Review: Sapphire and Steel – Wall of Darkness

There are species of sloth faster than me. I really do learn incredibly slowly sometimes. Case in point: the Big Finish Sapphire and Steel audio plays.

These have been a largely hit-and-miss affair, with the distinct emphasis on ‘miss’. Yet I’ve kept on getting them and wasting my time with them. Doh! Still, once in a while, a good one turns up, so I’m not wholly insane.

Where I’m learning impaired is in forgetting to note who writes each story. In particular, if it’s producer Nigel Fairs, the Sapphire and Steel supremo at Big Finish, you can pretty much guarantee that the first part of the whole play is going to be absolute drek, with a second part that manages to make the misery you’ve experienced almost worthwhile.

Turns out that for this, the final play in the series, possibly ever, pretty much the whole of the second part is absolute drek as well. The final ten minutes or so? Now that’s where it gets really interesting.

Plot
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.

An abandoned shopping centre in the middle of the night. Is the journey at an end?

Is it any good?
Bar that final ten minutes, it is pretty much the worst audio play you’ll ever hear. The cliffhanger at the end of part one is reasonably interesting and the first parts give Steel a chance to actually show off some powers for change.

But otherwise it’s dreadful, packed with awful dialogue, atrocious acting, American accents of the Nicola Bryant school, more internal series continuity which we could have done without and yet again a deeply awful attempt to deal with ‘an issue’.

But the ten minutes at the end almost save it, and indeed save some of the earlier plays in the series, since it does explain at least some of their illogic. There’s another cliffhanger which is just about as creepy as last series’ (as well as the TV series’) and gives us a genuinely spooky bit of audio and a worthy Sapphire and Sapphire villain.

But I can’t recommend this. You really shouldn’t have to sit through an entire two hour play of rubbish, just for a shining jewel at the end. I really couldn’t even bear to think about having to listen to this again, and I wouldn’t wish it on you either, gentle reader. Which is shame, because those last few minutes are really, really good.

Price
Big Finish CD: £14.99
Amazon CD: £10.49
No download available

Cast
David Warner (Steel)
Susannah Harker (Sapphire)
Louise Jameson (Sally)
Ian Hallard (Justin)
Robert Maloney (Russell)
Timothy Watson (Jason)
Joannah Tincey (Miranda)

Author: Nigel Fairs

Director: Nigel Fairs

  • It must be so frustrating when you’ve been dedicated enough to follow something through and you get ‘repaid’ with something that is confirmation of all your worst experiences for something — and yet, and yet. Could you bear to listen to the those last 10 mins on their own?

  • No.

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  • I felt the same way about this audio – but for opposite reasons. I thought the buildup and politics were pretty good, but the final ten minutes a load of rubbish.
    S&S discover they’ve been trapped all along? Faux-clever meta, and a repeat of the end of season 2.
    Nigel Fairs is the RTD of BF S&S. He’s pretty much responsible for its existence, and the reason why most of it sucks.

  • Yes, a Nigel Fairs’ writing credit on a S&S audio usually ensured they’re suck quite severely, with glimmers of quality sneaking out in places