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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

Sapphire & Steel: Dr. McDee Must Die (Part 1) Sapphire & Steel
Assignment Five
"Dr. McDee Must Die" Part 1
TV episode
Writer: Don Houghton
Directed by: Shaun O'Riordan
Original air date: August 11, 1981


Wealthy businessman Lord Mullrine holds a costume/history party of the date June 21, 1930. Sapphire and Steel are sent on assignment to crash the celebration.


Read the episode summary at the Sci Fi Freak Site or Watch it at Shout Factory


Notes from the Sapphire & Steel chronology


This storyline takes place largely on the evening of Saturday, June 21, 1980, then into the morning of Sunday, June 22. This corresponds to the actual calendar dates and days of 1980.


Characters appearing or mentioned in this episode


Emma Mullrine

Greville (butler)

Lord Arthur Mullrine

Anne Shaw

Fairfax (mentioned only)

Lauderdale (mentioned only)

Jenkins (Mullrine servant, not named until "Dr. McDee Must Die" Part 2)

Felix Harborough
Felicity McDee
Annabelle Harborough

Howard McDee

Dr. George McDee (in painting only, deceased)

Tony Purnell (mentioned only)

Veronica Blamey (Tony Purnell's girlfriend, mentioned only, not named until "Dr. McDee Must Die" Part 2)

radio sportscaster (unnamed, voice on radio only)

Steel (alias Miles Cavendish)

Sapphire (alias Virginia Cavendish)

Grosvenor (mentioned only)


Didja Notice?


Lord Mullrine's party takes place in the "modern" day (1980) but he has arranged the venue to seem as if it is an almost immaculate version of June 21, 1930, marking his business' 50th year of operation. This, of course, attracts the attention of time itself...and that of Sapphire and Steel.


The date in Miss Shaw's office also shows Saturday, June 21, 1980. Lord Mullrine says to Miss Shaw, just before the party starts, "All right, then, see you Monday." It seems he plans the party to start that evening and go through Sunday.


Lord Mullrine checks in on the previous day's Tokyo and Hong Kong stock exchange prices in Miss Shaw's office, including his own companies Mullrine International and Mullrine Engineering. The stock exchanges are real, of course, but the Mullrine companies fictitious.


The computer screen seen in Miss Shaw's office is a Sperry Univac UTS 400. Sperry was an American electronics manufacturer from 1910−1986, now merged into several other companies, notably Unisys.


Lord Mullrine notes that it is the summer solstice. The summer solstice in the northern hemisphere of Earth is when the North Pole has its maximum tilt toward the sun, resulting in the year's longest period of daylight. This always occurs sometime between June 20 and 22 for the northern hemisphere. Mullrine remarks that the solstice was on the same date both now and in 1930. This is true.


Notice that Lord Mullrine is wearing essentially the same tuxedo now as he wore in the portrait he looks at at 3:57 on the DVD, circa 50 years previous.


At the party, Annabelle requests a Green Goddess cocktail from Greville, remarking, "I believe they were the in thing in 1930." A Green Goddess is an actual cocktail made up of vodka, green tea, sugar, baby arugula, cucumber, jalapeño, lemon juice, and mint sprigs. My research indicates it was a popular drink of the 1950s rather than 1930.


At 8:07 on the DVD, Howard McDee turns on the old-time radio, wanting to catch up on the Boycott test match. This is a reference to British cricketer Geoffrey Boycott (1940-), who participated in a number of test matches against rival cricket teams. A test match in cricket is one of the longest duration, meant to test the endurance of the players, with matches lasting up to five days. I've not been able to confirm if Boycott actually participated in a test match that encompassed June 21, 1980.


Mullrine's 1930's-era radio is rigged to play the sportscast of a cricket match of that time and mentions players named Bradman, Larwood, Ames, and Wally Hammond. These were all actual British and Australian cricketers of the time period. Again, I've been unable to confirm if a test match between England and Australia took place on this date. I've also been unable to confirm the broadcaster's story of Hammond having once dived and caught a ball that turned out to be a swallow!


At 9:21 on the DVD, Harborough discovers that the audio of Mullrine's radio comes from an Elftone Micro Cassette recorder hidden inside. Elftone was a real British electronics brand at the time.


At 10:40 on the DVD, Harborough picks up a bottle of Bollinger 1927 Champagne. The bottle held does not appear to be a genuine 1927 vintage bottle.


At 11:08 on the DVD, Harborough remarks that the weather's glorious at Trent Bridge. Trent Bridge is a cricket park in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, England.


    Sapphire and Steel seem to have taken on the names of Miles and Virginia Cavendish to capitalize on a Cavendish known of by Lord Mullrine as a man who deals in futures. Mullrine is referring to futures contracts, an agreement to buy or sell a commodity at a predetermined price at a specific time in the future. Ironically, here, "futures" applies to Steel as someone who seeks to ensure the future occurs according to a natural flow of time, undamaged by the forces of a personification of time that he and Sapphire have continually battled throughout the TV series.

    Later in the episode, Steel describes himself to the partygoers as a futurologist, saying, "My predictions are based on logical projections using the advanced physical sciences." In modern terms, a futurologist is one who explores how the future may emerge based on a study of current trends in society, culture, science, nature, etc.


At 14:05 on the DVD, the old radio plays a musical piece by Jack Payne and his orchestra. Payne (1899-1969) was a British dance music bandleader. Harborough discovers the micro cassette player is suddenly no longer inside the seems to be playing the old time music all by itself.


At 16:05 on the DVD, Emma remarks that the church tower near the Mullrine mansion was "V-2'd...or was it doodle-bombed? One or the other," in 1944 or '45. She is referring German bombing techniques during the aerial bombings of London in WWII. The V-2 rocket was invented by Nazi Germany in 1944 and was the world's first long-range ballistic missile. By "doodle-bombed", Emma means "doodlebug", a nickname for the German V-1 flying bomb, essentially a bomb with wings and an engine that flew through the sky towards a target until it ran out of fuel, then fell and exploded on impact wherever it landed.


Lord Mullrine remarks that on June the 21st, 1930, "King George V is on the throne, MacDonald's prime minister, and eight months ago the American stock market collapsed. And we are in the midst of a depression." This is all true of that date, referring to King George V (1865-1936), Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937), and the American stock market crash of October 29, 1929 that is generally considered the start of the Great Depression of the 1930s.


At 18:50 on the DVD, notice that Steel has changed clothes instantaneously for the party, indicating a use of paranormal powers. Seconds later, Sapphire does the same, even changing her hairstyle in the process. It's interesting to note that when Sapphire arrived at the mansion, she was wearing her traditional blue, but her party dress is black.


    At 19:36 on the DVD, a copy of Britannia is seen on an end table during the party. Britannia was a weekly women's magazine of the 1920s, later merging with Eve magazine to become Britannia and Eve in 1929. I've been unable to identify the exact issue, but it must be a least a year older than our story's June 21, 1930 date, since the magazine became Britannia and Eve in May 1929. I guess old Lord Mullrine couldn't find a copy closer to the date of his history party!

    Another copy of Britannia is seen in "Dr. McDee Must Die" Part 4.


    Emma remarks to Annabelle that she used to love going to the flower show, but she never gets to London these days. She adds that Queen Mary is opening the flower show this year. Queen Mary (1867-1953) was the wife of the aforementioned George V. The flower show Emma refers to is most likely the Chelsea Flower Show, formally known as the Great Spring Show, held in May every year in Chelsea, London. I've been unable to confirm if she "opened" the show, but Queen Mary did attend and view the exhibits with George that year.

    If everyone at the party has been caught into thinking (by the entity of time) it really is June 1930 as it seems is the case, then Emma should be speaking about the year's flower show in the past tense, as the show is only held for four days in May.


After Steel fixes his hair into a more proper 1930's style for the party, he is also suddenly sporting a mustache! Greville and Emma, who both saw him upon arrival at the mansion sans mustache don't seem to notice the difference.


Steel, as Miles Cavendish, tells Emma he doesn't drink. Is this something that is true of Steel at all times? He later accepts a glass of Champagne from Lord Mullrine, though we never actually see him drink from it. When he walks back over to Sapphire to talk to her just a minute later, he is no longer holding the glass. Howard McDee then brings a glass of Champagne for Sapphire and offers his to Steel, who declines.


When he first meets "Cavendish", Lord Mullrine seems to at first mistake him for a man named Grosvenor.


Steel knows beforehand that Felix Harborough is deputy chairman of Mullrine International. Did he receive a briefing ahead of time about who he would meet on this assignment? Did he research it on his own? Did he read Harborough's mind?


When "Cavendish" tells Harborough he's a futurologist, Harborough inquires, "Speculative cybernetics?" Cybernetics is the study of regulatory systems. According to Wikipedia, Norbert Wiener defined cybernetics in 1948 as "the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine." In other words, it is the scientific study of how humans, animals and machines control and communicate with each other.


Annabelle is heard to address her husband, Felix, as Feli, apparently an affectionate nickname.


Before taking a sip of his Champagne, McDee holds up his glass and says, "Chin-chin," to Steel. Sapphire has to tell Steel telepathically that he must now say it back to McDee before McDee can take a drink. "Chin-chin" is a British toast used to express "good wishes" before drinking. The term is derived from the Chinese qing qing, meaning to go "lightly" or "softly".


Sapphire suggests to Steel that the out-of-place green door in the mansion may be the location of a ley line. It is confirmed in "Dr. McDee Must Die" Part 3 that the building lies on top of a ley line. Ley lines are alleged spiritual, mystical, or magnetic alignments of historic structures on Earth. The concept of ley lines is usually considered pseudoscience by the established sciences, but there is some (controversial) evidence of magnetic fields existing along mapped ley lines across the world.


For the first time, we see some kind of "astral body" of Sapphire leave her physical body to investigate the green door while she herself remains with McDee and Steel.


At 25:27 on the DVD, McDee asks Sapphire if she would like more Champagne...but she still has a mostly-full glass!


Memorable Dialog


that spells trouble.mp3

ostentatious nonsense.mp3

walked over your grave?.mp3

that green door.mp3

which side of the bed would you prefer?.mp3

who chose that?.mp3



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