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15 September 2011 @ 06:00 pm
Night Terrors  
I've seen Night Terrors compared to Sapphire and Steel and, in many ways, the comparison is very apt. It thrived on a creepy atmosphere and non-specific wierdness and, if I'm brutally honest, had an ending which was both abrupt, somewhat random and relied on strong performances from its recurring cast to carry the whole.

And yet I found it ultimately rather unsatisfying while I love Sapphire and Steel to bits. Now it's always difficult to compare something viewed in adulthood to something dimly remembered from childhood (even when you have viewed that something many times since) because the memory not only cheats but encourages us to overlook faults that were not apparent to our childish eyes.

So with the big caveat that Sapphire and Steel is probably not as good as I think it is, I'm going to go on a limb and say where I think Night Terrors failed. Ultimately the problem may be that Doctor Who demands a scientific (and I use the term extremely loosely here, maybe I should say scientific-seeming) explanation for anything while Sapphire and Steel occupied a unique space somehwere much closer to on the border between science fiction and fantasy. In so far as Sapphire and Steel ever offered an explanation for anything it was couched in terms that suggested it was being vastly simplified. We were expected to make do with tenuous connections and symbolic links. If the wierdness was all about photographs then we would accept any explanation, pretty much, that involved a camera and be happy that the previous wierdness was, somehow, important to the plot and not just filler. In Night Terrors a lot of the wierdness, in retrospect, looks like filler and contributes nothing to the final figuring out of the problem. Now I suspect that there was considerably more random filler in your average episode of Sapphire and Steel (let's face it, when you've stretched your haunted railway station story out over four hours, a lot of it is going to be filler!) but fundamentally most of the wierdness in Night Terrors doesn't even pretend that it's pointing to the solution (e.g. the people turning into dolls), its just creating atmosphere and that is where the whole finally falls apart at the end.

Which is a shame because halfway through I was pretty gripped.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/53807.html.
lonemagpielonemagpie on September 15th, 2011 05:14 pm (UTC)
Having watched them a few times over the years, Sapphire & Steel mostly is as good as you remember it. The first and fourth ones are even better....
louisedennis: Sapphire and Steellouisedennis on September 15th, 2011 07:23 pm (UTC)
It's very unique. I can't imagine TV doing anything like it again somehow, in some ways because the medium has moved so much further away from its roots in theatre, and Sapphire and Steel is terribly theatrical in a lot of ways.
bunnbunn on September 15th, 2011 06:30 pm (UTC)
I quibbled with the dolls - why would a small modern boy have an old fashioned elegant dollshouse and develop a morbid fear of peg-head dolls??

But philmophlegm pointed out that if they'd picked an everyday item and setting, about which a small modern boy might very likely develop a paralysing terror, the program might easily become too terrifying for its destined audience.
louisedennislouisedennis on September 15th, 2011 07:20 pm (UTC)
I think it must be quite difficult treading that fine line between scaring kids and terrifying them, especially the sorts of things that actually do frighten them are not at all the sorts of things you might think were frightening at first glance.
bunnbunn on September 15th, 2011 07:27 pm (UTC)
I wondered where he'd even *seen* a peghead doll. Unless his parents were prone to watching the sort of horror film that I suspect Mark Gatiss likes, I suppose.
louisedennislouisedennis on September 15th, 2011 07:29 pm (UTC)
Well my mother has been known to present G. with toys that she (my mother that is) played with as a child. Though people have observed, on occasion, that my family is prone to eccentricity so I possibly shouldn't generalise from my mother to a generic "people's grandmothers".
Gabbygabcd86 on October 8th, 2011 11:35 am (UTC)
Well, apparently they terrified my sister, the poor thing was watching it alone. They also terrified Livvy, and Livvy's mum. I hate anything vaguely scary, but I think the solution is to find someone weaker, that way you can laugh at them and feel reassured. :P
Susanlil_shepherd on September 15th, 2011 07:55 pm (UTC)
I always thought of Sapphire and Steel as pure fantasy verging into horror. Mind you, I have real problems with a series that thinks sapphire and steel are elements...
louisedennis: Sapphire and Steellouisedennis on September 15th, 2011 08:13 pm (UTC)
I had been going to call it fantasy but then it occurred to me that there was a strong implication within the show that their powers weren't magical but were entirely rational and explicable, we just happened not to understand the explanations. I think, at heart, it told Ghost stories in the Victorian haunted house genre, but the set dressing was something entirely different and I'm not quite sure how important the set dressing was to the way it told its stories and the extent to which it did or did not succeed.