|Sapphire & Steel|
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.
Christmas Eve. The Present. The Capital Palace, once a popular theatre, now stands unused next to a long-abandoned graveyard.
Plans to celebrate the work of a dead playwright in the theatre draw Sapphire and Steel into a deadly maze from which there is little hope of escape.
In a house where all the clocks stopped at midnight, Sapphire is at the mercy of an old woman with a familiar face. And Steel is reunited with an old ally... but for how long?
David Warner (Steel); Susannah Harker (Sapphire); Lisa Bowerman (Ruby); Nicholas Briggs (Arthur); Lucy Gaskell (The Girl); Suzanne Proctor (Dolly)
Stories that deliberately take their cues from established literature don't sit well with me. Going through the motions of a classic story strikes me as betraying a lack of inspiration on behalf of the writer - that this is the joint best Sapphire and Steel audio says a lot about Nigel Fairs' skills as the range's mastermind.
Nick Briggs plays Arthur, possibly the best of his many Big Finish roles (second only to the Daleks perhaps). A sympathetic character, Arthur is treated quite badly by Steel, who is splendidly short of manners throughout. We also get to meet Ruby, played by the wonderful Lisa Bowerman, who proves integral to the outcome of the plot.
Suzanne Proctor plays Dolly, the music hall grotesque who's relentless sing-song descends frighteningly from light-heartedness to something altogether more sinister with expertly handled ease.
Finally, Lucy Gaskell features very briefly, but in a scene that is haunting, tragic, eerie and strangely beautiful.
This story is an utter triumph, so much more than the 'Christmas ghost story' the sleevenotes describe it as. A mixture of comedy (Sapphire and Steel as stage turns), the tragic (Arthur and The Girl's backstory) and something delightfully magical. Recommended without hesitation.
(As an aside, the next story 'Cruel Immortality', has sufficent ties with this tale, it could be considered a sequel of sorts - or even the second chapter of one huge, eight episode story.)