Sapphire & Steel #15: The Creature's Revenge Part 1

"This is a terrible part of time in which to be trapped. It's brutal. It's cruel."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.6 1981. Officially known as Assignment Three, we will use the title chosen by fan lore.

IN THIS ONE... A time-traveling family is under threat from the spirits of dead animals (or something). Sapphire and Steel try to get into their invisible apartment.

REVIEW: After dealing with threats from the past - ghosts and such - it's a refreshing change of pace to deal with an incursion from the future instead. Even the environment is slick and modern. Of course, the real "threat" isn't really from any given time - the Enemy is outside of that - but it's made possible by weakened space-time, and that has an origin point. In this case, some 1500 years in our future. Essentially playing the part of the ghosts, the time travelers are merely caught in the crossfire. They've meddled with forces humanity wasn't meant to and that's allowed an evil to seep in. As such, and because Sapphire and Steel don't manage to get to them in the first episode, they're played as secondary, or even primary, protagonists, albeit strange and slightly creepy ones. But their experiment appears benign enough, just experiencing 20th-century life. One must, of course, wonder why they couldn't do this sort of thing in their own time (I mean, if they're not even going to try the food) and who the "others" are and what they're doing to further this project.

Whatever the future Rothwyn (the wife, and stronger character) and Eldred (the husband) come from, it's a vegan place, and so the "attack" comes from the cognitive dissonance they must feel living in a society that exploits animals in a variety of ways. Rothwyn is beset by dark visions from an abattoir and hears screams come from the feathers in her pillows. It's certainly effective. More than the poltergeist manifestations moving clothes (is that wool?) and pillows around on wires, but where the actors interact with them, you do believe they're sinister. As has become usual, S&S excels at making you think you're seeing one thing when it's another - the heroes seem to be in the empty apartment months late, but they're actually on the wrong floor; the family seems sinister and evil, but is merely slumming it in our time, etc. - and part of that seems to be the crying baby, which at first made me think I would be plenty annoyed with this story, but no, I fell under its spell. Still, less crying baby next time, please.

As if taking her cue from the supermodern pad they were about to visit, Sapphire has an extreme wig and mod style. I don't like it. We're entering the 80s though, so I shouldn't expect fashions to get better. I'll let you know if and when Sapphire starts wearing big shoulder pads. But obviously, what they do and say is more important than how they look, and on that front, it's another perfectly well executed "time element procedural", the two of the mystery set before them and trying to work out how to gain access to the crime scene, and so on. And that's fine by me.

The Lodger features a floor that doesn't really exist and is an addition from another time. And if we're tracking how Moffat obviously watched this show and was influenced by it, the leg of lamb going "bahhh" reminded me of Jane in Coupling cutting up meat when she gives up on vegetarianism at a dinner party.

The show avoids being only about ghosts with this intriguing new set-up. Shame about the crying baby.



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