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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

Sapphire & Steel: Escape Through a Crack in Time (Part 1) Sapphire & Steel
Assignment 1
"Escape Through a Crack in Time" Part 1
Writer: P.J. Hammond
Director: Shaun O'Riordan
Original air date: July 10, 1979


In an old house full of antiques, a young brother and sister suddenly find their parents have vanished and a strange pair of operators appear claiming they will resolve the mystery.


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


Didja Know?


    Each episode of Sapphire & Steel began with the curious preamble, "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." Listen to Preamble. The final televised storyline (Assignment 6: The Trap) substituted "Mercury" for "Lead" in the preamble.

    Transuranic elements are elements with atomic numbers greater than 92 (the atomic number of uranium). Such elements are inherently unstable and radioactive, transforming into other elements. The radioactivity of these elements may explain why they "may not be used where there is life."

    Of the medium atomic weight "elements" listed here, some are not actually elements of the periodic table: Jet, Diamond, Sapphire, and Steel; they are made up of chemical compound molecules.

    As the preamble runs, animated spherical representations of the "elements" Gold, Lead, Copper, Jet, Diamond, Radium, Sapphire, Silver, and Steel are seen. Also seen in the background is something that almost looks like a helmet (or skull or Cthuluesque elder god?). Is this the speaker of the preamble? Is it the entity that assigns the missions to its elements?

greater power


Actor David McCallum as Steel is best known as secret agent Illya Kuryakin in the 1964-1968 television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and medical examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard in the American television series NCIS. Joanna Lumley as Sapphire is best known as Patsy Stone in the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous (1992–2012).


I stumbled upon the old British TV series Sapphire & Steel on the Shout Factory website when I was looking for entertainment to watch over the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday in November 2018. I had never watched it before and, frankly, I'm not sure I'd ever even heard of it, even being the Pop Apostle that I am. I found the show engaging on its own, but was also intrigued by some similarities to the later U.S. TV series Twin Peaks. Both shows feature storylines where little is revealed about its core mysteries; both have elements of time travel/alteration; both have special investigators as protagonists; both have supernatural beings as enigmatic agents who have an agenda beyond the strict definition of good/evil towards human society; both shows have untitled episodes, using only sequential numbering to identify each script; both shows have a tendency to feature images of clocks or other representations of time. Furthermore, each individual storyline in the Sapphire & Steel TV series was essentially a long movie chopped up into episodes, much like Twin Peaks' season three was later produced. Other, more distinct, references relating to Twin Peaks also crop up which I will point out in episodes along the way (in notations under the heading "Twin Peaks note"). I have to wonder if Mark Frost and/or David Lynch were influenced by this series when they dreamed up Twin Peaks.


Series creator P.J. Hammond novelized the first 6-part storyline of the series in a 1979 book called, simply, Sapphire and Steel.


Characters appearing or mentioned in this episode


Robert Steven Jardine

Helen Jardine

Henry Jardine

Sarah Jardine





Didja Notice?


Notice there are clocks (many of them antiques) in the Jardine home. (Twin Peaks note: many clocks appeared in that series, intended to suggest that time travel or alternate timelines are involved in the larger storyline.)


    Young Helen is heard to practice her mathematics multiplication with her parents as the episode opens, chanting with them, "One three is three, two threes are six, three threes are nine, four threes are twelve, five threes are fifteen, six threes are eighteen, seven threes are twenty-one, eight threes are twenty-four, nine threes are twenty-seven, ten threes are thirty, eleven threes are thirty-three, and twelve threes are thirty-six." This is a popular memetic used for mathematics in elementary school.

    After this they chant some nursery rhymes, those being "Little Miss Muffet" and "Ring a Ring o' Roses" (or "Ring Around a Rosey" or "Ring Around the Rosey"). The musical tune of "Ring Around the Rosey" is heard on the soundtrack a minute later. Just as Sapphire remarks later on, "Ring Around the Rosey" originates from around the time of the Great Plague of London, some researchers believing the rhyme describes the Black Death itself, though many historians dispute this.


After their parents disappear, Robert runs down to Skarl's Edge to telephone the policeman's house. As far as I can tell, Skarl's Edge is a fictitious location in Great Britain. Robert remarks that the policeman only has to "come across the bay in a boat and he'll be here." This may imply that the Jardine family house is on a small island.


Sapphire wears what appears to be a sapphire necklace and earrings throughout this storyline.


In this episode, we see that Sapphire and Steel are able to communicate with each other telepathically. This is seen in later episodes of the series as well.


At 14:15 on the DVD, Helen's rag doll seen in her room right next to the door may be a golliwog. The golliwog is a doll based on the African race caricature of the character called the Golliwogg in Florence Kate Upton's 1895 English children's book, The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwogg.


The antique clock seen in the Jardine house at 18:31 on the DVD is a Page, Keen & Page model. Page, Keen & Page was a manufacturer of fine housewares such as clocks and silverware.


Twin Peaks note: spoken rhymes are associated with supernatural beings on both series. Also, in this episode, Sapphire speaking a rhyme in reverse (in this case "Ring a Ring o' Roses") allows everyone in the room to see people in the far past; in Twin Peaks, the denizens of the White and Black Lodges use reverse speech (played forward on the episode soundtracks) when they are in the Lodge.


Helen refers to her stuffed teddy bear as Becca.


Sapphire briefly causes her clothing to change from the normal form-covering, demure blue dress into two different, shall we say "sexier", outfits while talking with young Robert and then refers to Steel as "so serious". She seems to be attempting to win Robert over, as he is still helping them only somewhat reluctantly, particularly when it comes to the hard Steel.


Sapphire remarks to Robert about a past assignment she and Steel had on a ship where she glimpsed the time corridor. In "Escape Through a Crack in Time" Part 4, we learn that the ship was the infamous Mary Celeste.


Steel tells Robert there are creatures from the very beginnings of time and the very end of time who have access to the time corridor, forever moving along it, searching, looking, trying to find a way in through a hole in the fabric. (Twin Peaks note: beings from the White and Black Lodges may be able to travel through time. Also, on card #58 of the Twin Peaks card set published by Star Pics, Inc. in 1991, BOB's birth date is listed as "From the beginning of time," and BOB states, "I have survived as long as man has been on earth.")


Memorable Dialog



that's why we're here.mp3

my name is Sapphire.mp3

we think that time has broken into that room.mp3

time is immense.mp3

these creatures have access to the corridor.mp3

the final ingredient.mp3


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