Sapphire & Who?

Did Steven Moffat watch Sapphire & Steel prior to planning his first series in charge of Doctor Who and writing The Eleventh Hour – or did certain elements lodge in his head back in 1979 when the ITV fantasy adventure series started?

Doctor Who - The Eleventh Hour features plot similarities with Sapphire & Steel's first episodeKey elements of Doctor Who in 2010 include more than one mysterious house, a young girl with apparently no parents living alone in her bedroom, a crack in the universe situated within the house and of course, the timey-wimey characteristics of the Doctor himself, and a famous rhyme used to conclude the story.

So why not cast an eye over this precis for the first episode of Sapphire & Steel (created by PJ Hammond, writer of Torchwood’s 2006 story Small Worlds and the 2008 episode From Out of the Rain, as well as Big Finish adventure Paradise 5):

“The first story really set the tone for the next five -there were six in all- whilst Robert Jardine is doing his homework every clock in the house stops ticking. Robert runs upstairs to tell his parents only to find his young sister alone in her bedroom, mother and father it would appear, have vanished. Enter two strangers, Sapphire, a beautifully elegant woman with a pleasing nature and the ability to turn back time for a few seconds -and Steel, like his name suggests, cold and hard and with an aptitude to offend with his no-nonsense unemotional approach to work.

“Together and with the help of the children the two time agents work out that the house is the focal point for a tear in time itself, the trigger being an old nursery rhyme ‘Ring-a Ring-a Roses’ (from the time of the Black Plague), recited by the young girl, Helen”.

Doctor Who - The Eleventh Hour features plot similarities with Sapphire & Steel's first episodeYoungster(s) left alone. Empty house. Disappeared parents. Tear in time. An old folk rhyme to resolve things.

So – Amelia Pond and her mysteriously empty (too big) home, the crack throughout time and space and the famous “something old, something new” rhyme that is something of a tradition for weddings across the western world.

It’s all there! Interestingly, Sapphire & Steel – which starred Joanna Lumley and David McCallum as the titular lead characters – was created by PJ Hammond after a night spent in a haunted house. It’s certainly a great source to draw inspiration from, too, and while the visual effects don’t stand up well in today’s TV drama environment, the storylines of each episode are certainly enough to cause a few noghtmares.

(With thanks to Stephen)

Christian Cawley

A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

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