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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Action > Adventure > TV > Sandbaggers - Set Two (1979/BFS DVD Set)

The Sandbaggers - Set Two (1979/BFS DVD Set)

Picture: C Sound: C Extras: C Episodes: B

Ian Mackintosh's The Sandbaggers continues as Roy Marsden's Neil Burnside, the head of the Special Intelligence Sector who runs these special agents, is still not over a major mission from a year ago. The first episode (of six) from this box shows a flashback opening, which recalls the show. If you have not seen it, you would have no idea of what really happened. Since it was unbroadcast originally, that makes it an inexcusable case of censorship, but Set One (reviewed elsewhere on this site) offers it and that entire box should be seen in order before checking out this one.

The title refers to special agents who do specific missions when bureaucratic and political means fail. By this time, the section has been hit harder than usual in the field, making Burnside's job even more complicated.

There are six episodes in this second box, and like Dr. Who (Michael Ferguson is a new director here who worked on both shows), this is a series where the indoors are videotaped, while the outdoors are filmed (on 16mm film). Peter Creegan and Alan Grint also joined up as directors this time. This series uses actual film for that part. It was produced when color videotape (PAL format in this case) was still a new thing, so that makes what you see all the more unique. The technical aspects match those of the first set.

The 1.33 X 1 full screen images are in color and a disclaimer about quality trouble appears at the beginning of each DVD. There are video images that briefly shake sometimes, but the picture is usually stable. Producer/director Michael Ferguson knows how to construct this world most convincingly, while creator Ian Mackintosh's teleplays are some of the brightest ever created for television anywhere. It is amazing how well this particular series endures, over a dozen years after the end of The Cold War. That situation often plays second fiddle to the games afoot in this most-complex world of espionage.

The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is average as well, showing its age, but it is about as clear as it is going to get. Obviously, the British accents sometimes get slightly distorted, so the audio fails there, and the DVDs do not have captions or subtitles of any kind. Otherwise, it is serviceable and Roy Budd's music and theme song is really good. Besides a brief guide to the alphabet soup of abbreviations the characters use throughout the series worth using to better understand what is going on repeating itself on this set, other extras include an Ian Mackintosh biography his brother Lawrie wrote, production stills from the show, dialogue highlights from all the shows, and an episode guide to all twenty shows with bonus information.

The episodes here are:

At All Costs

Enough of Ghosts

Decision by Committee

A Question of Loyalty

It Couldn't Happen Here

and Operation Kingmaker

This is the point where we usually give synopsis of each show, but we cannot in this case, or we could give away too much. In general, the shows increasingly flush out this often-dark world, and then we get really good character development. These shows touch up things like kidnapping, terrorism, hijacking, defectors, the situations really involved with the likes of the JFK assassination, and more daring items that are as bright today as ever. This exceptionally cast series includes Ray Lonnen (Sandbagger 1), Alan MacNaughtan, Richard Vernon, Elisabeth Bennett, Diane Keen, Richard Berson, Dennis Burgess, and a parade of top talent that ups the suspense level with their convincing work.

Last time, I noted that this series this reminded me of outside of the Spy genre was U.F.O., the early 1970s Science Fiction show with Ed Bishop as Commander Straker, often in the same position. The show got just as dark as this one. The Sandbaggers continues to surprise and highly recommended, though it was wobbly towards the beginning here after the censored show. That eventually worked itself out. It was ironic, then, when a new secretary shows up named Straker. We will conclude the series elsewhere on this site with Set Three.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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