Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)


High hopes for this one, as they’ve hired an established science-fiction writer to pen an episode, and they don’t come much colder than Sapphire & Steel’s creator Peter J Hammond. However, would he still have what it took to repeat the uncompromising hardness of that series, and if so, would it survive script-editing?

First up, throughout Hammond effortlessly soars over all the preceding episodes, by simply not bothering with any swearing. What an absolute breath of fresh air.

Perhaps this was because no-one appears to have given him the scripts to the preceding episodes though. This one invents an entirely new backstory for Jack (so much for what brought him to Earth in The Empty Child), and for the first time treats clutzy Gwen as the tough character she’s definitely not. Not only that, having been told in Ghost Machine that Jack doesn’t sleep, here we see him having nightmares.

Horror is not my thing, but this is the first reasonable episode so far, and as such could easily be an episode of The X Files. In-keeping with that show though, there are plot-flaws of convenience. For example, Jack is desperate to stop the fairies but won’t tell anyone about them. Another character very quickly builds an entire fence across his garden on the same afternoon that he paradoxically needs the extra space for all his barbecue guests. And when Estelle phones them for help, they hang up on her instead of splitting-up and leaving one person behind to talk to her. Which disables the viewer’s “how can they save her?” involvement somewhat.

Add to this some sledgehammer characterisation (the two guest males are quite blatantly bad purely to give their deaths some sense of ‘justice’), and, as with guest-writer scripts on Doctor Who, you’re left wondering what Hammond’s original draft might have been like, and whether these were his, or ‘fixes’.

For all that though, as the final defeatist conclusion rolled, I felt a certain ambivalence. On the one hand this was the exact same solution as one of Sapphire & Steel's assignments. On the other, it was still much better written than Torchwood has been so far.

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