The Sandbaggers: The Complete Second Series

****1/2

Reviewed by: Caro Ness

The Sandbaggers is simply the best spy drama ever made for TV, on either side of the Atlantic. As the New York Times quite rightly stated, it is "the best spy series in television history."

The Sandbaggers is gritty and realistic, showing spies as they probably truly are, overworked, underpaid, undervalued and ultimately expendable, battling more with British bureaucracy than with enemy agents. The acting is absolutely first rate, particularly Roy Marsden as Burnside, Ray Lonnen as the likeable Willie Caine and Diane Keen as the troubled Laura Dickens.

The plots rely more on intrigue, the analytical side of elite operations and the uncertainty of the Cold War than on action - guns appear for the first time in Episode 6 - which makes the series all the more absorbing. It is set firmly in the late Seventies/early Eighties when the Cold War still occupied the main focus of Western Intelligence.

The first season, written by the series creator Ian Mackintosh, is fabulous. The second is marginally less good because other writers beside Mackintosh were involved and some of the plots are less successful and character changes perhaps ill advised. Nevertheless, it remains a very superior and thoughtful product.

In the first episode, Burnside remarks, "If you want James Bond, go to a library." This sums up the series, not explosive action, but smouldering intrigue and skulduggery, with very little outdoor camera work, and much more enthralling as a result. What you get is taut, gritty realism and a cracking psychological drama that keeps you firmly focused, always guessing, and tension that you could cut with a knife.

Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2006
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The Sandbaggers: The Complete Second Series packshot
The continuing intrigue and tension of a special unit of British Intelligence during the Cold War.
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