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A treasure of British TV; intelligent espionage
on 26 January 2012
Sandbaggers is a treasure of television, brought back to life by the DVD re-issue. It's intelligent espionage from the late 1970s, so set against a cold war background when Britain and her allies are in a deadly battle against the KGB. But instead of being full of flashy action a la modern thrillers like 24 or Alias, it is based in the harsh reality of running the Special Section of the Secret Service.
And it is brilliant.
The sets are typically cheap wonky 1970s Brit TV stuff; the quality of film is variable, archive footage of airports regularly appears, the 'foreign' action inevitably takes place in the quarry where they shot Dr Who or some council estate dressed to look like East Berlin.
None of that matters.
The scripting and acting are superb. The characters are thoroughly fleshed out so they are completely believable, and you just know when the main man is going to do something horribly wrong... again!
You need to watch Series 1 first, to make any sense out of Series 2. The two dovetail together beautifully; even the opening shot of S2 pays homage to the horrific events at the end of S1. It's not as glam as Spooks or The Sweeney; more like an hour long Le Carre episode. The characters are well-drawn and the interplay between them is fascinating. You coud easily transpose the plots to the modern political situation, and they'd remain credible and entertaining.
The first season was brutal and shocking in places, but even though the second series is a little less ferocious it is every bit as compelling. Even the 'lighthearted' epsiode contains a tight plot and a moral dilemma.
You can depend on very little in the world of the Sandbaggers. Central characters are flawed and they make mistakes. They can be killed or ruined. And the series ends with a wonderful cliff-hanger which leaves the viewer desperate to get into the third (and final) season...
There are only 20 episodes of Sandbaggers. Treasure them!