Book Review – Sapphire and Steel: Dead Man Walking

  • Title: Dead Man Walking
  • Series: Sapphire and Steel
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Nigel Fairs
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Sapphire, Steel, Silver
  • Cast: Susannah Harker, David Warner, David Collings
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/31/2018

**Spoiler Alert** The most frustrating thing about Dead Man Walking is that it is not a 2-disc release. The second disc included in the CD case is, rather, a Big Finish Sampler – a collection of extended trailers and sneak peaks. While this would have been fine as an extra bonus, I fully expected the actual story to be four episodes (not two) and to span two CDs. Even when the story reached its end, I figured Sapphire, Silver, and Steel would have to go back for some reason. But, nope. So it really feels like the story was cut short.

It’s a pity because the story, as it is, is a rather good one. It opens with a new arrival at a prison being taken to his cell. He freaks out when he sees the cell. The next day, Sapphire and Steel arrive, and face a very overwhelmed, upset, and frustrated prison administrator who doesn’t want to deal with another morale-busting report. But Sapphire assures them they are an independent body looking into the inmate’s suicide.

Sapphire and Steel go to investigate the cell, and Steel is literally kidnapped by Time. Sapphire cannot reach him. Silver arrives and works on a device using a tape recorder to establish communications. Sapphire returns to the prison office and finds the file of Michael Kent – a prisoner with two files at two different times and two lives.

Sapphire realises that there are now multiple timelines in the prison. Once Silver establishes a link, Sapphire communicates with Steel – he is in grave danger, the people in the prison think he is Michael Kent, and they intend to murder him for killing a child. (Britain abolished the Deah Penalty in 1965; Steel is trapped in 1968). Sapphire even thinks they do kill Steel. But he is trapped in a single moment. Steel manages to give Sapphire and Silver a clue: Jackson. Silver and Sapphire talk to Jackson, who thinks they “work for the creatures”. Jackson then says he can’t leave the prison. Literally, he cannot – his legs freeze when he tries. Sapphire and Silver realise immediately he’s made a deal with Time.

Sapphire, with Silver’s help, goes back to when Jackson killed his son as his part in his deal. At first, she thinks Jackson was meant to kill his son. Then she realises, no, he was meant to kill his wife. She goes back, now corporal instead of merely as an observer, and convinces the young boy, Marcus, to play hide and seek with her and hold her hands. A drunk Jackson enters, and abuses, hits, and ultimately kills his wife.

Sapphire, Silver, and now Steel return to the prison, where they find Jackson spent fifteen years in the prison and then died of natural causes. The prison administrator doesn’t know anything about Jackson’s son. But as Sapphire, Silver, and Steel leave, the BBC radio announcer announces that the cello music that the administrator has been listening to is from the London Symphony, with lead cellist, Marcus Jackson.

Again, this was a good story, but the end seemed abrupt. Maybe it was because I was expecting the story to continue on to disc 2, but I was disappointed when it didn’t. There’s also precious little of Steel in this one, though it’s always fun to see Silver. Overall, an intriguing premise, but it wraps up too quickly without the twists and turns in the story that I normally expect in Sapphire and Steel.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website:

Sadly, it looks like the Sapphire and Steel range is no longer available from the Big Finish website. But be sure to check out their other audio ranges.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Sapphire and Steel: All Fall Down

  • Title: All Fall Down
  • Series: Sapphire and Steel
  • Discs: 2 CDs
  • Author: David Bishop
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Sapphire, Steel, Silver
  • Cast: Susannah Harker, David Warner, David Collings
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/20/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Sapphire and Steel was a British television series on the ITV (Independent Television) network, starring Joanna Lumley as Sapphire and David McCallum as Steel with David Collings as Silver. The series was about, well, it’s somewhat difficult to explain – we don’t know exactly what Sapphire, Silver, and Steel are – just that they are elements, sent to stop time from breaking out because it would be disastrous. Like the original classic Doctor Who series, the individual stories consisted of several half-hour parts and each complete story could be of varying length. For Sapphire and Steel, this could be 4, 6, or even 8 parts. The show was creepy, imaginative, thought-provoking and, also like Doctor Who, low budget.

Big Finish’s audio series of original Sapphire and Steel stories really is quite brilliant and it’s one of my very favorite non-Doctor Who-related series from the company. The series re-casts Sapphire and Steel with Susannah Harker and David Warner, respectively, but this volume has David Collings return as Silver. And it is a full-cast audio play with music, sound effects, and acting. It is not a straight audiobook.

This play, “All Fall Down”, begins with Sapphire and Steel arriving outside the archives of the City of London Corporation. It’s an old building that has been condemned, and inside a small group of archivists and students are trying to rescue the collection stored within. They are scanning or otherwise preserving the artifacts, such as rescuing audio recordings from old wax cylinders and uploading them via FTP to the Internet for access by researchers worldwide. Similarly, old papers and books are being scanned, enhanced, and uploaded. Steel flips out a bit when he hears about this, as old objects are often used as triggers by Time to try to break out, which would be disastrous.

Sapphire and Steel enter the building, meet Dr. Fleming, the head archivist and find out that Silver was sent to the building first and is already investigating. Dr. Fleming introduces them to her student, Mary, and Dr. Webber a forensic archaeologist. Dr. Webber is studying a collection of documents, objects, and bones from a nearby plague pit (burial pit filled with victims of the Bubonic Plague in 1665). Dr. Webber is, however, already acting suspiciously. Mary says he’s over-protective of a plague journal he found in the pit. He won’t let her even look at it, which is odd since it’s her job to scan, enhance, and upload documents and sound recordings. Later, he’s observed to be talking to a match flame outside, but when asked he says he was listening.

As Sapphire, Silver, and Steel try to pinpoint the source of the breakout and encounter more and more echoes of the past – children singing “Ring a Ring of Roses”, a nursery rhyme that refers to the Bubonic Plague, and voices chanting, “Lord, have mercy on us”, another plague reference. Other references are to Bedlam Asylum, especially in the late Victorian Age. Steel and Dr. Fleming start to show signs of plague, and Steel collapses.

On disc two, Sapphire and Silver work together. Webber has taken Mary and escaped into the past. Even though they know it’s dangerous, Sapphire convinces Silver she must create another tunnel to the past, using the same technique that Webber used – burning a blank page of the plague journal. Silver develops a machine to broadcast a homing signal down the tunnel so Sapphire can find her way back. Sapphire heads down the tunnel to 1665 and meets Webber. At first, Webber tries to convince her that he’s been reincarnated over and over by his imaginary friend, Maldeb, who has gained some form of substance. However, Webber is a projection from the past and not real. The creature caught in the time trap is Maldeb. She had been trapped before in the plague journal, but now she was trying to break out. Maldeb is the time disturbance. The various Webbers, including Anton Weber the German inventor, and the Victorian “gentleman” bringing his ward to see the mad at Bedlam Asylum in the late Victorian Age, and the modern Dr. Webber, are mere echoes, ghosts, projections from the past. Maldeb wants to escape it’s prison and plans to have Sapphire take her place.

Meanwhile, Silver succeeds in communicating with Mary. He uses the homing device to bring her back. But just before he succeeds in bringing back Mary, communication with Sapphire is cut off by Maldeb. Silver and Mary then realize that to bring Sapphire back they need to destroy the journal. They burn the journal, Maldeb is destroyed and Sapphire returns to the present. She, Silver, and a now-healed Steel stand outside the Archives building. The breakout has been stopped. Like Steel, once Maldeb was destroyed and time returned to normal, Dr. Fleming was cured of her plague symptoms – because she never had the plague. Sapphire and Steel say goodbye to Silver and they all disappear.

I’ve always liked the television program Sapphire and Steel but it is far too short with only six stories (although some are quite long). This series of audio plays successfully re-creates the mood of the original series, while presenting intriguing original stories. The stories, such as “All Fall Down”, which I have listened to before, are also very easy to listen to again and are still enjoyable. David Warner is perfect as Steel, and Susannah Harker is excellent as Sapphire. The rest of the cast also does an excellent job in their performances. This play and the series are highly recommended.

The CD includes a trailer for the next play in the series, “The Lighthouse”.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website:

Sadly, it looks like the Sapphire and Steel range is no longer available from the Big Finish website. But be sure to check out their other audio ranges.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!