Sunday, September 14, 2008

Welcome To Another Edition Of "What Betty's Watching."

I've just watched the first disc (being one story told in six half-hour episodes) of Sapphire and Steel, a somewhat obscure British SF series from about 1980. It features two... Aliens? Deities? Anthropomorphic personifications of chemical substances? It's not remotely clear. But whatever they are, apparently their job is to troubleshoot, uh... cosmic... glitchy... weirdnesses... Hell, I don't know.

I don't even know whether I think it's really good or really bad; it seems like the sort of thing that can't possibly fall anywhere in the middle. On the one hand, it's very slow-moving and rather stilted, and absolutely nothing about it makes a lick of sense. On the other hand, the first story, at least, is quite effectively creepy. And the eponymous cosmic whatevers are interestingly and convincingly... other. Honestly, part of me thinks that the idea of a TV show that gives us an outsider's view of truly alien (albeit outwardly human) beings doing things that are essentially incomprehensible is fascinating, gutsy, and deeply refreshing. The rest of me, though, is wondering why the heck anybody ever thought that would be watchable.

I've got the rest of the series lined up on my Netflix queue, and I truly can't decide whether my attitude at this point is, "Cool, I'm looking forward to this!" or "Geez, I have to watch how much of this?" But, hey, not many shows can flummox me that way. I feel like I ought to give it points for that.

In other DVD news, I bought seasons 1 and 2 of The Venture Bros. a little while ago, and am discovering -- or, to be more accurate, confirming -- the fact that I can watch the same episodes of this show over and over and over and somehow never find them any less entertaining. I finished season 2 and then immediately started over again with season 1, which may seem worryingly obsessive, even for me. But I've got to watch something while I'm walking on the treadmill. Goofy comedies go far better with exercise than creepy dramas, after all, and I've finished with those Whose Line Is It Anyway? discs.

11 comments:

  1. Just stick with it till assignment 3 and Steel's roof fight with swan/pillow. You'll never be the same again.

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  2. Well, that sounds... interesting. :)

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  3. I've only watched the first opening minutes of the first S&S episode, but I definitely saw "creepy" in it. I keep seeing it mentioned among seminal British science fiction shows -- maybe not as seminal as Who, for instance, but it clearly was a favorite for a lot of people. It's on my ever-increasing list of shows to check out.

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  4. That's a major reason why I'm watching it, really: a desire to close up some of the gaps in my familiarity with the landmark shows in the history of TV SF. I referred to it as "semi-obscure," as it's certainly little known in the US, nor does it seem to have had the kind of staying power in the UK that keeps lots of people talking about two decades later, but it nevertheless does seem like an interesting mark on the TV SF landscape.

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  5. Well, it is influential with a capital 'I'. For example, the best episode of 'Sarah Jane Adventures' (Whatever happened to Sarah Jane?) would actually fit as a S&S story.

    (And when you finish watching the series, don't forget to check the audio series. There's this one episode, 'Daisy Chain' by Joseph Lidster, that shows what the show could be like nowadays. Brilliant stuff.)

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  6. I don't think that particular type of time travel story exactly originated with Sapphire and Steel, but I'm quite willing to believe that it's had a significant influence, on later British SF shows at least.

    I'm three episodes into the second story now, by the way, and have just had the pleasure of watching an overly serious alien(?) in a tuxedo stalking around a deserted railway station in the middle of the night, banging on a bucket with a stick and singing "Pack Up Your Troubles" in hopes of attracting a ghost. There is a wonderful absurdity to that, and all the more so because it is played with such utter earnestness. It made me want to go up and ask him whether he knows the Doctor. (Because, in my mind, of course, I can talk to the characters in my TV.) I bet he's at least heard of him. :)

    That being said, I'm still not at all sure what to make of it. Which, who knows, may very well be part of the appeal. Possibly I'll check out the audios when I'm done, but I haven't even kept up with those for Doctor Who.

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  7. I haver watched the show myself - I can't remember why - but I recall it as having been very popular. Of course, it can't have hurt that it had two such high profile leads as David McCullum and Joanna Lumley.

    I see that if I don't use my LJ ID but my Google one, I can now get any follow-up comments emailed to me, so I'll do that.

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  8. And I can now test that by apologising for the typo. "haver" should have been "never".

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  9. Believe it or not, I this is the first thing I' remember seeing McCallum in, but there's something about him that makes me want to go out and watch pretty much everything else he's done, now.

    Lumley I'm more familiar with, of course, but she'll always be the 13th Doctor to me, above all. :)

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  10. :)

    I'm old enough to remember David McCallum as Robert Vaughn's sidekick in "The Man from Uncle". Joanna Lumley for me is most associated with "The New Avengers" - not that I watched that all tht much.

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  11. Yeah, U.N.C.L.E. was before my time, although it occasionally occurs to me that maybe I ought to check it out (and more so having seen McCallum in this).

    I loved the original Avengers but never watched the "new" version.

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