When the SIS station in Vienna reports the presence of Dr. Sir Donald Hopkins, Burnside is afraid that they may have a defector on their hands. Hopkins is the chief scientific advisor attached to the...
When Sandbagger #2 Mike Wallace has a run-in with the Head of Station in Warsaw, he finds himself called on the carpet back home. While Burnside accepts his version of events, which puts the botched ...
David Callan is the top agent/assassin for the Security Service (British counterintelligence), but he is an embittered man who performs his duties "for Queen and country" under duress. This... See full summary »
Harry Perkins, steel worker and trade unionist from Sheffield, becomes Prime Minister of the UK by a landslide, partly because of corruption and public disillusionment with the Conservative... See full summary »
Called out of retirement to settle the affairs of a friend, Smiley finds his old organization, the Circus, so overwhelmed by political considerations that it doesn't want to know what ... See full summary »
This is the story of Magnus Pym, from his childhood to the end of his career in middle age. As a young man, there is little doubt that his father Rick was the most influential character in ... See full summary »
Taken from the book by John le Carre, George Smiley rallies to the aid of his former intelligence colleague, Ailsa Brimley, to investigate a mysterious letter from a junion master's wife at... See full summary »
Michael Murray is an ambitious and charismatic politician, Jim Nelson is a much loved headmaster of a local school for disturbed children. When the paths of these two men cross, things are ... See full summary »
Harry is an undercover agent for the British army sent to Northern Ireland to infiltrate the IRA and find (and terminate) the assassin of a British Cabinet Minister. Harry is alone, the ... See full summary »
When Dr. Edwin Lorimer, a forensic scientist working at a private laboratory is found killed, Detective Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh is sent to investigate. Dalgliesh had been in the area ... See full summary »
THE SANDBAGGERS is a taut British spy series comprising twenty 50-minute episodes produced by Yorkshire Television, an ITV franchise (i.e., a commercial regional British television franchise). The stories centered on the elite covert operations section of British Intelligence, nicknamed the Sandbaggers, and their boss, Neil Burnside, himself a former Sandbagger but now having to battle more with British bureaucracy than with enemy agents. It was set contemporaneously with its original broadcast in the late '70s and early '80s when the Cold War still dominated the Western intelligence agenda. Written by
Ernest W. Adams <email@example.com>
Creator Ian Mackintosh was developing the next season of Sandbaggers at the time of his disappearance. According to actor Ray Lonnen, MacKintosh was considering having the character Willie Caine promoted to D-Ops, while Neil Burnside (played by Roy Marsden) would move up to "C" (head of S.I.S.). However, after MacKintosh's (apparent) death, the producers decided to end the series because they felt no one could write Sandbaggers as well as MacKintosh. See more »
If I want to send an agent to the lavatory, I need the Foreign Secretary's permission. If I want him to do anything when he gets there, I need the Prime Minister's written approval!
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"The Sandbaggers" is the best spy drama ever made for TV, and is certainly the most realistic. Focusing on a group of special agents of the British SIS, it shows spies as they probably really are: overworked, underpaid, under-appreciated and expendable.
The acting in the series is top notch by all of the cast, particularly Roy Marsden as the workaholic Burnside and Ray Lonnen as the amiable Caine. There's also particularly good work by Alan MacNaughton as the wily Wellingham. The plots rely less on action and more on intrigue, with battles won and lost in "drab dusty corridors in Whitehall", as Burnside puts it. There isn't any real gunplay until the sixth episode, in fact.
The first season of the series, with all episodes written by series creator Ian MacIntosh, is the best. It follows a rough story arc involving the introduction of troubled agent Laura Dickens (well-played by Diane Keen). It leads up to the powerful season finale "Special Relationship", which is a stunner.
The second season isn't as good. Other writers besides MacIntosh are involved and there are some ill-advised plot developments. Also, there are less-than-successful changes in some characterizations. But, still, it remains a superior and thoughtful drama.
I highly recommend this series. It's well-worth tracking down on video or on PBS. Just remember what Burnside says in the first episode: "If you want James Bond, go to a library."
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