Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Sapphire and Steel

UK tv series (1979-1982) ITV/ATV Network Production. Pr Shaun O'Riordan. Dir Shaun O'Riordan, David Foster. Writers P J Hammond (all but the fifth "Adventure"), Don Houghton, Anthony Read. Starring David Cullings (Silver), Joanna Lumley (Sapphire), David McCallum (Steel). 34 30min episodes, divided into six "Adventures". Colour.

In this remarkable series the stability of the world is continually under threat from incursions of Time. Sapphire and Steel are two agents who represent an unknown but certainly unearthly agency; in a mysterious sense they are personifications of the elements their names designate (in the lore of the Cabbala, "Sephirah" – the singular form of "Sephirot", the ten Divine Utterances which create the world – can be translated as meaning something like both "cipher" and "sapphire"), and they work to maintain the stability of Reality whenever a disruption occurs in the flow of events. In the first "Adventure", the real world begins to distort itself according to the dictates of nursery rhymes (> Story), causing parents to disappear from their children. In the second, Ghosts of soldiers, trapped at the moment of their deaths, haunt a railway station (> Trains). Throughout the series, both characters and viewers are unable to trust their Perceptions of the world; and very frequently the former are haunted by Doppelgängers themselves hoisted from various times. The storylines were slow, packed with indirection and musings, and the world unfolded was anything but secure, even at those moments when the agents proved successful for a span. [JC]

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This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.