intend to let it happen. For better, for worse...

The Sapphire & Steel audio dramas have shown a distinct tendency towards recycling elements from previous stories, and this one is no exception. The difference this time is that writer Steve Lyons borrows not from the Sapphire & Steel television series but from Doctor Who. The fate of the Perfect Day, removed from its proper time, its passengers and crew doomed to repeat the events of the same day over and over again (at least until the time travellers arrive to sort things out), bears more than a passing resemblance to that of the SS Bernice in the Jon Pertwee serial Carnival of Monsters.

Even so, this is a very enjoyable tale.

A more welcome bit of repetition is the return of Mark Gatiss as the arrogant Gold, to whom we were introduced in Big Finish's first Sapphire & Steel release, The Passenger, also penned by Lyons. Gold is eager for excitement and impatient for action, sometimes dangerously so, especially when he is separated from the calming influence of Sapphire (Susannah Harker).

Harker herself has come a long way since The Passenger, in which she came across as a little too cold for my liking. Here the most empathic of the elemental agents is suitably emotional.

Sapphire recalls that she and Steel (David Warner) were "indisposed" eight years ago, when the Perfect Day disappeared. This could indicate that the agents were still ensnared in the trap set for them by the Transient Beings in Assignment VI as recently as 1999.

A ship in a bottle provides plenty of mileage for bottle-related allusions and euphemisms, some of them deliberate, some of them perhaps not so. The most obvious is that of letting the genie out of the bottle, as a dangerous force escapes from its confines. One of the passengers, James (Matthew Steer), an alcoholic, searches for answers to his problems in a bottle, though not in the manner you might expect. I somehow doubt, however, that Lyons intended the double meaning of certain characters "having the bottle" or "losing their bottle".

The moral of the story also concerns parents not wanting to let their children grow up, fly the nest and go out into the big wide world, here symbolised by a future that is never allowed to arrive.

The total running time of this audio drama is just under two hours, rather than the 100 minutes stating on the back of the CD. Perfect Day, I'm glad I spent it with you.

Richard McGinlay

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