ACTION TV ONLINE DVD REVIEW
On paper, The Sandbaggers could have been one of many lesser shows. Detailing life for the "Special Operations section" of MI6/SIS, it could have been a James Bond-esque tale of daring-do. It could have been a slightly more sedate, John Le Carré-style affair, all intrigue, politics and back-biting. Instead, it proved to be a combination of both worlds, marrying the excitement of a Fleming book with the authenticity of Le Carré.
the show's three series, the agents of the piece - the eponymous
Sandbaggers - and their boss, former Sandbagger Neil Burnside
(Roy Marsden) were faced with as many murky plots from the depths
of Whitehall and from the UK's supposed allies as they were
by Soviet espionage. They failed or died in their missions on
any number of occasions because of office politics back home,
all while being paid a civil service salary.
It started on a high, however, with All in a Good Cause, possibly the show's finest hour. A magnificent example of how to orchestrate complex plot threads, it gives Mackintosh a chance to show the full gamut of Sandbaggers techniques he'd developed over the previous two series: double-dealing; misdirection; inter-departmental rivalry; political machinations and more. The DVDs are worth buying for this episode alone.
Hell with Justice, the first of the series' occasional excursions
to Malta, sees an old friend under suspicion and a typically
tragic conclusion. For all the cold, hawkishness of the show,
it's a hard person who doesn't have tissues to hand while watching
The first Sandbaggers episode written by someone other than Mackintosh, My Name is Anna Wiseman, shows what The Sandbaggers would have been without Mackintosh at its helm from the beginning. Mostly a tiresome polemic that fits badly with the Real Politik of the rest of the series, it involves Burnside's attempt to plant a long-term double agent behind the iron curtain, neglecting to mention to his bosses that her real mission would be short-term human rights propaganda.
Arden Winch's Sometimes We Play Dirty Too is equally uninspiring, a simple police story masquerading as a Sandbaggers plot. Why did an agent die in a car crash in Prague? And do we care?
is tired of being a Sandbagger and wants to resign in "Enough
of Ghosts". But Burnside gives him one last mission, after
the permanent secretary to the Foreign Office - his former father-in-law,
confidante and occasional enemy - is abducted by suspected terrorists.
All is not as it seems however and Caine finds he may be too
good to leave the directorate, no matter how much he thinks
he wants to. Caine finds his skills called upon unexpectedly
during "Decision by Committee", when the plane home
from his latest mission is hijacked. The real intrigue, however,
comes from Burnside's attempts to get government approval for
the SAS to storm the plane, even though it's on foreign soil.