Sapphire & Steel #6: Escape Through a Crack in Time Part 6

"This is the cow with the crumpled horn, that tossed the dog, that worried the cat, that killed the rat, that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jul.26 1979.

IN THIS ONE... The ghosts are drawn to the cellar and destroyed.

REVIEW: The painting trap from Part 3 wasn't just a simple incident in the larger narrative. The idea makes its return in the final act, with Rob taken to the house's building site... in the 18th century! This is explicitly akin to Sapphire suddenly standing in the cottage that used to stand on this house - so not the painting, but the place and time depicted - as the forces assailing the house have essentially unfolded its timeline and can move through it in the 4th as well as the first three. The trigger, old things and rhymes. The fuel, the death of a young girl, presented as a near-copy of Helen. If this was originally designed as a children's adventure series, the depiction of a child's corpse makes for a drastic about-face. Of course, it gets unsettling long before that point, with Rob's faux-mother her back to him to hide her demonic, glowing red eyes (opposite to Sapphire's blue).

All the characters get to use their powers again - turning back time, freezing it, great strength - but it's notable that Rob, trapped though he is, gets to help in his own escape and the temporal beings' demise. He's where he can best give Sapphire and Steel the clues they need to figure out this temporal puzzle, and even works out himself how to expel one of the motive lights that's possessed him, much in the same way others have a hold of his parents. He does so by mouthing the words it's saying and taking control of his voice again. And this makes a sort of metaphorical/alchemical sense, much as the rest of the serial does. These are creatures who pierced through our world on old, repeated words, words that have a kind of presence these beings can inhabit. And words can be used as weapons against them. Lead's hearty song might keep them at bay because they can't then find room in Rob's own mouth. And they are drawn to those they recognize, so Sapphire and Steel use Helen reciting "The House that Jack Built" (of course, it would be that one) as bait, leading the "ghosts" of the past into a trap. I won't say Helen isn't an effective presence, but they might have found an actress with better enunciation, if only for these scenes. A small complaint, in the scheme of things.

Part 6 is where the viewer gets that dawning feeling that the pieces are all coming together and that he or she might intuit just what's going on. Things aren't explicit in Sapphire & Steel, they're ambiguous tales meant to stimulate discussion. The protagonists say things to each other that are meaningful, but not expository. They know what they're talking about and feel no need to explain it to an audience that isn't in fact present. I don't see this as a minus; after all, isn't a lot of "arc" TV built on the notion of getting audiences to spin theories in the interim between episodes? The difference, perhaps, is that S&S doesn't give up any real answers in the end. Best I can make out here is that the trigger was given to these beings in the wrong part of the house for them to take control of it and spread from there. The old stones in its foundation are the key, but the time corridor was opened on the third floor. While the "Enemy" (the lights) found its way there and is in the process of taking root, all the ghosts (time-lost souls) keeping the corridor open are stuck in Helen's room. The time elements could trap and defeat the Enemy, but the crack in time would remain unless all temporal phenomena were also disposed of. This is why Helen must draw them from the third floor to the cellar, where they rejoin the rest of the manifestation in the house's first stone. Frozen in there and destroyed, time resets to a point before Rob's parents disappeared, and he's the only one to remember any of it. If it were me, I'd get a queasy feeling every time these dunderheads read their stupid nursery rhymes...

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE VORTEX: If Richard Mace (The Visitation) had a son or grandson called Jed, that son or grandson could have built this house.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The story is resolved satisfyingly, with Rob taking a surprisingly active role. Plenty of atmosphere and darkness, and the heroes bring all their abilities to bear.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A fine first entry, full of mystery and ambiance. The premise doesn't like to unlock its secrets willy-nilly, but that's part of what makes it interesting. The child actors are variable, and it gets a touch slow in the middle there (this was really a 5-parter, at most), but its qualities far outweigh its flaws.

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