To American audiences, Sapphire and Steel is one of the ultimate British cult TV shows. Lasting only 34 episodes that aired between 1979 and 1982, it featured some major stars (David McCallum and Joanna Lumley) and garnered a critical reputation, but unlike Doctor Who or Blake’s 7, it never aired on American television (although it has been readily available on DVD in this country, first from A&E, and more recently from Shout! Factory). Moreover, apart from one guidebook, (Assigned!: The Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to Sapphire and Steel), there has been almost no published material available about the show. Helping to fill that gap is the Sapphire and Steel Omnibus, edited by Bob Furnell and Jez Strickley.
The Sapphire and Steel Omnibus is an anthology of materials about the show, done by a variety of writers. There are essays, interviews, reviews, fiction, and even a comic. As one would expect, with such a variety of materials and authors, there is also a variety of quality. Where good, the Sapphire and Steel Omnibus is very good, particularly in its analyses of the episodes of the show, and in the interviews of some of the people involved in it. The Omnibus also covers some of the other media treatments of Sapphire and Steel, examining the Big Finish radio productions, the novel, the Annual, and some of the comic versions.
Where bad, the Omnibus isn’t actually terrible, but it is a little obscure, (an essay about the reception of the TV show in the Netherlands is likely not to be of too much interest to anyone outside the Netherlands, and the piece of fiction and comic may not appeal to all readers of the work).
There are also some maddening gaps in the way the material is presented. For example, while all of the episodes of the original TV series are carefully considered, (several times actually), the essay on the Big Finish audio dramas doesn’t even list the individual episodes, which seems a terrible oversight. Furthermore, I do take issue with a work which, when it considers the post-Sapphire and Steel careers of its actors and crew, sees fit to consider the David McCallum’s role on NCIS while not mentioning Joanna Lumley’s star turn on Absolutely Fabulous.
These quibbles aside, The Sapphire and Steel Omnibus is a welcome addition to a field where there is a dearth of sources, and will hopefully help garner some more attention to this moody, enigmatic, atmospheric cult TV classic. 7/10
Reviewed August 2017
Published December 2015
Paperback, 128 Pages. $15.95 CAD
Order your copy here.