Tag Archives: Joanna Lumley

Tuesday Is Theme Tunes Day – Sapphire And Steel

If there was ever a weirder, more deliberately enigmatic prime-time TV drama than Sapphire and Steel, I’d like to see it.

The Choob remembers watching it when it was first broadcast, aged around 10, and I was hooked the moment I first heard the bonkers opening monologue  – delivered over an intriguingly abstract animation and backed by a portentous, doom-laden theme tune – that supposedly set up the premise of the show. In truth, at the time, I didn’t understand a word of it – and I’m not sure I do even now!

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.”

Adding to my younger self’s confusion was the fact that the stories (there were only six before the show was cancelled) played out in twice-weekly, half-hour installments, some as short as four episodes, some as long as 12, and I never got to see them all. But I loved every minute of those that I did see.

It wasn’t until I saw them in full years later, when they were released on video in the early 90s, that the stories – and the characters – finally started to make sense. Somewhat.

From what I can work out, Sapphire (Joanna Lumley) and Steel (David McCallum) are part of a team of elemental, superpowered agents (we also get to see others occasionally: Silver, Jet and Lead) from another dimension who are assigned by some mysterious, unrevealed higher power to take human form and sort out breaches in the flow of time. These breaches, either accidental or deliberately caused by malevolent extra-dimensional beings, threaten human life.

Sapphire and Steel was created and mostly written by P J Hammond – who also, more recently, wrote two of the better episodes of Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood in Small Worlds and From Out of the Rain. It aired between 1979 and 1983 and was seen by many at the time as ITV’s answer to Doctor Who. In retrospect, it now seems more like a prototypical version of The X-Files, with a supernatural pair of heroes rather than the all-too human Mulder and Scully.

Although there was a large sci-fi element to Sapphire and Steel, the sparse, mundane, everyday sets – forced upon the show by a very limited budget – and the often disturbing plots (people trapped in photographs, a nursery rhyme that can spirit people away, evil forces fuelled by the resentment of the dead) helped to create a brilliantly spooky atmosphere that made it as much urban – or rather suburban – horror as science fiction.

Watching Sapphire and Steel is more like watching a carefully-crafted stage play than a TV show, with great characterisation, pithy dialogue and clever ideas more than making up for the lack of action and flashy special effects.

And, at the heart of it all, there was the great, flirtatious chemistry between Lumley and McCallum.

Here, then, are those wonderful, memorable opening titles, preceded by the pre-credits sequence from one of the season four episodes:

And here are the closing credits (plus the last minute or so of the show’s final episode), which contain a longer version of the theme tune:

Incidentally, although the TV show was cancelled after just six stories (34 episodes) in 1982, Big Finish Productions, best known for producing original Doctor Who audio dramas, have since 2005 been continuing the Sapphire and Steel story in a series of audio plays – 15 so far – released on CD. These star Susannah Harker and David Warner as Sapphire and Steel.

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TV Newsround: Magic, Mars, Heche gets Hung, Ab Fab Casting and Some Players

The Colour Of Magic, the TV mini-series based on the first two books in Terry Pratchett‘s Discworld series, will air in the US on the ION Television network on March 22. It had previously been scheduled to air last November.

The two-part adaptation (which runs to 189 minutes without adverts) first aired in the UK on Sky One last March. It stars Only Fools And Horses’ David Jason as hopeless, cowardly wizard Rincewind and Lord Of The Rings’ Sean Astin as Twoflower, the Discworld’s first tourist. The cast also includes Tim Curry and Christopher Lee.

The mini-series was generally well-received when broadcast in the UK, with most critics agreeing it was an improvement over Sky One’s previous Pratchett adaptation, The Hogfather (which also starred David Jason, though in a different role).

Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas has updated fans about the state of play on the movie sequel to the Kristen Bell drama that he recently said was possibly in the works.

He told Entertainment Weekly that the script was almost finished and added: “It’s close. A few key details left to solve.

“I’m preparing the pitch now – literally now. I hope to go in and talk to [executive producer] Joel Silver and [Warner Brothers] in the next week or two to see if they’re interested.”

However, he stressed that a movie was anything but certain: “I’m going to give it my best shot and let the chips fall where they may…It’s entirely possible I won’t have an answer at the end of the pitch.

“They will want to consider [the pitch] … then, if they want to move forward, there’s the deal-making that’ll need to go on.”

Former Men In Trees actress Anne Heche has joined the cast of HBO’s new dark comedy Hung. She will play the ex-wife of Thomas Jane‘s lead character, a high-school basketball coach whose life is a mess but who one thing going for him: he’s very well-endowed. Heche is taking over the role from Kristin Bauer, who played it in the original pilot.

Revoltionary Road actress Kathryn Hahn has landed the lead role in the previously announced pilot of the US remake of Absolutely Fabulous. She will star as Eddie (played by series creator Jennifer Saunders in the UK original) alongside Third Rock From the Sun’s Kristen Johnstonas Patsy (played by Joanna Lumley in the British show).

Spike TV has ordered 10 episodes of Players, a half-hour sitcom about two “odd couple” brothers who run a sports bar, created by and starring Matt Walsh.

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Pilot Watch: Witches, AbFab, Trauma, Mercy, Tick Tock

Here’s a quick round up of the latest pilots to get the go-ahead in the States.


Trauma: No doubt with one eye on finding a replacement for ER, the network is considering this drama set in the  the high-energy world of medical emergencies out in the field.

Mercy: Written by Liz Heldens, the show is a medical drama that follows the highs and lows of the lives of three close friends who are nurses.
Heldens writing credits include three seasons on NBC’s Friday Night Lights.


The Witches Of Eastwick:  Light fantasy based on the John Updike novel, and the 1987 movie, about three women who develop supernatural powers after a mysterious man arrives in their their small town.
It’s the second attempt at a small-screen version of the story – a pilot was shot for Fox in 2002, starring future Desperate Housewives star Marcia Cross, but never became a series.


Absolutely Fabulous: An American version of the rude ‘n’ crude 90s British sitcom about the boozy excesses of shallow, selfish fashion publicist Edina (Jennifer Saunders) and equally narcissistic magazine editor Patsy (Joanna Lumley), much to the disgust of Edina’s disapproving, straight-laced daughter, Saffron (Julia Sawalha).
Saunders created, wrote and starred in the original and is an is an executive producer on the US version. Former Saturday Night Live and Third Rock From the Sun writer Christine Zander will provide the script, which will set the show in Los Angeles.
AbFab ran for 36 episodes in the UK and is a cult hit in the States. Given the tendency of American remakes of foreign shows (Kath & Kim, for example) to make brash characters more likable and sympathetic and to lose the more grotesque aspects (the original Edina and Patsy were exceptionally grotesque and unsympathetic), it’s questionable how faithful the US version will be to the original.


Tick Tock: Comedy about a thirtysomething single mother who decides to focus her attention on finding true love.

See Also: High-Flying Fox Orders Seven New Pilots and Networks Fly Into A Pilot Frenzy.

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Tuesday Is Theme Tunes Day – The New Avengers

This week’s theme tune is a British 1970s classic.

I’m too young to remember John Steed ‘s original 60s outings in The Avengers. But I do remember being transfixed as a nipper by The New Avengers, the somewhat less successful attempt to update the secret agent franchise for darker decade that was altogether less playful, free-spirited and, well, fun.

It still looked great to me, though. The show ran for just two seasons in 1976 and 1977, 26 episodes in total. The strange, unrequited ménage à trois of John Steed (Patrick McNee), Purdey (Joanna Lumley) and Mike Gambit (the late Gareth Hunt) should never have worked as a team and yet, somehow, they played perfectly off one another. At the time, the flirting passed over my young and innocent head but clearly Purdey had a thing for Steed, while Gambit had the hots for Purdey (who could blame him?) and she took great delight in knocking him back

But like I said, the primary-school aged Choob was oblivious to all that at the time – it was the thrilling, action-packed, often borderline sci-fi plots that had me hooked.

And the theme tune, accompanied by the classic red-white-and-blue animated lion rampant opening titles, remains one of my all-time favourites. Enjoy!


Filed under Classic TV, Tuesday Is Theme Tunes Day