Sapphire & Steel #34: The Trap Part 4

"This place is nowhere. And it's forever."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Aug.31 1982.

IN THIS ONE... The time elements only appear to defeat the transient beings trying to destroy them, and are trapped in limbo.

REVIEW: I suppose the problem with The Trap is that it doesn't play fair with the Time Elements, so it doesn't play fair with the audience. On first viewing, the fact the guest characters keep lying and changing their stories creates all of the serial's twists and turns. On repeat viewings, the viewer may well realize her or she is just being jerked around. Still, there is something to be said for the trap being this layered and complex. In any case, some big revelations in this episode, including the fact that the Enemy or some other force once tried to recruit Sapphire and Steel, and holds a grudge because they chose otherwise. Would they now be "transient beings" like the gas station's visitors? These transients - agents of the Enemy or of something else? - are normally trapped in the past, but appear to have gained access to time travel via little boxes that are sometimes crystal balls, sometimes travel chess sets. That's a smart idea, and I wonder how Hammond resisted having someone say "checkmate" at the end.

Because it's QUITE the trap. The Time Elements gain an ally in the woman, whose always shifting story indicates she knows the man's nature but loves him anyway, except she can't go through with all this. But then Silver rips her blouse open(!) and she's got computer chips in her collar bone - she's literally a meat puppet. And the information she gives them allows them to turn the table on these transients, and send two of them back to the Triassic era with a time travel box. The third confrontation, a standoff with multiple boxes, doesn't go so well, and we're suddenly in the café the gas station replaced. The woman is there, dressed like a grieving widow, meeting the man as if we were before they even left for their assassination attempt. Sapphire and Steel walk in a little confused, and we're left to think their way out is to stop the trap from ever being set. Cool. Except there's a final twist, an amazing one, in which it's revealed the woman was the transient boss all along and she's lured S&S to Limbo. The café is the real trap, and the woman (finally showing some spark) is dressed in black because this is really THEIR funeral.

What a way to end the series! Not with a victory, but with a permanent defeat. No other assignment ends with a cliffhanger, and because the series ended there, it looks like it's by its creator's design. A final end for the characters. Accounts differ. A new season would apparently have started with the elements getting freed by Silver or something, but Lumley and McCallum didn't sign on for more, leaving their alter egos in Limbo forever. (Or at least until Big Finish picked up the license to continue the stories in audio form, leaving the escape from Limbo rather sketchy, but no doubt traumatic since the duo had to be reincarnated as new actors.) While our heroes' victories have always had a touch of the Pyrrhic, it's shocking that they fail so absolutely at the end of this. The doors and windows looking out on space is a powerful visual (in fact, good effects all 'round this episode). But it's also a frustrating ending, a downer to think S&S were apparently cut down mid-story.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - It keeps twisting and turning until that amazing shocker of an ending, but may leave you hungry for a proper resolution.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Freaky (if maddening) ending, but the serial lies to the audience much too much to stay relevant on rewatch.


Timothy S. Brannan said...

This is the episode I remember the best. Mostly due to the ending I think. Very unsatisfying. Though I used to think (back then) that I just didn't "get it" and that's why I was unhappy with the ending. Now I know better.


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