In 1980, Sapphire & Steel resumed production with 20 episodes comprising four stories. Unfortunately, the network that commissioned the show was in its dying days. The first two stories were shown in January and February 1981 and the third in the summer. ATV closed down in January 1982, its license transferred to the new Central TV, who burned off the final story a year later and didn’t commission any more. It still seems like a bizarre end to a very popular show with high ratings.
The biggest change between the first two stories and the second four is that the show is far less terrifying. It’s still creepy, strange and deliberately slow, and the third story is the first and only time that this works against the plot. That’s because the guest characters in this story are very unsympathetic and it’s kind of aggravating having to spend so much time with them. They are time travellers from about 1500 years in the future, and their capsule is parked, invisibly, atop an apartment building in a large city while they conduct half-baked observational experiments in how the savage people of the 20th Century lived. Sapphire and Steel have been assigned because something is going badly wrong with their experiment. They’ve brought something back from their time that is slowly trying to kill them.
But even though the tone isn’t one of moody horror – this is as close as the show ever gets to traditional sci-fi – it’s still unnerving and strange, and our son wasn’t completely taken with it. He hid his face several times, and really didn’t like it when a power source within the apartment capsule starts talking in a booming voice about the distinctions between ways to measure time. Simultaneously, something accelerates the growth of a baby in the apartment – that baby, incidentally, has the most annoying cry of any child on television – into a weird young man. Freaky, if not as scary as the last time.