Sapphire & Steel #28: Doctor McDee Must Die Part 4

"Motives are irrelevant, they're merely part of the setting."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Aug.19 1981.

IN THIS ONE... Sapphire and Steel fool around with the murder weapons. George McDee shows up for dinner as some force tries to change history. The younger McDee chokes on wine.

REVIEW: Well, my suppositions are turning out to be true, which is a rare occurence indeed on this show, probably due to the fact Hammond didn't write the script. It's the youngest who are dying off first, the murder mystery angle is all a misdirect, Dr. McDee WAS unfaithful (an affair with Emma, of course, and one wonders if he interruptions have anything to do with the accident that killed McDee), and the Enemy is trying blatantly to change history. Unless Steel's conclusions are wrong, it'll be my first time actually guessing right! But if the murder mystery is irrelevant, the use of its trappings isn't. It at least provides clues to what the Enemy is actually playing at. It's trying to fool everyone into accepting its reality, one in which it's 1930, before the moment when the thing it wants to happen doesn't, before it's not too late for its plans to come to fruition. And that means fooling Sapphire and Steel, but also the dinner guests, including Miles and Victoria Cavendish, their cover identities. Those who buy into this reality most, like Lord Mullrive, accept unconditionally that "Miles" is a qualified detective. Mullrive even believes he's met Miles before and invited him personally (did he though? are the time elements playing a long game?). Similarly, all the party guests are more than willing to accept Dr. McDee's presence at the dinner table.

The murders may not even be murders, just part of a narrative the Enemy is using. If time resets, they will all turn up alive. The youngest guests are the most difficult to convince of the 1930s reality, so they're eliminated first. The younger McDee is particularly anachronistic and confuses his revenant grandfather, so he must go. It's a game to keep people from seeing the truth, and thematically, matches what the guests are actually doing. They too are playing games - there was even a game of "murders" planned for after dinner - and singing a beer-free version of the "bottles on the wall" song evokes the attrition of the cast that's happening, more subtly than with the previous episode's Ten Little Indians reference.

Past the halfway point, the Enemy is shown to be winning through a couple of very effective scenes. In the first, Sapphire allows herself to be possessed by the Enemy's overriding feeling, its need to kill anyone who would stop McDee from unleashing his accidental plague, that she tries to kill herself with the knife - saved only by Steel's metal-hard hands - and then tries to kill Steel with the gun - again, Steel saves the day, having secretly removed the bullets. Distressing stuff. The other moment is when history starts to change and the computers in the 1980s office, existing parallel to McDee's 1930 laboratory, go haywire and start printing out the news story of McDee's death (in a fire) with an important changed detail. The fire now happens in the library (where Sapphire and Steel are always going) instead of the lab. Mind you, the information goes by too fast for the eye to follow, which isn't a problem with freeze frame technology, but viewers at the time might have had a more difficult time. But it's urgent, ultimately clear, and a neat modern haunting.

The scene in which Sapphire almost stabs herself asks an implicit question: What happens if a time element is killed? CAN they be killed? In this case, would it simply have taken "Victoria" out of the time frame? Do they take on human frailties when they manifest on our plane? They make a couple of strange comments that also make us wonder about their nature as well. When Steel wonders about a certain superstition, Sapphire says that's how they do things "on this planet". So do they have missions we never see on other planets? Sapphire also says that she "received" information about the murder victims, but not that they were meant to die. It's an interesting word choice. Is it just a kind of psychic reception (that's how it's been played to date), or is she getting her information from their base (whatever that is), being TOLD things by greater beings that have access such? So many questions... but that's what makes S&S so interesting.

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE VORTEX:
Another link to The Wasp and the Unicorn as the alien force appears to be staging the Agatha Christie elements.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Things are starting to gel, with strong revelations, yet more questions, and a couple of intense scenes.

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