Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Sapphire & Steel was a 1979 British kids' TV show about two mysterious time-agents battling the paranormal.

Unfortunately for the nation's children, (including me) it was also just about the most petrifying show in television history.

ITV bosses quickly back-pedalled and rescheduled the show for a much later slot during adult programming, and subsequent series were no less disquieting. Well, not to a nine-year-old like me anyway. I had deeply disturbing nightmares until... well, maybe I still get them. Brr.

But the popular weekly kids' magazine Look-In wasn't bothered. For 76 issues across two years, they published a two-page comic-strip based on the show.

And the first of these – called Adventure One these days – did a fine job of retaining the original show's disturbing tone.

The eponymous Sapphire and Steel investigate the deranged images the boy's father has felt compelled to paint of him and other subjects since moving into his creepy new house. It emerges that a malevolent force from the ancient property has settled in the man's mind, which mutates his body into a monster, leaving the man's soul with only the reflection of his normal body to inhabit.

Look at that guy – he's terrified! You can see what an excellent job the comic's artists did on this strip, free as they were from the constraints of an ATV budget.

Thanks also to legendary comic-author Angus P Allan, the strip's uneasy tone had very effectively made the jump across media. However as you can see above, it's also at about this point in the narrative that the transition from serious TV drama to kids' comic-strip begins to become more obvious, with the villain explaining his plans out loud to himself. Something you would never have got on the TV show.

In fact before long, the comic-medium's conventions get so embraced that you have to conversely wonder how such a script could ever be filmed for TV.

It's a great story that delivers on all levels. It doesn't break any of the TV show's rules, and it's a fine comic-strip too. I have to admit that I feel a bit like watching the TV series again.

But then, y'know, it did take me 25 years to get over it the first time...

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2 comment(s):

At 2:59 pm, Anonymous Anne said...

I recently watched this show and loved it, and spent a week or so after I'd finished despondent that there wasn't lots more of it. What a cliffhanger to end on

Saying that I'm not sure I like the idea of a remake without McCallum and Lumley; I'm reluctant to even listen to the radio dramas as different actors are playing S&S. But the comic medium seems perfect for the job. I wish these comics were easier to find!

At 8:39 pm, Blogger Steve Goble said...

I agree, a fantastic cliffhanger - one of the all-time greats. Somehow it also gives greater gravity to the memory of everything that came before it.



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