Sapphire and Steel appeal 

16 May 2017

From Look-in magazine for week ending 14 July 1979

Tuesdays and Thursdays during the summer are going to be different this year — Sapphire And Steel are here, troubleshooters (“agents” they call themselves) who battle against time and the dark forces of the unknown in a brand new suspense series that unites The Man From Uncle, David McCallum (from that hit sixties show and recently from ITV’s Kidnapped), with the girl from The New Avengers, Joanna Lumley. It’s a series that’s difficult to describe as Joanna found when she talked to Look-in’s Peter Jeffries

“It’s all very strange, really.” said Joanna. “It isn’t a horror series or like anything you’re seen on television before. But it is quite frightening. In the programme, David and I are just a little bit odd and we can do slightly odd things. We’re not bionic or anything like that, so I can waft about in this lovely long dress behaving rather strangely!”

Joanna. “We’re able to stop time, go briefly forward or back in time and lots of other super things. It really is great fun. You may notice during the stories that Sapphire and Steel often turn up out of the blue in very strange attire. This is because we can get called to Earth from all sorts of different times and parts of the Universe. One of my favourite special effects is when Sapphire is concentrating very hard, putting her powers into action and her eyes turn an incredible bright blue.”

This role is, of course, a dramatic change from the strenuous part she played as the glamorous high-kicking Purdey in The New Avengers.

“Sapphire is very much a different role from Purdey,” explained Joanna. “A role which I enjoyed all the same. It’s a different kind of acting from the Avengers — theres no karate, running, jumping, climbing and ending up covered in mud and bruises! I don’t have to be nearly as fit now as I did for Purdey. I did all my own stunts for The New Avengers, well nearly all; the only thing I wouldn’t do was ride a motor-bike. For that our stuntman had to dress-up in my clothes while the shot was being taken from a distance so you couldn’t tell it wasn’t really me doing the riding.”

The new series occupies peak viewing time twice a week at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sapphire And Steel should prove to be good entertainment for all the family and is so creepy that it has already caused David Reid, head of drama for the company that makes it. ATV. a few sleepless nights. “I read the first script in bed late at night,” said David. “I found it so frightening that I couldn’t get to sleep. What makes it so disturbing is that, although it is about the supernatural, it is also completely in line with modern scientific thought on extrasensory perception and supernatural happenings.”

The creator of Sapphire And Steel, writer P. J. Hammond, was keen to get away from the old sci-fi idea of characters travelling backwards and forwards through time for their adventures. Instead, he has used time itself, and various other dark and evil forces, as the ‘villain’ of the piece, constantly seeking to break into everyday life and disrupt things.

It’s a complicated idea to grasp — at least, it was for us here at Look-in! — and it may take quite a few episodes to work out what’s going on. So don’t despair if it all seems a bit puzzling and scary at first.

Watch out for some spectacular special-effects, too: as well as Sapphire’s eyes turning bright blue, there are shrinking rooms, ghostly figures who walk through walls, and lots more which are achieved with all the latest television trickery.

The 13-episode series brings together the talents of McCallum and Lumley for the first time and looks to be an exciting partnership. “I think we’ll do well together,” said Joanna. “We certainly enjoyed working with each other. The reaction so far from everybody involved with the programme, and those who have seen it, has been extremely favourable, so we’re hoping for the best.”

Many of Joanna’s fans throughout the world must be hoping to see her back in another series of The New Avengers and wondering whether Sapphire And Steel signals the end for Purdey. “It looks as though it could well be the end of Purdey but through no fault of Sapphire And Steel,” explained Joanna. “The reason is simply that a new series hasn’t been written and we haven’t been asked to do another one. I’m sure, though, that if we were asked, Patrick Macnee, Gareth Hunt and myself would be only too pleased to co-operate.”


Television, however, is not Joanna’s only love. She would like very much to get back into films and do some theatre. “I’d love to do some movies,” she said. “I like to change direction every so often so that I don’t get bored doing one particular thing. Sometimes when you’re working on a long-running play you think it’d be wonderful to get it finished and get into the studios to do some filming, but once you do, it’s not long before you start pining to get back on the boards again. So you see, it’s quite important to bring some variety into your work.”

Now 33, Joanna is a working mother who likes to write children’s stories and paint in her spare time. As a child her heroes were Superman and Batman, while the actor she most admired was Dirk Bogarde. Although it’s difficult to imagine Joanna as anything but an actress, she has another surprising ambition: “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher sitting at the head of my class reading stories and things like that. But any such ambitions will have to wait a while, for there’s so much more in the acting world I want to do. Anyway. although it would be nice to quit when one’s ahead it would be foolish of me to stop now just as I’m achieving something in my career.”

Let’s hope that Sapphire And Steel will be every bit as successful for Joanna Lumley as The New Avengers was, so that she can take a well-earned holiday in August with her son James and, of course, get quickly back where we all like to see her: on our TV screens.

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