The Sandbaggers (1978–1980)
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First Principles 

Neil Burnside is the Director of Operations for the British Secret Service, the SIS. His special operations unit is made up of three agents, known as Sandbaggers, who specialize in covert ... See full summary »





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Episode complete credited cast:
Roy Marsden ...
Alan MacNaughtan ...
Sir Geoffrey Wellingham
Bob Sherman ...
Elizabeth Bennett ...
Olaf Pooley ...
David Glyder ...
Barkley Johnson ...
Richard Shaw ...
Brian Haines ...
Vice Chief of Air Staff
Roger Kemp ...


Neil Burnside is the Director of Operations for the British Secret Service, the SIS. His special operations unit is made up of three agents, known as Sandbaggers, who specialize in covert operations. He's approached by the head of the Norwegian secret service who needs assistance in recovering the crew of a spy plane that has gone down inside Russia. He's dead set against it, but the Foreign Office has its own interests and Burnside is ordered to mount an operation. Unfortunately, the Norwegians are playing their own games and the lives of the agents are put in danger. Written by garykmcd

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Release Date:

18 September 1978 (UK)  »

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Did You Know?


Lars Torvik: Above all, he's a sandbagger, special agent.
Burnside: Sandbaggers don't have magical powers.
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Top Notch Cold War Drama
16 August 2016 | by See all my reviews

THE SANDBAGGERS "First Principles" 1978

The SANDBAGGERS was a UK series set during the Cold War. The series follows a small unit of the SIS, which deals with various intelligence gathering problems. (Or eliminating said problems) The cast includes Roy Marsden, Ray Lennon, David Glyder, Liz Bennett, Richard Vernon, Bob Sherman and Jerome Willis. The series ran for 20 episodes between 1978 and 1980.This is the first episode of the production run.

Roy Marsden is in charge of a covert action section of the UK Secret Service, the SIS. The new head of the Norwegian Secret Service, Olaf Pooley, contacts Marsden about a problem the Norwegians are having. It seems that a Norwegian recon plane, with several top level science types has crashed just over the Norway, USSR border. Norway does not have the men, or know how to retrieve the men and vital equipment from the aircraft. The Soviets have not tumbled to the crash as of yet, but it only a matter of time before they do.

Marsden tells Pooley that he is not willing to risk any of his highly trained "sandbaggers" on such a mission. Soon afterwards, Marsden is called in by his boss, Richard Vernon and some other higher ups. They want Marsden to go through with the rescue. Norway has agreed to buy a UK missile system if SIS helps. The multi-million pound deal would boost the UK aerospace industry.

Marsden reluctantly does as he is bid, and arranges to have two agents dropped inside the border. The two men, Ray Lennon and David Glyder are kitted up with the proper gear and flown in for the drop. Just as the drop is being made, Marsden receives a call from the CIA station boss in London, Bob Sherman, to call off the operation. The call comes too late. The Norwegians it seems have made the same deal with the CIA. If the CIA retrieves their men and goods, they will buy the American missile system.

Agents Lonnen and Glyder reach the downed aircraft and find it empty. They quickly put two and two together and set off for the border back into Norway. They catch sight of the CIA types, along with the Norwegians, being gobbled up by a KGB border patrol. The two, Lonnen and Glyder, go to ground and wait till night to continue their escape. Marsden is of course furious with the Norwegians for playing both the SIS and the CIA off against each other. He tells Pooley that the game is not played that way.

This is a pretty good first episode of a really top notch Cold War drama. The director was long time television helmsman, Michael Ferguson. Ferguson worked on series like, DR WHO, Z-CARS, COLDITZ and THE BILL.

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