"The collected second season of Ian MacKintosh's brilliant, cerebral spy series of the late 70's.
Opening exactly one year after the devastating events of "Special Relationship," Neil Burnside (Roy Marsden) is more determined than ever to keep his three-man Special Section - nicknamed THE SANDBAGGERS - alive... literally and figuratively. His record's not too good lately, with three Sandbaggers dead in eighteen months, qualified replacements scare, and departmental shake-ups threatening to cut his funding. More isolated than ever, the last thing Burnside wants is another agent killed in the field.
But preventing it will be far more difficult than he expects. High-level kidnappings, hijacked planes and ops behind the Iron Curtain pepper these episodes, but the meat of the series takes place in the dully painted rooms of the SIS itself, where rival agencies clash with each other and good politics is the ultimate survival skill ("Operation Kingmaker" in particular is the epitome of the show's Talk-As-Action approach). Once again Marsden turns in a riveting performance, elevating what at first glance seems like a low-key series into a dynamic, involving experience. As Burnside he does despicable things, abuses subordinates mercilessly and manipulates people shamelessly, and yet always comes across as a good man... one dedicated to a job that requires flexible morals and no scruples.
The writing by series creator Ian MacKintosh, himself a former Intelligence officer, is complex but accessible, and full of tart gibes and ripostes, gleefully breaking conventions (Burnside is the first teetotaler spymaster in history, forever drinking Coke) everywhere possible. Even longtime fans occasionally forget how Funny the series can be at times, if you're paying attention.
But make no mistake: THE SANDBAGGERS is a dark and gritty ride through a dark and gritty profession and arguably the best, most realistic entry in its genre.
As with the first set, each disk begins with a written warning about the picture quality. While not unfounded, the picture is fine for viewing and better than duped tapes from episodes taped off PBS. More likely, you'll find yourself repeatedly rewinding to catch snippets of dialogue too quick or quiet to hear the first time.
In addition to the Extras listed above, all very informative and interesting, the Volume 2 set contains all six Season Two episodes;
1. At All Costs
2. Enough of Ghosts
3. Decision by Committee
4. A Question of Loyalty
5. It Couldn't Happen Here
6. Operation Kingmaker"
Stormy weather approaches for Burnside
Joseph Haschka | Glendale, CA USA | 03/28/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Set 2 of THE SANDBAGGERS series is perhaps a cut above Set 1 - therefore, 4.5 stars.We rejoin the career of Neil Burnside (Roy Marsden), the lonely, driven, insubordinate and brilliant Director of Operations for Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). Neil's fiefdom is small but crucial. He controls the "Sandbaggers", a select group of agents, no more than two or three, who are always on call to race to global points of crisis in MI6's struggle with the KGB and set thing aright. And sometimes they fail. However, this British television miniseries, which aired in 1978 and 1980, is not so much about Burnside's war with foreign adversaries as with those in London - his own boss, SIS Deputy Chief Peele (Jerome Willis), and the craven politicians in Whitehall and Number 10 Downing Street.Of the six episodes in the set, perhaps the best is "At All Costs", wherein one of Neil's two Sandbaggers is caught in an espionage sting in Bulgaria, wounded by gunfire, and now lying alone, bleeding, and paralyzed in a Sophia safe house. For all his faults, Burnside is 100% committed to the safety of his agents. So now, in company with his last remaining Sandbagger, the Director takes the dangerous course, much to the keen displeasure of Peele and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, of going behind the Iron Curtain to Bulgaria's capital to get his man out.I consider the least deserving episode is "It Couldn't Happen Here", which perhaps reflects the British scriptwriters' overly dramatic and sensationalistic view of America's penchant for guns and political assassination. In any case, Neil's CIA London colleague, Jeff Ross (Bob Sherman), who is usually quite level-headed, now comes across as a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist with the FBI as the Machiavellian villains. And U.S. senators drop like flies. To me, the episode was over the top.In the last episode, "Operation Kingmaker", the MI6 Director General ("C", Richard Vernon) is forced into retirement with health problems. While considering his own career prospects and the fate of his department, Neil must now conspire to back the least unpalatable of two possible successors to C's chair. And no matter who gets the Prime Minister's nod, it's going to be dodgy going for Burnside in Set 3.Marsden's Burnside is one of the most intriguing protagonists in recent memory. Undeniably wily and capable, he's also cold, ruthless and conniving. He's definitely the man you'd want running special operations for your government's foreign intelligence service, especially if you're the agent at the sharp end, but not a snake you'd want slithering through the grass at your garden party.THE SANDBAGGERS is first rate entertainment. I look forward to viewing Set 3, the last, but shall be saddened when it's over."
HIGH QUALITY MAINTAINED!!!
Elaine J. Campbell | Rancho Mirage, CA United States | 01/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The high quality of Sandbaggers 1 is totally maintained in Sandbaggers 2. The acting is superb, the director holds a tight rein with his cast and knows how to work with the story, and the screenwriter continues to bedazzle (he will depart us in the next series (3) when he mysteriously disappears with pilot and plane over the wilds of Alaska, although 3 of the episodes will still have his artistry). I do not know if Roy Marsden received any award for this series, but he certainly should have. I can't think of a more apt word to describe his performance than "Perfect." And I do not use that word loosely.And so we get to know his character, Neil Burnside, better and better. And we find that here is a man who will sacrifice anything in life, including those he loves most and his own character as a human being (and one does not doubt that even his own life may be added to this list) for his mission, a free world which at that time was threatened by the Soviets. And Willie Cane, excellently played by Ray Lonnen, stays very close in his shadow. Are these men extreme idealists (even heroes), or do they share a brutal psychopathology? Perhaps both? It is for the viewer to surmise.So hold on to your living room chair, and keep a strong stomach, especially during the first episode, and the remaining episodes will continue to grasp your attention unto the final one, the most ironic of all of them. It's worth the ride to see one of the finest espionage series of all time."
The Best TV Show Ever
B. Tabar | Cincinnati, OH | 08/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This series is a must for those serious spy show fans. It is quite true to life and not for the weak. Roy Marsden is fabulous as the coldhearted Neil Burnside and Ray Lonnen is marvelous as Sandbagger #1. The whole cast has wonderful chemistry and the scripts are well written. Good television viewing for the intelligent."
Intelligent, gritty, realistic -- so, worthwhile
paul_howard | San Ramon, CA United States | 08/01/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"James Bond-like portrayal of the intelligence business may have broken new ground in its time, but the Sandbaggers series paints Bond into a corner as pure fantastic escapism. Rather, the reality of the business is continual risk-taking, running through mazes whose wrong paths can be deadly, lack of support or understanding from those who most benefit from actions taken, a steady stream of surprises any of which might be the last, and yes, complete disavowal of one's mission should it fail. The dialogue was written by intelligent people for like types, and while episode quality varies from B-- to A, each one has its poignant message(s) as well as drama. Overall, one of the better picks for action/drama, though you will never see Bond in the same light again."