Big Finish producer Nigel Fairs and co painted themselves into something of a corner with their last Sapphire and Steel audio play. They really thought it was going to be the last one, since the sales figures had been somewhat lacking, so they essentially killed off Sapphire and Steel.
Trouble was, Big Finish supremo Jason Haigh-Ellery decided he wanted more episodes, commissioned a third series of stories and Fairs and co had to come up with a way out for our heroes. Several glasses of red wine later, they came up with the idea of recasting Sapphire and Steel.
So here’s Second Sight, answering a question no one had previously asked before and never really wanted an answer to either: what if Sapphire and Steel were played by young Australian soap stars?
All irregularities will be handled by the forces controlling each dimension. Transuranic, heavy elements may not be used where there is life. Medium atomic weights are available: Gold, Lead, Copper, Jet, Diamond, Radium, Sapphire, Silver and Steel. Sapphire and Steel have been assigned.
Sapphire and Steel have gone. Sapphire and Steel are here.
Is it any good?
As is pretty common with Nigel Fairs’ stuff, you end up wanting to kill yourself through mind-numbing boredom during the first half, then realise the second half isn’t all that bad.
Here, you’re essentially having to wade through a pastiche of an Alan Bennett monologue married with dialogue pinched from the TV show’s Assignment One and some desperately tedious, worthy ‘issues’. Trouble is, though, ghosts are not inherently scary, as anyone who’s ever watched Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) will testify. You have to make them scary. And they’re just not here. At least not until the second half.
It’s somewhat spruced up by our new Sapphire and Steel, the novel idea being that when an element gets killed off during an assignment, they get replaced with some other facet of the element (an allotrope?). So Sapphire and Steel become younger and Australian, Sapphire becomes hard-arse and wears a trouser suit, Steel gets into jeans and is laid back and casual. It’s quite fun to hear the slightly OTT Aussie lingo and soap opera histrionics between the two, and although new Steel isn’t the best actor in the world, they’re almost more enjoyable to listen to than David Warner and Susannah Harker.
Since it’s no surprise that the recasting of Sapphire and Steel is a one-off, though, you spend most of the play wondering when Warner and Harker are coming back, particularly since you hear their voices every so often.
There’s hints at a plot arc for the rest of the season as we learn that the transients are pushing for a final offensive that’s already trapped Silver in a “Möbius loop” (although he’s back in the third story of the series, with Mark Gatiss’ Gold joining in). How that’ll pan out, we’ll have to wait and see.
This also marks one of the first in-play plugs for Big Finish, although why they’ve chosen to mention The Tomorrow People when they’ve lost the licence for it, I don’t know.
On the whole, while interesting for its novelty and its playing with the format and the medium, it’s just a little bit scuppered by the really unengrossing time trap that the new Sapphire and Steel find themselves blundering around.
How much should you have to pay?
Actual price: £14.99 (no download available)
Actual worth: £8.99
Blair McDonough (Steel)
Anna Skellern (Sapphire)
Lisa Bowerman (Ruby)
Patience Tomlinson (Mary)
Clare Calbraith (Polly)
Duncan McInnes (Davey)
Writer: Nigel Fairs
Director: Nigel Fairs