Sapphire & Steel #14: The Railway Station Part 8

"Take him now and you will have the resentment I promised you! Not from him! He doesn't matter, but from time itself, you will have damaged time! Perhaps even future history! And that could cause havoc, in high places!"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.8 1979.

IN THIS ONE... Steel defeats the Darkness by giving it Tully and all the resentment it craves.

Well, Tully was important to the story, but not in the way I thought he would be. He wasn't the cause of the problem - which is slightly disappointing - but he was its solution. And not an ideal one. Imagine if the little girl had been offered up to the Enemy in the previous Assignment. That would have been unbearable, right? Well, by this point, Tully has become more and more child-like, an innocent who just wants to go home and see his cat. If Tully had been sacrificed to the "gods" after the first two episodes, when he was, at best, an impediment, how would we have reacted? We'd have thought Steel was a hard bastard, but otherwise have accepted it as part of the game (like the sinking of the Mary Celeste), but after 8 episodes, he's been broken, become more helpful and warm... and the available pathos grew with each passing chapter. Steel IS a hard bastard, but he knows what he's done, and what it's done, at least in the short term, to his relationship to Sapphire. There's a reason we see them depart separately in the final moments.

It's unfortunate that Sapphire has had to take a backseat in this story, a tool for everyone else, whether the Darkness, the ghosts (literally caught in the middle) and pushy Steel himself. But where it wasn't kind to Sapphire - and geez, what's with the gross body horror inflicted by the Darkness?! - it did provide the ACTRESS with some great moments. But it's really Steel's hour to shine (if you want to call it that). Steel's plan goes by fast - this happened at the end of the first Assignment as well, this series forces you to pay close attention, and probably watch it more than once - but to get the upper hand, he has Sapphire jump them off a time corridor (or footbridge) one day later than planned so that they've been gone a day. Presumably, the Darkness is looking for them yesterday (the physics of this are nothing new to a Doctor Who fan, but yes, of course, the Darkness could just have waited 24 hours and been there when they arrived; it didn't because it was too impatient, too greedy) and this gives Steel time to convince the soldiers that the Darkness will never free them; it feeds on their resentment and needs them to stay alive. They agree to go back to the afterlife, accept that they were deceived, so that when the Darkness takes his deal, they aren't left ecto-polluting the world of the living. It's all quite elegant, as long as you aren't Tully. But then, he's only going to live another 5 years, doesn't have any family to speak of, it's an acceptable loss, as they say.

The deal does gives us insight into the "time war" that's being fought. The "creatures" from the ends of time, like this Darkness and the manifestation from Assignment One, seem to feed on human emotion and culture, perhaps because we are the movers and shakers of time, i.e. the ones who can affect probability, have the power to "change history", as opposed to the inevitability of the physical world. They are outside time and we, in some sense, transcend it. Why ghosts? Because we leave sentient echoes of ourselves outside time and space, echoes with links to the universe they can exploit to access it. Time is like a hostile environment to them. When Steel says Time will be resentful, is he talking about his bosses? The way he fingers Tully's crucifix, we might wonder if Time and God are synonymous, and if they are angels of a sort. If Time (and space?) is Reality itself, a manifestation of the Divine (in SF terms), it would want to guard against things that would corrupt or disrupt that reality, and the unfolding of Free Will the universe was, in some sense, created for. Are these reviews getting too heady? The series has that effect on me.

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE VORTEX: Do Sapphire and Steel work for "time itself"? Shades of the 7th Doctor's role as the Champion of Time, still a decade in the future.

A conclusion that once again races to the finish, but surprises by its elegance and Pyrrhic victory.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: High - Every installment got a Medium-High, but taken as a whole, this is great tale, full of mystery, revelation, twists, turns and scares. It's going for the jugular now, fulling accepting that it is a series for adults.


CiB said...

The thing that gets me most about this episode isn't so much that Sapphire and Steel leave separately. Sapphire turns and leaves sadly, where Steel walks himself up to a happy slight hop. As if he's thinking "Yay! We won!" After what he just did.

Also, in hind sight Episode 7 is horrific. Steel spends so much of that episode just finding out about Tully. It can be read as Steel already has his plan worked out there and is "getting to know Tully" just to see if sacrificing him is workable.

Siskoid said...

Steel's empathy is strictly practical.


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