Monday, March 11, 2013

More weekend work avoidance -- the pleasures of microbudgets

Watched the first and second arcs of a fairly obscure British science fiction show from 1979 called Sapphire and Steel. It was apparently intended as a low-budget answer to Doctor Who (which those familiar can attest was not exactly the Avatar of the Seventies).  The result was a sci-fi/fantasy/horror show that had to be shot on standing sets with small casts and very limited special effects.

The result is some really impressive constrained problem solving by writer P.J. Hammond (with considerable assistance from directors David Foster, Shaun O'Riordan and the show's solid leads, David McCallum and Joanna Lumley, the only expensive aspects of the production). Hammond did sometimes lapse into dramatic Calvinball, obviously making up new rules now and then to get himself out of narrative corners, but those bits are easy to overlook, particularly when watching the ways he found to work around the rules he was handed by the producers.

In lieu of optical effects and creature make-up, you get a spot of light on the floor, a shadow on the wall, an ordinary thing in a place it shouldn't be. In an ironic way, the show would almost certainly look cheaper now if they had spent the extra money on those late Seventies effects then. In a sense, they didn't have enough money to be cheesy (except perhaps in the opening title).

There's a bigger point to be made about the costly vs. the clever but the weekend is almost up and my work is going to be unavoidable in a few hours.

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