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Audio Drama Review


Sapphire & Steel


Starring: David Warner and Susannah Harker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99
ISBN: 978 1 84435 338 5
Available 30 June 2008

“5... 4... 3... 2... 1...” The space shuttle Aspirant is in a decaying orbit. Its engines are dead. In 100 minutes’ time, it will hit the atmosphere and burn up. This should have been a routine technical mission: just a minor time anomaly to fix, a small crack in the corridor. That’s why Silver and Gold have been assigned. But the Aspirant’s crew have been killed, in a variety of impossible ways. Something is pounding on the outside of the airlock door, trying to break in. And now Silver has been attacked by a monster that can’t exist. Time to call in some help...

I love it when “guest elements” appear in Sapphire & Steel, from Lead in Assignment I to Ruby in several audio dramas. So imagine my glee at hearing that not only Silver (David Collings) but also Gold (Mark Gatiss) would be guest-starring in this production. Silver doesn’t get as much chance as usual to practice his silver-tongued charm, as he focuses his attention on keeping the less experienced Gold in check while facing numerous perils himself, though Gold (in a story written by his creator, Steve Lyons) is as conceited as ever. It’s just a pity that they couldn’t have their own opening theme, with the voice-over ending with: “Silver and Gold have been assigned”!

However, it soon becomes clear that Silver and Gold need help, and Sapphire (Susannah Harker) and Steel (David Warner) arrive before the end of Part One. All four elementals have prominent roles, but Sapphire and Steel are definitely the ones in charge.

Lyons remains faithful to creator PJ Hammond’s depiction of the agents’ enigmatic natures, even down to the apparent contradictions. On the one hand, they possess superhuman abilities such as telepathy, Sapphire’s capacity for temporal manipulation and Steel’s ability to lower his temperature (which he previously used in Assignment I), but on the other hand, they seem as fragile as human beings. They need oxygen to breathe, so Silver has to don a spacesuit before venturing outside the shuttle, and references to bones suggest an anatomy that is decidedly biological. None of the elementals has ever encountered intelligent life from any planet other than Earth.

The plot contains some (presumably coincidental) similarities to the most recent series of Doctor Who, specifically the episodes Silence in the Library, Forest of the Dead and Midnight. As in Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead, recorded snippets of conversation are repeated to sinister effect, while in common with Midnight, a mysterious and terrifying creature bangs repeatedly on the hull of the vessel.

Meanwhile, the season’s narrative thread of an ongoing conflict with the Transient Beings builds to dramatic effect.

My mark out of ten for this exciting adventure is quite the opposite of zero.


Richard McGinlay

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