Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Sapphire and Steel - The Complete Series|
Actors: Joanna Lumley, David McCallum, Gerald James, Tom Kelly, David Collings
Director: David Foster
Genres: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television, Mystery & Suspense
The spiritual precursor to The X-Files, SAPPHIRE & STEEL is one of the most atmospheric, mysterious and compelling television programs ever made. Joanna Lumley (Ab Fab, Cold Comfort Farm) and David McCallum (The Man From U... more »
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More than a mere 'precursor of the X-Files'!
Twiddles42 | MN, USA | 09/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Nice to see this show finally get released by mainstream channels. (current fans will have found the set elsewhere...)
If you're a fan of The X-Files, you'll LOVE Sapphire And Steel. Especially if you prefer intellectual horror above quantitive gore, guts, and circus acts. Made between 1978 and 1982, this low-budget BBC series used inventive plotlines, a strong atmosphere, and strongly written and acted characters to sell it self. And it packs a whollop. Indeed, some of the stories are so complex that they could be benefitted from a second viewing. (pity VCRs didn't exist when this show was first aired!)
I personally recommend Story 2 ("The Railway Station") for first viewing. It's got the series' premise down pat and despite a lengthy 8 episodes, remains taut and gripping all the way through so the padding to fill out the timeslot isn't noticed. The story puts a new dimension on ghosts and their influence, and episode 8 has some excellent make-up and a grizzly resolution.
Story 4, "The Man Without a Face" is another fan favorite. The malignancy in this story puts photography in a different light. Either by imprisoning people in photographs or taking them out, this story is inventive - and suitably horrific. The final episode isn't as strong as it could have been, but the rest of the story more than makes up for it.
Story 6, with a working title of "The Petrol Station" features a new type of enemy for Sapphire and Steel. This one doesn't use horror in the way the other stories had, but it is highly enjoyable and also keeps one's interest. It's also the series' finale and, as many BBC Sci-fi series' go, this one isn't particularly pleasant.
Story 1, "Escape through A Crack in Time", while having a very good introductory episode, ultimately falls apart halfway through and the denouement rather misses the point of its preceeding episodes. Revolving around children's' fairy tales, this one tries to give a deeper meaning to the tales. As it is an introductory story, you'll note some differences that were not in subsequent stories. As story 2 is so perfect, P J Hammond was quick to correct the errors he'd made. It's still worth a watch, if for episode 1 alone. As with stories 3 and 5, this one is 6 episodes long and contains some padding.
Story 5, "Dr McDee Must Die", was not written by P J Hammond, who wrote the other stories. It feels more like a Doctor Who story. It's got its moments, but is overall mediocre.
Story 3, "The Creature's Revenge", is the one and only turkey. Indeed, it's a turkey complete with beaks and claws. Watch it for the sake of completeness and the introduction to Silver, who is seen again in story 6 of course. But what little plot exists is padded out so extensively that re-watchings are mandatory. and, unfortunately, this story is so dull and uninvolving that re-watching is simply impossible to do. The plot, as far as I can make it out to be, revolves around some human science teams traveling back in time a couple thousand years to experience how their ancestors lived in 1980. There's a creature that kills on contact for some reason, the pair taking the role of a 1980 couple (despite being ~25 years different in age) are being tormented by visions of wild animals or food animals, and their futuristic but disguised pod is basically an old apartment building (both outside AND inside, sigh...) with a cheap mod and 1979-looking aluminium kitchen table set as a visual effect for the inside of another pod. Episode 1 is actually reasonably good and its cliffhanger is marvelous, but it totally fails after that.
There were some audio commentary extras that were interesting, but not spectacular.
The menu system looks nice, but a "Play all" button would have been nice.
The packaging for the region 1 (US) version is vastly superior to any of the other region releases available. It's uniform and has a proper feel.
The audio transfer is reasonably well, no argument here.
The video transfer is quite good, though it's clear that only a mundane amount of video restoration was used; the prints could have benefitted from a full restoration/embellishment process to eliminate the problems that the source tapes have (the only real problems are with the cameras and recording equipment of the time. Skin tones look great and there's little artifacting to be found.) But that would be very expensive, the show is British therefore the British owners would do the actual restoration work, and this is a niche show. Besides, I've seen far, far worse.)
There is a rumor that the discs will not play the video at proper frame rate on some players. The discs will play, but the video has a film-like motion to it. As this series was shot on video tape, this effect isn't normal. But even with this effect (it happens on my set-top player but not my computer's DVD-ROM drive), I don't find the effect jarring. In fact, I think it HELPS many of the stories because it feels like a film transfer. (only videophiles will care about the difference, but I thought I'd say it anyway. :-) )
A&E released this set. So it's no surprise that this set is as solid as it is. Definitely a buy for fans. Easily worth a renting for newbies and ultimately worth the buy."
British Cult Sci-fi at its best
J. Parsons | Tennessee, USA | 02/23/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I was very happy to learn that Sapphire and Steel was FINALLY coming out on DVD. Once I got the set and watched the series, I was not disappointed. The show has an eerie, claustrophobic feel that makes it unlike many other shows out there. One can forgive the limited sets and average quality video effects because the stories are so entertaining and original (A creature that exists in photographs, a darkness that lives off of the bitterness of the dead, time itself being a destructive force, etc.).
While the show itself is excellent the DVD's themselves don't live up to their potential. The extras are rather thin (although the introduction voice-overs by P.J. Hammond and Shaun O'Riordan at the beginning of each assignment are very insightful). The other problem is that the episodes were not transferred from PAL to NTSC (the U.S. video encoding standand) properly so the video images have a slightly jerky film-like motion to them. (Episode 5 of Assignment 5 is the only episode that was transferred properly) Although the problem is not distracting, it is a shame that A&E couldn't have got it right the first time. Maybe this set will be rereleased with the flaws fixed (as they did for some episodes of Space:1999).
Overall, this is a great series that anyone who likes original writing and spooky atmosphere will enjoy. A must have."
Spooky, sci-fi fun!
A. Frerichs | Lincoln, NE USA | 12/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having seen this show while I was living in England in the late 1970's, I was pleasantly surprised to see the release of this series for the U.S. market as I don't believe it was ever broadcast here in the States. For the uninitiated, Sapphire & Steel is about the adventures of two intergalactic "special agents", if you will, who manifest themselves in human form when among us. Their assignments deal with threats to space and time and their struggles with assorted paranormal entities. It's a bizzare concept that works surprisingly well given the limited budget and f/x technology of the time. Given the low production values, what makes this show come alive, like most British television, is the writing and acting. David and Joanna do a fabulous job and make their characters their own. Watching the show is like watching a stage play as all but one episode takes place inside the studio. The atmosphere the show generates is downright creepy and makes it a lot of fun to watch. Conclusions to each assignment are often ambiguous, unsettling and not always a happy ending, for supporting characters as well for the heroes themselves. The boxed set is really nice and contains the entire series of six "assignments". (The series was originally broadcast as a serial, with each "assignment" consisting of a given number of episodes.) Each disc contains a complete assignment. The extras are a little light, but there are some comentaries by the show's creator and writer as well as some promotional material. Picture quality is fair, but this is due to the fact that the show was shot on 1970's era video and not due to any flaw on the dvd itself. The sound is unremarkable for the same reason, plain ol' 1970's mono! Overall, I was quite pleased with set and the audio/video limitations did not distract from my enjoyment."
Welcome back Sapphire and Steel, on DVD at long last!
Kali | United Kingdom | 10/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This was a real attempt at intelligent sci-fi and though I loved it I knew it would never be a hit in the way that the X-Files was, simply because it was far too intelligent for your average sci-fi watcher.
I was amazing it lasted as long as did.
I am really glad the whole series is on DVD as the VHS versions are real clunkers in that each adventure is on two tapes, so you end up with a HUGE collection of video tapes if you wanted the whole series.
I think Joanna Lumley and David McCallum are great as Sapphire and Steel, two beings sent to sort out rips and problems in time that could devastate the universe if left unchecked.
My favourite adventure was the railway station, it was very atmospheric but all of the adventures had their own merits and I loved the quirky way that Lumley and McCallum bounced off each other, one wry, the other droll, both human but not human.
Many people think this series has dated badly but I actually think it has done okay, considering it was a pioneer in its own genre and well worth buying and watching again just for the sheer brilliance of what the writers and producers were trying to do in a time of bad hair, bad clothes, bad songs, bad movies and even badder actors!"