[[quoteright:227:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Sapphire_and_Steel_915.jpg]]

->''"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."''

''Sapphire and Steel'' (1979-1982) is a British series sitting squarely at the intersection of ScienceFantasy and {{Horror}}. It was created by ATV, one of Creator/{{ITV}}'s regional franchises, and was probably the best of ITV's several attempts to produce an [[DuelingShows answer]] to TheBBC's classic-era ''Series/DoctorWho''. The title characters, played by Creator/JoannaLumley and David [=McCallum=], are stoic inter-dimensional agents who protect... um, something. The opening monologue above is really all the explanation we ever get. Their role seems to involve preventing [[EldritchAbomination Lovecraftian horrors]] from slipping in through weak spots in time and snatching things. Exactly what this means -- or for that matter, what Sapphire and Steel ''themselves'' really are -- never quite becomes clear.

Sapphire and Steel were, in addition to being irascible and detached, telepathic. Sapphire also had the ability to "take back time", rewinding it a bit over a localized area, and could deduce the age and background of things and people by touching them (or perhaps the information was being transmitted to her by MissionControl; like everything else, it's not clear). This made her eyes glow blue. Steel, on the other hand, was even ''more'' detached and irascible, could sustain a temperature of absolute zero (allowing him to freeze, well, time), and was telekinetic. But mostly, they just stood very still and looked directly into the camera. Given the calibre of the actors in question, this is a ''lot'' more interesting -- [[NothingIsScarier and a lot more scary]] -- than it sounds, and [=McCallum=] and Lumley somehow manage to hold it together.

Sapphire and Steel combat these breaks in time primarily [[MySignificanceSenseIsTingling by glowering at them.]] The show used minimal staging and special effects, with cinematography reminiscent of Creator/IngmarBergman. For example, Steel emptying a refrigerator is the closest thing to an action sequence in the third episode. This lent to the surreal and detached air about the characters, and also kept production costs in the single digits, but often gave the show the pacing of ''Film/StarTrekTheMotionPicture'' [[ThisIsYourPremiseOnDrugs on thorazine]].

Other "elements" (there were allegedly 127, but the 12 transuranics were "unstable" and could not be used) occasionally assisted them: Lead and Silver both guest-starred, and others, such as Jet, are mentioned.

While most other notable British Science Fiction shows were over-ambitious in their special effects, with results ranging from the troubling (''Series/DoctorWho'') to the disastrous (''Series/TheTomorrowPeople''), ''S&S'' simply did not ''try'' to do anything the budget wouldn't allow. The result called for milking SurrealHorror for all its worth, creating a show that is, while definitely not for everyone, quite capable of reducing so-inclined viewers to quivering little heaps behind the sofa.

''Sapphire and Steel'' probably influenced ''Series/TheXFiles'' and ''Series/BabylonFive''. Its creator, Peter J. Hammond, would go on to write for ''MidsomerMurders''. He would also stand responsible for two of the most bizarre episodes of ''Series/{{Torchwood}}'', "[[Recap/TorchwoodS1E5SmallWorlds Small Worlds]]" and "[[Recap/TorchwoodS2E10FromOutOfTheRain From Out of the Rain]]", which are [[SpiritualSuccessor more like]] ''Sapphire and Steel'' than they are most other ''Torchwood'' episodes. He also wrote the unproduced ''Series/DoctorWho'' story "Paradise 5".

From 2005 to 2008, Creator/BigFinish released a series of ''Sapphire & Steel'' [[AudioAdaptation audio dramas]]; unusually for Big Finish's audio ranges, the original cast did ''not'' return--bar David Collings as Silver--so Susannah Harker and Creator/DavidWarner were cast in the title roles. ([=McCallum=], a series regular on ''Series/{{NCIS}}'', was living in the [=US=]; Lumley simply declined. That said, both are on record as still fond of the series and proud of their work on it.)

Along with ''Series/BlakesSeven'' and ''Series/DoctorWho'', ''Sapphire and Steel'' forms the Holy Trinity of British Science Fiction television.
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!!''Sapphire and Steel'' provides examples of the following tropes:

!!!General tropes:

* AnchoredShip: Sapphire and Steel clearly care for each other and occasionally make affectionate gestures, but the dynamics of their relationship are complex and never fully explained. The fact that they're not human complicates the issue quite a bit too.
* ArtisticLicenseChemistry: Of the "elements" mentioned by name in the opening titles, two are non-elemental gemstones and one is an alloy. It would be easier to overlook or {{handwave}} if two of them weren't also ''the main characters''. Hammond did the research, but he didn't particularly care as long as [[RuleOfCool the title (and opening narration) had a cool ring to it]].
* BottleEpisode: All of them. The only location footage in the entire series was filmed on the roof of ATV's own offices, masquerading as an apartment block.
* BritishBrevity: On for 6 "assignments" with a total of 34 episodes. Each assignment has 4-8 episodes.
* CharmPerson: As opposed to [[TheStoic Steel]], Sapphire is "the diplomat" and can quickly develop a rapport with humans. She can use this to charm information out of people.
* ClosedCircle: Happens in Assignments 3, 5, and 6. In Assignment 1 it's Sapphire and Steel who are stopping people from entering or leaving, and in Assignments 2 and 4 Steel (unsuccessfully) tries to get human bystanders to leave before things get too serious.
* CosmicHorrorStory: The universe as humans perceive it is a small patch of light surrounded by dark and nameless horrors that are always trying to break in. Sapphire and Steel and their colleagues fight them, but battles are not always won, and there's no prospect of an end to the war.
* DistressBall: Sapphire needs to be rescued an awful lot. According to WordOfGod, this was deliberate and meant to be justified in the context of their roles: Sapphire was conceived as the member of the duo who investigated and sensed what was going on, and Steel as the one who did things about it. Because her powers were more about detecting danger than getting out of it, this meant that hers was actually the more dangerous role of the two.
* EldritchAbomination: The series' main antagonist(s). Maybe.
* TheFaceless: Whatever the "higher power" in the opening credits is supposed to be.
* TheGadFly: Silver loves to pick on Steel because Steel is so serious, and often says things--or flirts with Sapphire--just to get a rise or reaction out of him.
* GlowingEyes: Sapphire's eyes glow bright blue when she's using her powers.
* GoodCopBadCop: In most of their interactions with humans, Sapphire is "good" and Steel "bad".
* GoodIsNotNice: Steel. He cares about saving human lives, but usually talks as though he couldn't care less.
* HumanoidAbomination: Possibly, Sapphire, Steel, and their colleagues.
* LateArrivalSpoiler: The unofficial but widely-used episode titles, having been created by fans more concerned with having unambiguous referents to episodes they'd all seen already. For example, if you've seen it, you know exactly which Assignment matches the title "[[spoiler:Doctor [=McDee=] Must Die]]", but if you haven't, the title gives away something major that's not revealed until over halfway through the story.
* MeanwhileInTheFuture: A variation; since time is in a state of disarray, multiple time frames often coexist.
* MetallicMotifs: Steel, Lead, and Silver all have symbolic connections to the metals they're named for.
* MindScrew
* MySignificanceSenseIsTingling: The primary way Sapphire and Steel determine how time operates in any given assignment. They are able to sense time breaks and villainous presences using their otherworldly talents.
* NameAndName
* NoSenseOfHumor: Steel. Silver loves to crack jokes with Sapphire or at Steel just to see them fly over Steel's head or just simply annoy him.
* NoSenseOfPersonalSpace: Even in mundane conversation, Sapphire and Steel have a habit of getting extremely close to one another when talking.
* NoSocialSkills: Steel knows little of human social conventions and doesn't particularly care to learn.
* NothingIsScarier: This series loves this trope.
* OccultBlueEyes: Sapphire has mesmerizingly blue eyes that glow whenever she uses her PsychicPowers.
* OntologicalMystery: The series has these both on a story-by-story basis and as a whole. The audience never understands the real nature of TheVerse presented here.
* OpeningNarration: Quoted above.
* ThePowerOfRock: Sometimes it works, sometimes...not so much. Also, it's usually traditional songs.
* PowerTrio: When Sapphire and Steel are joined by either Lead or Silver. Is a TokenTrio when joined by Lead, and a trio of BeautyBrainsAndBrawn when joined by Silver.
* PragmaticHero
* PstandardPsychicPstance: Averted with Sapphire, who has a characteristic stance -- whenever she channels information or takes time forward/backward she stands still and [[GlowingEyes her eyes glow a bright blue]] -- but not ''the'' pstandard pstance.
* PsychicLink: Sapphire and Steel can communicate telepathically and are very in tune to each others thoughts and feelings. Presumably, all agents can communicate this way because Silver and Lead also have this ability.
* RealityBleed: A common problem, particularly in the form of different time zones bleeding into the present.
* SharpDressedMan: Silver.
* TheSpock: Both of them, but Sapphire has a fair share of [[TheMcCoy McCoy]] moments.
* TheStoic: Steel.
* SurrealHorror: The series' stock in trade.
* SuspiciouslySimilarSubstitute: Averted. In the last episodes, Mercury takes the place of Lead in the opening narration, though the series was cancelled before he appeared in person.
* TheTeaser: The first episode in every assignment has a cold open teaser that introduces the setting and guest cast. Later episodes use the cliffhanger reprise as a teaser.
* {{Technopath}}: Silver.
* {{Telepathy}}: Sapphire and Steel communicate with each other using their minds. Other agents, like Silver, also have this ability. Sapphire can also read human minds when the conditions are right.
* TelevisionSerial
* ThemeNaming: The "elements" in general; and more specifically, it's worth noting that of the ones whose gender is known, the female ones are gemstones and the male ones are metals.
* TimeIsDangerous: And ''how''. All of Sapphire and Steel's assignments involve Time doing something nefarious.
* TimeyWimeyBall
* UnresolvedSexualTension: Sapphire & Steel, of course; Sapphire & Silver, of whom Steel gets adorably jealous in Assignment 3. {{Fanon}} also assumes {{UST}} between Steel & Jet based on Jet "sending her love" in Assignment 1.
* VideoInsideFilmOutside: In Assignment 3, the establishing shots of the apartment building and the scenes on the roof are filmed. Every other story was studio-bound and video-only, even for scenes set outdoors.

!!!Story-specific tropes:

(Please note that even the name of a trope may be a major spoiler for the episode it appears in.)

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Assignment 1]]

Two children are left alone in an isolated house when their parents vanish into thin air, and their only hope appears to be an enigmatic woman and man calling themselves "Sapphire" and "Steel".

* DecoyProtagonist: This story is made largely from the point-of-view of the boy Rob. Later stories, the characters being established, would follow Sapphire and Steel themselves more closely.
* GentleGiant: Lead.
* IronicNurseryTune: The malevolent Time uses a nursery rhyme from a child's storybook to enter this universe.
* OpenSaysMe:
-->'''Steel:''' It's locked.\\
''[Lead thumps the door, which falls off its hinges.]''\\
'''Lead:''' It isn't now.
* PhantomZonePicture: Sapphire is trapped inside a painting, and almost killed by Roundhead soldiers before she is rescued.
* ResetButton: At the end, after the source of the trouble has been dealt with, Sapphire takes time back and the story ends with a repeat of the events that began the first episode (but this time without devolving into spooky goings-on).
* ScaryBlackMan: Lead on his first appearance, though he soon turns out to be the GentleGiant variety.
* SoulBrotha: Lead
* StockUnsolvedMysteries: The disappearance of the ''Mary Celeste'' is revealed to have been a past assignment. Sapphire, Steel, and Lead were apparently involved.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Assignment 2]]

Sapphire and Steel arrive at a derelict railway station, where an amateur spiritualist is investigating reports of ghostly manifestations.

* BigNo: The ghost of the soldier.
* BittersweetEnding: [[spoiler:The Darkness is dealt with, and the ghosts given release, but at the cost of Mr. Tully's life]].
* BlackEyesOfEvil: Happens to Sapphire when channeling the Darkness.
* CoolOldGuy: George Tully might be mystified about how to handle the ghosts at the railway station, but he proves to be pretty useful anyway.
* EmotionEater: The Darkness feeds on resentment.
* FaintingSeer: Sapphire spends a good deal of time unconscious after a seance goes wrong.
* GoodIsNotNice: In perhaps the crowning example from the series, Steel [[spoiler:makes poor old Mr. Tully a sacrificial offering to the Darkness, without Tully's permission, so that the ghosts can be freed]], although he does inquire [[spoiler:whether Tully has any dependents]], and seems relieved that [[spoiler:Tully's cat will be looked after by the neighbors]].
* IronicNurseryTune: Though not technically a nursery rhyme, the usually upbeat "Pack up your Troubles in your Old Kit Bag" is used to much the same effect, with a vengeful soldier's ghost whistling it constantly.
* LivingShadow: The Darkness.
* PunctuatedForEmphasis: ''Private.'' '''Ess.''' '''''PEARCE!'''''
* {{Retirony}}: The fighter pilot, who died in a crash on his last flight before he was due to be demobilized.
* SacrificialLamb: [[spoiler:Mr. Tully is sacrificed, without his consent, by Steel to the Darkness to save the ghosts from a FateWorseThanDeath]].
* ShootTheDog: Steel makes a deal with Time [[spoiler:by giving it a perfectly innocent man (who he does not bother to consult first on the matter) in exchange for releasing its hold on an abandoned railway station]].
* SoundOnlyDeath: [[spoiler:The last we hear of Tully is an awful scream before the Darkness devours him]].
* SpookySeance: Sapphire and Steel agree to give Tully's methods a chance by holding a seance. With Sapphire as a medium, Steel and Tully communicate with several ghosts that have gathered at the railway station.
* TeacherStudentRomance: The dead soldier had a relationship with a woman who used to be his teacher, after he was out of school.
* WhisperingGhosts: When the Darkness moves around the railway station, creepy whispering voices always follow it.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Assignment 3]]

A time-travel experiment by historians from the far future goes horribly wrong, and Sapphire, Steel, and their technical assistant Silver have to pick up the pieces.

* BigNo: Rothwyn.
* CutApart: Used when Sapphire and Steel enter the flat on the top floor of the block, leading to the revelation that [[spoiler:the time travellers are not in that flat, but in a replica of the flat located in an invisible capsule on the roof of the building]].
* FutureImperfect: The time travellers have ''nearly'' every detail correct -- but they're about a thousand years out in the matter of common English names.
* HumansAreTheRealMonsters: The revelations about the source of the future people's technology.
* IronicNurseryTune: The {{leitmotif}} for the changeling is a creepified version of the lullaby his mother sang him when he was a baby.
* MagicalSecurityCam: ''Almost'' averted, as the capsules' surveillance cameras produce fixed-angle images with no zooms or other dramatic trickery -- except in one sequence, which cuts between Sapphire in Capsule 3 and Sapphire's image on a monitor screen; the monitor screen image is clearly the same footage with a video effect on it, and includes a dramatic zoom.
* NoOntologicalInertia: When Steel restores the changeling to his proper form, everything the changeling had touched is also restored.
* OrganicTechnology: Used by the time travellers. [[spoiler:It turns out to be very unhappy about being used for that purpose]].
* PstandardPsychicPstance: Rothwyn uses the pstance.
* PsychopathicManchild: The changeling, as he's a baby raised to adulthood and mind-controlled by [[spoiler:an insane piece of biotech]].
* {{Veganopia}}: Subverted. In the future, all humans are vegan, not because of any sense of immorality about eating meat, but because they find animals disgusting and unclean and have exterminated all of them.
* WrongGenreSavvy: Silver is convinced that the changeling is a robot, and tries to dismantle it with disastrous results.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Assignment 4]]

Sapphire and Steel investigate a junk shop plagued by mysterious disappearances, and the appearance of sinister sepia-tinged children.

* AndIMustScream: [[spoiler:The Shape's fate when trapped in a kaleidoscope. He is briefly seen literally screaming]].
* AppearanceIsInTheEyeOfTheBeholder: The Shape appears to have a different face to each person who looks at him.
* TheBlank: The Shape.
* CreepyChild[=/=]CreepyChildrenSinging: The children repeatedly sing nursery rhymes, disappear at will, and ask the Shape gleefully, of Sapphire and Steel, "Can we hurt them?".
* FauxAffablyEvil: The Shape.
* ForTheEvulz: The Shape seems to have no particular motivation for what he's doing except malice and cruelty.
* GettingCrapPastTheRadar: Liz is gently hinted to be some kind of sex worker.
* HumanoidAbomination: The Shape.
* IronicNurseryTune: The sinister childhood rhymes sung by the creepy children.
* MonochromePast: The photographs The Shape manipulates are all in sepia-tone. The children, after he brings them into the real world, are still in sepia-tone.
* PhantomZonePicture: The plot is mostly about people who belong in photographs being taken out of them and people who don't belong in photographs being taken into them.
* SealedEvilInACan: How Sapphire and Steel contain the Shape at the end.
* SoftSpokenSadist: The Shape.
* SoundOnlyDeath: [[spoiler:Ruth is burned alive while trapped inside a photograph. We hear her screams but never see her]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Assignment 5]]

Lord Mullrine's retro 1920s-style country house party gets out of control when a dead man comes back to life, and the living guests start suffering violent deaths.

* BittersweetEnding
* CodeName: A human assisting Sapphire and Steel assumes that "Sapphire" and "Steel" are code names, and asks if he can have a code name too. (He gets dubbed "Brass" for the duration.)
* EverybodyLives: [[spoiler:Well, all the characters who were alive at the beginning are at the end...]]
* FancyDinner: Sapphire and Steel attend a 1930s theme party thrown by a rich businessman. Steel's near-complete ignorance of human etiquette gets a good airing, but Sapphire manages splendidly.
* GoneHorriblyWrong: [[spoiler:Dr. [=McDee=]'s biotechnological experiments, intended to cure disease, would have created a plague that would wipe out the human race]].
* HeroicSacrifice: [[spoiler:Dr. [=McDee=]]]
* IDoNotDrinkWine: When offered a cocktail at a fancy dinner party, Steel says he doesn't drink. Sapphire, however, has a glass of champagne.
* IdenticalGrandson: Howard looks identical to his father at that age and the father and son Grevilles look identical.
* OmnidisciplinaryScientist: Dr. [=McDee=] is identified at one point as a physicist, but is doing microbiological experiments. [[spoiler:This may explain why they go so badly wrong.]]
* ResetButton: At the end, [[spoiler:Sapphire and Steel walk out of the Mullrine mansion and the dinner party begins again as though they were never there]].
* SetRightWhatOnceWentWrong: [[spoiler:Emma Mullrine thinks she's doing this, although [[MakeWrongWhatOnceWentRight it's actually the reverse]]]].
* SuperEmpowering: Sapphire temporarily grants Felix telepathy so that he can help.
* TakingTheBullet: In the "correct" timeline [[spoiler:Dr. [=McDee=] died this way when his lover Emma Mullrine attempted to shoot his wife]].
* TenLittleMurderVictims: The story plays as a variation on the classic versions of this plot. [[spoiler:The apparent murders are really Time disposing of the people who weren't involved in the original events, in order from the youngest to the oldest]].
* UndercoverAsLovers: Sapphire and Steel pose as a married couple. There's even an almost-FakeOutMakeOut when they sense someone's about to walk in on their planning session.
* WomanInBlack: Subverted when Sapphire wears a lovely black gown.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Assignment 6]]

Sapphire, Steel and Silver find themselves in a deserted roadhouse with a timeslipped couple from the 1940s, but what exactly is wrong and what they are supposed to do about it remains stubbornly mysterious.

* TheBadGuyWins[=/=]DownerEnding: [[spoiler:The whole situation was a trap all along and everyone in the diner except Silver was in on it. The last scene of the show has Sapphire and Steel trapped in the café, destined to drift out in space for eternity]].
* CoverDrop: The nothingness outside the diner at the end is the starfield from the show's opening and closing credits.
* DidYouJustScamCthulhu: Silver uses his reputation for being the most practical one when it comes to knowing when he's up against something he can't handle and suggesting or undertaking a tactical retreat (aka a coward) and the fact that he is physically one of the weakest Elements, to stall the Transient Beings (to whom even Steel is a weakling in comparison) into listening to him bargain for his own safety with a copy of an artifact they were after to give Steel time to get it away from them.
* EverybodyDidIt: All four of the characters at the diner are part of the plot to trap Sapphire and Steel.
* EvilCounterpart: The Transient Beings to the protagonists and their ilk.
* GainaxEnding: Although with a series like this, the ending actually seems fitting.
* GlowingEyes: The Transient Beings, when they reveal their true nature.
* LivingShadow: Sapphire and Steel see all of the people in the garage appear like this at some point.
* MonsterClown: Johnny Jack.
* SealedRoomInTheMiddleOfNowhere: [[spoiler:Sapphire and Steel's fate at the end, trapped in a diner which has been set adrift in deep space]].
* SpecialEffectsEvolution: If you know much about 1980s post-production effects, it's obvious that the effects people got a new toy to play with for Assignment 6, resulting in some effects that actually impress. And then the series was cancelled.
* WomanInBlack: The woman at the end.
[[/folder]]

!!The Big Finish audios provide examples of:

* DeceptiveDisciple: [[spoiler:Gold, who was apprenticed to Silver but got swayed by the Transients]]
* FakingTheDead: [[spoiler: In "Zero" Gold tries to kill Silver by sending him drifting off into space when Silver goes out suited up to try to fix something, but Silver had suspected Gold and fakes it and even sends out a goodbye psychic soliloquy]]
* HumansAreMorons: A view held in varying degrees by all the Elements because of how often it is humanity through whose meddling and inventiveness that creates ways for Time to start escaping and wreaking havoc. Steel sees humans as stupid, but will fight to his last breath to save them, though if what they do threatens the stability of the rest of the universe, he would not hesitate to sacrifice them as an acceptible loss; Sapphire more thinks humanity has more a [[HumansAreFlawed charming, if troublesome, flaw]] of being very imaginative and ambitious and thinks the universe would be a much poorer place without them; Gold thinks humans are straight up morons who should be wiped from the universe to save the Elements and the rest of the universe the trouble they cause; and Silver sees humans as morons for getting into and creating things of which they do not fully count the consequences, but he admires their ingenuity and inventiveness and does not particularly begrudge them the amout of work they cause him.
* InsufferableGenius: Gold
* IntriguedByHumanity: Silver finds humanity rather confusing, but interesting. Sapphire sometimes envies humanity and the freedoms and the PowerOfLove they have.
* IronicNurseryTune: In any number of the audios.
* TheMole: [[spoiler: Gold]]
* TheNthDoctor: Sapphire, Steel.
* RedemptionEqualsDeath: [[spoiler: Gold. Steel practically invokes this trope by name when telling Gold how Gold can atone for his betrayal.]]
* ShootTheDog: In the audio "Daisy Chain", [[spoiler:Sapphire talks a teenage girl into ''committing suicide'' while Steel keeps her family distracted]].
* SmugSnake: Gold
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