Sapphire & Steel #23: The Man Without a Face Part 3

"As I was going up the stair / I met a man who wasn't there / He wasn't there again today / I wish I wish he'd stay away"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Feb.3 1981.

IN THIS ONE... Liz hugs a paper child. Steel fools around in the dark room. And Shapphire has a chat with a girl trapped in a picture.

REVIEW: Lord, how I hate the Liz character! She won't stop talking! The show has gotten us used to the protagonists being enigmatic people of few words, so it's jarring to have her effectively narrate the action and asks questions like a Doctor Who companion, except get no answers. It's not that Sapphire and Steel are necessarily unresponsive, it's that she won't let them get a word in edgewise. And it's not interesting dialog either. She thinks everything is "funny". Yes, Liz, these events are indeed strange, including the things you think are perfectly normal, like kids in period dress playing in the street at night, or "small ghosts" in the house. As someone who can comment on Sapphire and Steel and perhaps stumble on some truth, she almost makes it. Her notion that Sapphire might be as good as she is making "quick exits" might be ironic in some way, but the sexual innuendo that comes with it made me pull a fast. I simply cannot stand her.

Otherwise, some very cool stuff. Our heroes' first encounter with the faceless man has some punch, as each person sees a different face (although why does Steel see the same face Liz does?). The scene is played with two actors, which is a neat conceit. His flight through old pictures is achieved with some fun effects. He hides behind a shield of "paper children" who crumble when hugged, which is pretty freaky. But it's the end scene that really punches you in the gut as he torches a copy of the picture Liz's roommate Ruth is trapped in, killing her. If Sapphire doesn't turn back time or something, this might well be the first time someone is killed onscreen on this show. Surprising in and of itself (people tend to have died before the serials start), but what a way to go! A terrifying idea - a young woman in a dreamy fog; she doesn't know what's happening; and we hear her screams as her very existence is put to the flames. Brrr.

The shocking ending makes us forget how little else seems to happen in Part 3. It's got an overlong recap, Steel working in the dark room in real time, and Liz jabbering away for minutes on end. But that ending is incredible.

- More Liz is not the way to go. The terrifying cliffhanger and cool confrontation with the faceless man easily save the show.


LondonKdS said...

why does Steel see the same face Liz does

Probably because they couldn't afford three actors...

Siskoid said...

Shhhhh, not of that sensible real world logic here. ;-)


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