Sapphire & Steel #24: The Man Without a Face Part 4

"Each and every photo is mine. They all belong to me. Trees and town and villagers. All made of paper. And paper burns."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Feb.5 1981.

IN THIS ONE... Sapphire and Steel are trapped inside a picture, but Liz frees them and they turn the practice against the faceless man.

REVIEW: The faceless man looks to be winning in the opening moments of Part 4, as he momentarily turns Sapphire into a living picture (wow!) and runs off. She's back to normal soon enough, but she and Steel are rather crappy to each other, which is usually a sign that things are going wrong. I do like this atypical relationship. Two people who know each other all too well, can lash out in frustration, and yet not hold it against the other for long. It seems strange on screen, but actually feels true to life in its way. But the end is near, this is a relatively short S&S story, and Steel starts to literally put the pieces together and finds a way to stop the monster. Except they get trapped in a picture, and it's all down to Liz to save them (of course, but also, groan).

What's frustrating about Liz is that the script often uses her to ironic effect, which I ike, but she's also too much of an exposition machine, and the actress can't carry any of that off. Ruth has just been burned alive, and this was her best and only friend, and she smiles through the next scene. Okay, she doesn't realize Ruth is unrecoverable, but still. The irony that works is that in her rush to go and pack her bags, she pushes the picture's ashes away with her toe. Simple, but macabre. Having Liz rescue Sapphire and Steel and help defeat the monster is plotting 101, so that's neither good nor bad. That the monster holds it against her leads to a very creepy threat, however, that he'll one day escape his "genie's bottle" and get her through a picture of her. Steel's warning to burn every existing picture of her and never have another taken is properly terrifying. Imagine if it happened to you.

The solution to the faceless man is, on the whole, rather alchemical. And that's a polite way to say it's not very satisfying or logical. He gets into mirrors as well as pictures? That's how he got out, through a mirrored prism? He can be trapped by pictures and mirrors facing each other? Hmm... Even Sapphire and Steel's sudden ability to channel the powers of other time elements (Silver and Mercury are evoked) to change a pane of glass into a mirror is suspect. Acceptable, because the show has always been more about alchemical/magical transformation than proper science, but strictly speaking, it's all a bit of a cheat. The faceless man's fate is excellent though. They'll drop his "bottle" on a ship due to sink in the Arctic where no one can release him. And when he eventually does, they'll be waiting, as Steel puts into motion the agenda he described in Part 1. Loops back nicely.

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE VORTEX: The Doctor trapped Daughter of Mine inside a mirror in The Family of Blood.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Don't look at the solution too closely, but the final fates of Ruth, Liz and the faceless man are all unsettling.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium - An excellent idea for a monster, and there are some harrowing and creepy moments throughout, but I can't see myself give a higher rating than Medium because of the irritating Liz character.


Anonymous said...

"Steel's warning to burn every existing picture of her and never have another taken is properly terrifying. Imagine if it happened to you."

I couldn't help imagining it after I watched this! Cool stuff.

At least this was a short one, so you've got no more Liz to kick around. :-) Maybe I let her physical charms blind me to the quality of the acting.

Interested to follow the next Assignment with you as it is the most atypical (it wasn't written by PJ Hammond). You'll notice a different flavor, for sure.

- Jason


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