Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Adventure > Spy > Mystery > Crime > Terrorism > Security > British TV > Saracen – The Complete Series (1989 w/1988 Zero Option telefilm pilot/Network U.K./PAL Region 2 DVD Import Set)

Saracen – The Complete Series (1989 w/1988 Zero Option telefilm pilot/Network U.K./PAL Region 2 DVD Import Set)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras/Telefilm: B-     Episodes: B-



PLEASE NOTE: This DVD set can only be operated on machines capable of playing back DVDs that can handle Region Two/2 PAL format software and can be only be ordered from our friends at Network U.K. at the website address provided at the end of the review.



Sometimes a good set up for an action show arrives and despite fine casting, good ideas, very reliable talent and a budget to make it work, it does not work out as a hit.  When it comes to Saracen (1989), the show’s creators and backers thought it was possibly time for a new action series as had been so popular in the 1960s and 1970s.  The show focuses on the title security firm, outside of government or corporate confines that does for-hire work, especially because of a superior reputation in the toughest of situations battling terrorists, high tech robbery and more.


At its best, the show sounds like The Protectors, The Persuaders, The Adventurer and even Department S (all reviewed elsewhere on this site), despite their being a subdivision of INTERPOL.  At worse, The A-Team, then and now.  Because this was from the end of the 1980s, I expected this might lean towards the reactionary, angry Rambo-type productions or a throwback to shows like those Spy series and The Professionals.  It turns out to be somewhat the latter, but not in a way I expected.


The show’s focus begins with SAS operative David Barber (Christian Burgess) who is an exceptional solider, fighter and thinker.  After a falling out with SAS, he is approached by former Colonel Patrick Ansell (the amazing Michael Byrne) to join Saracen, his private firm and Barber agrees.  Here, he is partnered with former U.S. Delta Force agent Tom Duffy (Patrick James Clarke) who is not as reserved and runs a little counter to Barber’s ways.  Also helping them are Nugent (the late great character actor John Bennett) and Alice (Ingrid Lacey) who does research, reference and some spying.


A British production with some Australian back-up, it almost qualifies as a Spy show, but it is more of an action series, yet it is not as comical as such shows had become up until that time.  Unlike the failed Mission: Impossible revival of the same time plagued by bad visual effects and recycled scripts from later seasons of the old series, the writing here is pretty good and we do get some Cold War teleplays.  The best thing is that its approach is unique enough that is has a separate identity from all of its predecessors and that is not easy.


The problem is that the characters and actors never totally mesh, despite some smart writing and directing that includes some of the last professional work by the great Roy Ward Baker.  Clarke never totally seems American, there is not an arc of progress throughout the shows that did get filmed and for an ace security organization, they make too many mistakes throughout the series that backfires on it credibility.  Still, it is made for a smart audience, is never condescending and the action is not bad (coordinated by Peter Brayham), but there is also this feeling it is trying to be something new and also that it is not for sure where it wants to go.


I liked the cast, though and some of the shows hold up even better than expected for their age.  After taking it in on its own terms, than thinking of it in terms of genre, I got to see the 1988 telefilm The Zero Option that landed up serving as the pilot for this show.  An exceptional feature-length work directed by Sarah Hellings, this version has a completely different cast, look and has more action.  Stephen Hattersley (TV’s Wish Me Luck) played Barber, Eric Flynn played Ansell and the other regulars from the show were smaller roles here including Nugent (David Ross) and Alice (Joanna Phillips-Lane).  Duffy was not a character in the pilot because his character was originally an Australian named Carne (played by John Walton), but the two have very similar backgrounds and characters.


Most interesting is a villain role that does not resurface on the series at all named Bruce Michaelis.  He is played by Anthony Stewart Head, the still-active and successful character actor know for his work on Doctor Who, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Little Britain, Manchild and the classic series of coffee commercials (Nescafe in the U.K., Taster’s Choice in the U.S.).  In both versions, Alice is likable and smart, but not as able-bodied as one would hope.  That dates all of it a bit, though I did not want to see another shallow, bad, nearly angry, “tough broad” character, but you can tell men wrote the role.


The technology has dated in many cases, but the way it is used helps.  Fights are good in both, but I liked the action in the telefilm more, whereas the series needed more action and seems reserved by comparison.  Why the recasting, we could not finds out by this posting, but the Burgess/Clarke combo seemed aimed at imitating The Professionals, Starsky & Hutch and may have hurt the show in the long run in that trying to make it more commercial hurt its ability to have an edge as good as the new actors were.


The fact that the first set of actors were no better or worse than the second means the successors were not totally successful in absorbing the roles, but both show that the concept by creators Chris Kelly and Ted Childs is a good one and would be worth trying a third time.  If you like smarter action, you’ll really want to see Saracen – The Complete Series in this DVD set because it is that interesting.



The 1.33 X 1 image for the pilot and TV series are filmed.  The series was definitely shot in 35mm color film, as was likely the pilot, but the episodes look a little color-dull throughout despite being from clean prints.  Ghosting of the Central Television logo tells us these are analog PAL masters.  However, they are well-shot and though you get some print flaws here and there, this holds up much better than most 1980s productions.  The telefilm also looks good and if it is actually 16mm, that is impressive and the print is a little better in color reproduction.  Director of Photography Ian Hollands gives this a good look, while the series has various DPs who offer a comparatively more polished look.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 in all cases show their age, but is just fine here, though they may be a little more distorted than they could be.  It is barely stereo if that.  Extras include stills that show how good the color was on the shows and the two-hour pilot, which is on the final DVD.



As noted above, you can order this DVD import set exclusively from Network U.K. at:









-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com