13th October 2001 - Channel 4's "Top Ten TV"
Those interviewed for the section on Sapphire and Steel were:
P J Hammond, David McCallum, Shaun O'Riordan
Charley Catchpole, Jayne Dearsley, Gary Gillatt, Paul Morley, M J Simpson
V-O = Voiceover
clip = a clip from the show (there were more clips than I have indicated)
PM Prime time TV, as if it was a soap or something, or as if it was reality TV - there was a big hype on it, it was going to be a big thing.
DM Sapphire and Steel were two totally fictitious characters, one in a grey suit, Steel, and one in a blue dress, Sapphire; that's about as much as we know about them.
PJH They are difficult to explain, and I am still asked questions about who they are, and I don't know.
MJS It was great because it never explained who they were, we didn't need to know who they were, but they'd come along to do something.
V-O Of course, we did know who they were; he was the Man from Uncle, she was a New Avenger, same hairstyle, different lengths, but once they became spooky time detectives on prime time TV, confusion reigned. Scary no-face photographs, phantom railway stations, and the tormented screams of flying pillows and slaughtered swans. These time crimes were solved with the occasional help of lumbering Lead and cheeky posh ponce Silver.
PM The pure essence of the programme was just empuzzling, constantly, the puzzle of time, that was it, week in, week out.
GG Sapphire and Steel was this very dark and oppressive and claustrophobic show. The two heroes were fighting concepts of loss, and guilt, and misery, and pain; they were the real villains there - and this was just after teatime.
PJH It's a scifi detective story. I wanted to get away from the idea of people going back in time, so I thought a good idea would be to have a couple of detectives who were trying to deal with the situation of time breaking in.
clip: [Sapphire There is a corridor, and the corridor is Time. It surrounds all things, and it passes through all things.]
PJH I dreamt up this idea of time being a fabric, and a fabric that stretched, and in some places is, probably, threadbare
clip: [Boy This corridor, can you enter it?
Sapphire No, not in the way you imagine. You cannot enter into Time, but sometimes Time can try to break into the present, burst through and take things, take people.]
DM If that fabric of time was broken in some way it was a disasterous situation for the earth and for the whole of life on earth. Whenever someone did something that possibly could reverse Time or break that fabric, two agents were sent from some far off place to come and correct the situation.
V-O In wigs and contact lenses
DM I think P J Hammond and Shaun O'Riordan didn't think of the forces that came back to break this fabric as malevolent necessarily. I think they all had a good reason. That's why that whole one in the abatoire was the agony of the animals being killed - I mean, this is justification there.
V-O Don't worry - no one got it. That was the point
JD The fact that you couldn't understand a word of what was going on in Sapphire and Steel was definitely riviting, the best thing about it; sometimes it is best not to knowk, because you can just let your imagination go riot.
PJH We decided we wanted to make it a bit of fun as well as being a supernatural thriller, and we didn't want to explain too much
clip: [Steel Well, there it is. But how do we open it - it has no lock, no handle, remember?]
SOR Steel was the intellectual, the logical planner, the leader, the general; Sapphire was a more feeling creature, sentient creature, who could sort of "tune in".
CC They were just a very, very good foil for each other, and they were both very attractive looking in their own way. It was high quality nonsense.
V-O Yep, two blonde bombshells with all the time in the world; and the biggest question of all: was he giving her one?
PM What obviously everyone wanted, and why they probably were giving them vast amounts of money, was that the whole idea was that it was David Duchovy and Gillian, that it was like Moonlighting with Bruce and Cybil, would they or wouldn't they?
clip: [Sapphire Which side of the bed would you prefer?]
DM I don't know, that sort of begs the question, what do agents of that ilk get up to in their private moments, and the mind boggles.
PJH No spaceships, no rayguns, no men in silver suits; it was about atmosphere, fear, and creaky stairs.
MJS As a child growing up, watching Sapphire and Steel, it scared the living hell out of me. They don't make shows that scary any more. They make them jokey; but you would not dare go to bed with the light off after Sapphire and Steel.
PM The programme wasn't about giving answers, and wasn't about any form of explanation of anything at all. And therefore kept everything open-ended, nothing was resolved, so that can be disturbing, certainly in the British prime time TV - everybody wants it to be sorted out with a kiss, happiness. This, I believe, ended with them being adrift in space.
DM Where they came from, who knows? Where they went when that brief series ended, no one knows, but I'd sure like to find out. It would be wonderful to do it all again just to explain who the hell Sapphire and Steel really were.