Sapphire & Steel #8: The Railway Station Part 2

"His death started here! Great wars! Civil wars! Holy wars! You know sometimes I wonder why they bother to send us here!"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Aug.2 1979.

IN THIS ONE... Ghostly soldiers start to manifest and share their experiences all over the train station.

REVIEW: The station's ghost is revealed as a WWI soldier, but soon, others join him - a WWII submariner, a fighter pilot, and others - and what they have in common is that they all left for war from these tracks. Worse, they were told they were heroes, when all they were was cannon fodder. The resentment Sapphire perceives from him/them comes from these dashed and fatal expectations. The idea that the Enemy - whatever it is - is using the station as a "recruiting center" is a good one, though we could equally wonder if there IS an Enemy, or whether 20th-century history caused the traumatic conditions that enabled these temporal echoes from piercing the veil. Tully the ghost investigator doesn't see flower-bearing soldiers as "evil", but it's that contradiction, whether we want to call it killer/victim or hero/exile, that's the root of this evil. They died having been lied to, and have come for revenge. The Enemy uses thoses kinds of emotions, using them to draw the dead from the ether (or atmophere, as Steel calls it). There's a metaphor there; drafted soldiers effectively standing in for "recruited dead". They signed their lives over when they joined the military.

The ghosts' motivations are understood much in the same way this entire world is. Early on, we have Sapphire essentially describing the station in war time through dialog alone. Temperatures, sounds, feelings, opening this world up for the audience in a cheap, but evocative way. The ghosts' motives must be understood the same way, with Sapphire (and eventually, Steel, drawn in as more soldiers show up, and now able to see and hear everything) forced to describe what's going on as she plays a role selected by whichever ghost. The soldier wants her to participate in the actions that harmed him, in her case, she must be part of the crowd wishing the boys a fond and patriotic farewell. Is it so she can share in the guilt? Or is it merely the phantom's only means of communication, bringing a part of the past into the present. The latter seems more likely from Steel's experience, a memorable sequence where he becomes a pilot and the room tips forward dramatically like a crashing airplane. This vision isn't about guilt, but about sharing the experience. It's also perhaps part of a time trap. If our heroes get lost in those experiences, they may be taken to the ether and lost. We're never really sure.

While we wait for answers, we can enjoy the atmosphere - from menacing satchels to voices whimpering about dying at the bottom of the sea - in what is still undoubtedly one of the most fast-moving episodes of Sapphire & Steel yet. Steel's plain crash in a cloud-filled room is practically an action scene!

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The mystery deepens, Tully doesn't get in the way as much, and it ends with a memorable crash.


Anonymous said...

There's more to the soldiers' resentment than that...keep watching! I am really tempted to watch this again along with you.

- Jason

Siskoid said...

I fully realize my understanding of the story is evolving with each passing episode, part of watching such an elliptical series with fresh eyes.

But do!


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