Sapphire & Steel was on of these classic, very low-budget, creative British science fiction TV show. It ran from 1979 to 1982.
Sapphire and Steel are two enigmatic time-travelling entities who are dispatched to fix reality dysfunctions in the modern world, disguised as humans. The stories were usually eerie with precious little being explained.
Howbeit, there was a recurrent theme that clinging too much to the past could break the flow of time. There are also some sort of mysterious, evil forces looking to break the timestream and who oppose the… whatever it is that gives their orders to Sapphire, Steel and their colleagues.
These “agents” are called “Elements”, though their names do not usually match that name (neither sapphire nor steel are “elements”). If it really irritates you, do a global search-and-replace to call them Time Agents.
This profile doesn’t cover the audio-books or comic strip.
- Real Name: N/A.
- Other Aliases: Virginia Cavendish.
- Marital Status: Single.
- Known Relatives: Other Elements.
- Group Affiliation: Elements.
- Base Of Operations: Mobile.
- Height: Weight:
- Eyes: Blue Hair: Blonde
Powers and Abilities
Sapphire’s main ability is the manipulation of time in various ways, limited by the need to maintain time’s stability. She’s also:
- A sensitive, able to read the emotional state of others.
- A telepath who can influence weaker minds.
- An illusion-caster who can project simple images (such as a car), although not to the degree that they could withstand much scrutiny.
All Elements can communicate telepathically, but this appears limited to one-to-one communication. Therefore, if more than two Elements are present they must take it in turns to do so. They are also long-lived, possibly not aging at all as we know it, and can paralyse people with a touch.
Sapphire has also exhibited the ability to grant her abilities to others, as when she gave telepathy to a human who worked with them. It was stated at the time that telepathy was the lowest level of their abilities, and implied that she could also grant others.
Often, when using her powers, Sapphire’s eyes will glow a brilliant blue.
Let’s go with the intro sequence of the show.
Agent of Something-or-other
The Elements are guided by a higher power, which dispatches them to deal with potential damage to the continuum.
While they are given a free hand in how they carry out their investigations, they have no control over whether or not they accept missions. Yet they’ve never exhibited any resistance to their orders, and if they were created specifically for this purpose. It’s possible the thought wouldn’t even occur to them.
While they possess enough power and experience to deal with most situations, they may request the aid of Specialists. These are Elements who act as support to the Operators. Known specialists include Lead, who’s extremely strong and can provide insulation for Steel when using his cold powers, and Silver, who’s good with technology and communications.
It’s likely that the higher power guiding them can intercede in other ways (unless the Element’s abilities are greater than revealed). Examples include creating an exact duplicate of a boat so that the original could be sunk without anyone looking for it.
It’s also possible that the higher power controls their long range travelling abilities, sending them to and retrieving them from situations as it wishes.
Time is a corridor that surrounds everything. But there exist malevolent entities from the beginning and end of time, which roam the corridor seeking weak spots where they may break through, preying on those within.
These weak points tend to occur around anachronisms, such as an antique ship’s log on a modern ship, or photographs doctored to mix period and contemporary elements.
It is also implied that Time itself is a malevolent force.
An unidentified force created the Elements as its agents to protect the time stream from such incursions. When potential breaches are detected, Operators, such as Sapphire and Steel, are dispatched to investigate. They might be joined by Specialists, if it becomes necessary.
There are 127 Elements, 12 of whom are transuranic. Long lived, possibly immune to the effects of time, they had no childhoods, and some don’t fully grasp the concept.
Sapphire and Steel investigated the ship Mary Celeste. A break had been detected there, due to an anachronistic ships log book. They were forced to take extreme measures to deal with the problem, sinking the ship and crew, and creating an exact duplicate which they left drifting as a ghost ship.
Arriving at a remote house, where the parents of a young brother and sister have disappeared after reading the girl nursery rhymes, Sapphire and Steel found themselves facing ghostly apparitions and strange forces. Sapphire was imprisoned in a painting, only freed when Steel lowered his temperature to almost absolute zero, capturing one of the entities.
With additional help from Lead, they hunted the other entities, some of which hid from them in the original cornerstone of the old house. Realising that their opponents made a mistake by arriving at the top of the house, Steel used the girl as bait to lure the ghosts into the cellar, where they all hid in the cornerstone.
Sapphire then transported them all back to the day the house was built, trapping the entities within the stone where Steel froze them. Lead then crushed the stone, destroying them. The Elements disappeared and the parents returned as though they’d never left.
Rails of resentment
Investigating a disturbance at a derelict railway station, the pair met an aging ghost-hunter, Tully, who ignored Steel’s commands to leave. They discovered that a Darkness was feeding on the resentments of those who had died prematurely, their ghosts haunting the station.
The Darkness used the ghosts to take over Sapphire and Steel, but proved unable to kill them or drive them off. It eventually settled for sending them, and Tully, 12 days into the future.
His other options exhausted, Steel offered the Darkness a deal, first getting it to take them back 12 days, although Sapphire pulled them out at 11 days. In exchange for freeing its captive souls, Steel, despite Sapphire’s objections, gave it the last five years of Tully’s life, Sapphire having already established his expected lifespan.
The resentment time felt at this theft more than enough to sate the Darkness for centuries.
Tracking time travellers to the apparently empty roof of a building, they discovered an invisible time capsule, one of a few sent back 1500 years to observe the time period.
Gaining entry, with help from Silver, they encountered the couple living inside and their baby. The infant had been rapidly aged to adulthood by the anomaly and given the ability to accelerate or regress material objects. His left hand sent what it touched back and his right sent them forward, the results usually either dust or sludge.
Steel changed the man back to a baby by forcing its hands together. They discovered the time travel had been achieved by a crystallized portion of pure time. The technology of the capsule used animal matter, animals in their time used only for scientific purposes, and that part of it was still alive.
The malevolent fragment of time allowed the creature its chance to strike back at its captors. Sapphire and Steel managed to send the capsule back to its home time, removing the chance of damage to the time stream, and letting the future deal with its own problems.
The pair then investigated an old junk shop whose landlord had mysteriously disappeared, along with one of his tenants. They encountered children from the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and discovered the new landlord was a faceless being who could hide himself in photographs, always pictured from the rear.
Faceless was also able to imprison victims within photographs. They learned that the original landlord’s hobby was photography, and that he spliced together photographs from different time periods. That was what had caused the breach that allowed the faceless being to manifest.
Failing to free his captives, as faceless burned the photo in which they were trapped, Sapphire and Steel were themselves trapped in a picture. They only escaped due to the intervention of the remaining tenant, Liz. They finally managed to trap Faceless within a prism, and planned to hide it aboard a ship destined to be lost at sea for 75 years.
Nevertheless, Steel warns Liz to “find every photograph there is of you. Burn them. Never have another taken”, in case faceless should come for revenge.
They’re into insurance
The pair turned up as guests at the party of Lord Arthur Mullrine, calling themselves Miles and Victoria Cavendish. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of his business, Mullrine had the rooms of his mansion used for the party redecorated as they had been half a century earlier. He insisted that the guests dress accordingly.
The Time intrusion caused the party itself to move back 50 years, the guests minds affected so that some began to believe it was 1930.
The guests began being murdered, starting with the youngest. Then Mullrine’s late business partner, Doctor George McDee, who had died fifty years earlier, arrived. Sapphire and Steel learned that McDee had invented a virus which would have wiped out all life on the planet had he not been murdered and died in a fire which also destroyed his work. Time was trying to see the virus released.
They ensured that McDee’s lover murdered him as she was supposed to, the virus being destroyed in the resulting fire.
The petrol station trap
Arriving unbriefed at a deserted service station stuck within a region of frozen time, Sapphire and Steel were joined by an equally bemused Silver. There they encountered people from differing time periods. Suspicious of the situation, they eventually learn that three of the strangers are Transient Beings.
These Beings were freed from captivity in the past by a higher power jealous of the Element’s independence, especially of Sapphire and Steel. The pair were too successful in their job and had previously turned down offers from the higher power that controlled the Transients.
The Transients had engineered the entire event as a trap for Sapphire and Steel. Evading and banishing two of the Transients, they believed they had the better of the last one, only to discover they’d been trapped. Sapphire and Steel were last seen trapped within a deserted café, drifting through space.
Calm and friendly, if a bit distant and aloof, Sapphire acts as the diplomat for the Elements. In particular she deals with feathers ruffled by Steel’s brusqueness. The pair have a strong working relationship. They trust one another, despite Sapphire sometimes being upset by the harsh measures Steel will employ to achieve their goals.
Her empathic abilities make her more sensitive to others, but she has a slightly ethereal quality, and can sometimes seem quite alien. She appears to have a close relationship to Silver, although its nature is largely undefined.
Steel: “This can’t be explained to him.”
Sapphire: “It can, in a way. But not by you perhaps.”
Sapphire: “There is a corridor, and the corridor is Time. It surrounds all things, and it passes through all things. But you can’t see it. Only sometimes. And it’s dangerous.”
Rob: “This corridor, can you enter it ?”
Sapphire: “No, not in the way you imagine it, you cannot enter into time. But sometimes Time can try to enter into the present. Break in. Burst through and take things. Take people. The corridor is very strong, it has to be, but sometimes, in some places, it becomes weakened, like fabric, worn fabric, and when there is pressure put on the fabric…”
Rob: “Time comes in…”
Sapphire: “Reaches in and takes out what it wants. And we think that Time has broken into that room. Broken through, and taken away your parents.”
DC Universe History
Policing unauthorized time travel, Sapphire and Steel have come into conflict with the Linear Men. They also have worked with (reluctantly in Steel’s case) Rip Hunter. They further encountered the Doom Patrol, with whom Sapphire remains on friendly terms.
Recognizing the threat they would pose to his plans in his own time, the Time Trapper, the embodiment of the malevolent Time they fight, recruited the Transient Beings to trap them in the past.
Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG
|Dex: 03||Str: 02||Bod: 03||Motivation: Upholding the Good|
|Int: 06||Wil: 06||Min: 06||Occupation: Time Agent|
|Inf: 06||Aur: 07||Spi: 06||Resources: N/A|
|Init: 015||HP: 050|
Awareness: 08, Bestow: 06, Chameleon: 02, Empathy: 06, Hypnosis: 05, Illusion: 05, Mind Probe: 04, Paralysis: 04, Postcognition: 30, Precognition: 05, Sorcery: 03, Telepathy: 06, Teleportation: 01, Time Travel: 30
Bonuses and Limitations:
- Chameleon only allows the alteration of clothes (-1).
- Hypnosis commands may be imparted telepathically (+1).
- Paralysis doesn’t stop the victim talking (+0), and allows Sapphire to negate Paralysis of other Elements (+1).
- Postcognition may also be used on locations (+1), in which case it may be projected (+1, see below), and allows limited interaction (+1, see below).
- Sorcery may not be used for offensive or defensive Powers (-1, see below).
- Telepathy only works on other Elements (-1), and only with one at a time (-1).
- Time Travel is only temporary at higher levels (see below).
Charisma (Persuasion): 07
Attractive, Scholar (Earth history), Near-Immortal.
Steel (High), Silver (High), Elements (Low).
Sapphire has shown a number of time manipulating abilities, which, taken as a whole, can be lacking a certain consistency for the purposes of writing them up. The Time Manipulation section is an attempt to give you something to work with, but it wouldn’t be out of line to allow Power Stunts for any of these Powers.
Sapphire is capable of manipulating time in a number of ways, and while the exact extent of her abilities is unrevealed, many of her tricks require effort to achieve.
She can stick people in an isolated time loop, making them relive a period of time for as long as she wishes, with no memory of it and only a vague feeling of disquiet once released (Time Travel forward, with the rest being special effects).
She can reverse time permanently by short periods of around 10 minutes (Time Travel at 8AP), or possibly half a day at most if she strains. She can also make temporary time reversals of hundreds of years, but she and anyone travelling with her stay only minutes.
She can replay time, basically projecting the results of her Postcognition, so that she and others currently present can view what occurred earlier in their location. She can exercise limited interaction with such scenes, questioning individuals, who reply without seeming to be aware of doing so, and without disturbing the timeline.
She can exert some control over the Time Travel Powers of others, jumping off partway through.
Sorcery covers the number of powers displayed which don’t easily fit other powers, or are exhibited very rarely, and all seem to be at low levels. Examples include:
- Know, with a touch, a person’s date of birth, exact age, and exactly how long it will be until they die (known as Spot Analysis).
- Open locked doors.
- Manipulate small objects telekinetically.
- Act as medium to speak with spirit of the dead in a scéance.
- Communicate with people trapped in photographs.
- Read a sealed letter by running her hand over it.
- Spirit Travel.
- And mysteriously knowing facts about their current situation.
She has also exhibited the ability to duplicate the abilities of other Elements, such as when she and Steel combined their powers to transmute a picture into a mirror, remembering how they’d seen Silver transmute materials.
Source of Character: Sapphire and Steel TV series (1979-82), character played by Joanna Lumley.
Helper(s): Wikipedia, Vincent Bartilucci.