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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

Sapphire & Steel: The Surest Poison Sapphire & Steel
"The Surest Poison" Part 1
Audio drama
Big Finish Productions
Written by Richard Dinnick
Directed by Nigel Fairs
September 2006


What does Time have to do with a watch?


Notes from the Sapphire & Steel chronology


Sapphire's senses tell her that Stuart Webb was born in 1850 and Steel responds that would make the man 156 years old. This would place the story in 2006.


Didja Know?


The title of this storyline, "The Surest Poison", comes from a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson from his 1875 collection of letters and essays, Letters and Social Aims. He said "Alcohol, hashish, prussic acid, strychnine are weak dilutions. The surest poison is time."


Characters appearing or mentioned in this episode


auctioneer (unnamed)

Abraham-Louis Breguet



Stuart Webb

Cécile Marie-Louise L'Huillier (dies in this episode)

Gerard DuBorg (last name revealed in "The Surest Poison" Part 2)

Sir David Salomons (mentioned only)


Didja Notice?


The watches in this story are Breguets. Breguet is a real world luxury watch, clock, and jewelry manufacturer founded in Paris, France, now based in Switzerland.


The auctioneer describes the original watchmaker, Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823), as the Leonardo Da Vinci of watchmakers. Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) was one of the most noted artists and polymaths of the Renaissance period.


When Sapphire and Steel first arrive at the auction house, Sapphire senses something that's not Time, but similar, and Steel asks if it could be a Transient. In the 4-part "The Trap" episodes, Sapphire and Steel encountered Transient operatives who trapped them in another dimension. 


Webb tells Sapphire and Steel that the watch that was stolen was the Marie Antoinette, Breguet's greatest piece. Breguet did, in fact, make a watch for Queen Marie-Antoinette and it is considered one of the finest and most valuable watches ever made. The watch plays an important role throughout this story. It is also an important part of the (non-Sapphire & Steel) 2001 novel The Grand Complication by Allen Kurzweil. Photo credit: By Michael.vainshtein - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

As Webb relates here, the watch was stolen from a museum in Jerusalem (L.A. Mayer Institute for Islamic Art) "25 years ago". The story takes place around 2006 and the watch was stolen in 1983 (though it was finally recovered in 2007 and is back on display at the museum).
Marie Antoinette watch


As far as I can tell, the Breguet Duke Grande Complication watch that grants Webb his long life is a fictitious watch.


Breguet's wife mentioned here, who dies in this episode, Cécile Marie-Louise L'Huillier, was his actual wife, who died in 1780. I have found no evidence that he took his wife's death quite so hard as he does in this story.


Webb says he was working for Sir David Salomons, a fellow collector of fine watches. Salomons (1851-1925) was an actual historical figure, a British science writer and barrister as well as a collector.


Webb remarks that Salomons once said, "to carry a fine Breguet is to feel that you have the brains of a genius in your pocket." Salomons did actually say this.


Sapphire and Steel are able to travel into the past through the residual effects of Time on the Duke Grande Complication watch. Normally, they would not be able to travel beyond the present were it not for the help of this strange watch.


Sapphire and Steel take on the aliases of Mr. and Mrs. Doucier in 1873.


Memorable Dialog


I have an interest in time.mp3

what a beautiful name.mp3

that would make him a hundred and fifty six years old.mp3

you can trust us.mp3

I have no contact with anyone.mp3

I will no longer be time's fool.mp3


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