[[caption-width-right:350:Willie Caine and Neil Burnside, doing some real spy work.]]

->''Special Operations doesn't mean going in with all guns blazing. It means special planning, special care, fully briefed agents in possession of all possible alternatives. If you want Franchise/JamesBond, [[TakeThat go to your library]]. But if you want a successful operation, sit at your desk and think, and then think again. Our battles aren't fought at the end of a parachute. They're won and lost in drab, dreary corridors in Westminster, and hopefully in Oslo.''
-->-- '''Neil Burnside''', nominally to his Norwegian counterpart but [[CharacterFilibuster actually to the audience]]

British spy series that ran three series on Creator/{{ITV}}, from 1978 to 1980, written by creator Ian Mackintosh. Neil Burnside is the Director of the Operations division of the Secret Intelligence Service (aka [=MI6=]) during the UsefulNotes/ColdWar. Under his supervision is the Special Section, three agents nicknamed "Sandbaggers", led by Willie Caine.

Once described as "men in cheap suits dying badly in Prague," it clearly falls on the cynical side of the SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism, and is about as far from ''Franchise/JamesBond'' as you can get (which [[LampshadeHanging the characters themselves are apt to point out]].) Most of the plots revolve around Burnside wrestling with bureaucracy within and without, whether it's his superiors at SIS, his domestic counterparts at MI5, or the British government.

See also Creator/GregRucka's spy series ''Comicbook/QueenAndCountry'', which was so [[SpiritualLicensee heavily inspired by this series]] it could have been called ''The Sandbaggers: The Next Generation''.

!!Provides Examples Of:

* AcronymAndAbbreviationOverload The dialogue uses so many acronyms that the [=DVDs=] have an acronym glossary as a bonus feature.
* AntiHero: Burnside.
* AnyoneCanDie: Sandbaggers have a high mortality rate over the course of the series. It's commented on InUniverse as well.
* BlackAndGreyMorality: His stated goal, "the destruction of the KGB," justifies Burnside's ruthlessness.
* BottleEpisode: SIS office politics play a huge role in the show, and occasionally the entire episode takes place in that environment (though likely including a few London exteriors.)
* BritishBrevity: Seven episodes in the first and last series, and six in the second.
* CIAEvilFBIGood: Inverted. The CIA are generally portrayed as helpful, and in particular Burnside has a very close working relationship with the CIA's London section chief, Jeff Ross. The show has a ConspiracyTheorist view of American domestic politics that looks peculiar to American eyes, and the FBI is part of it. According to Ross (and apparently, this was really [[WriterOnBoard according to Mackintosh]]), the FBI was behind the Kennedy and King assassinations.
* CutShort - Mackintosh's disappearance ended the series on a cliffhanger, with [[spoiler:Willie Caine mortally wounded.]] Rumours suggest [[spoiler:Caine would have returned as a wheelchair-bound D. Ops]] in Series Four, presumably with [[spoiler: Mike and Neil similarly promoted]].
* DeadpanSnarker - Just about everyone gets a turn, but particularly Burnside, his secretary and Sandbagger One, Willie Caine.
* DoubleMeaningTitle - "Special Relationship"
* DoubleReverseQuadrupleAgent - {{Defied}}; [[spoiler:Tyler says he considered becoming a triple agent after the KGB turned him, but decided it wouldn't help his situation any - he reflects sadly that at least somebody trusts a double agent, but ''nobody'' trusts a triple.]]
* ExactWords: In "Special Relationship", Willie asks Burnside if he's sleeping with Laura. Burnside answers that if he means ''sleeping'', the answer is yes. If he means anything else, the answer is no.
* FunWithAcronyms - None are particularly funny, but the sheer number of them can choke segments of dialogue. The PA to D.Ops might relay a message that the PUSS at the FCO needs a favor for the DCDS.
* GuileHero (or maybe Guile Anti-Hero?) - Burnside.
* HeWhoMustNotBeSeen - Burnside's ex-wife and Wellingham's daughter, Belinda. Burnside's relationship with her (and by extension, Wellingham) is a plot point in several episodes, but we never see her except in photographs.
* IDidWhatIHadToDo - Burnside personifies this trope, and isn't afraid to get his hands dirty.
* IncrediblyObviousTail - Played straight (but justified) in the ''first ten minutes'' of the series: Burnside and Caine easily spot tails on their way to the office, but it turns out they're [[spoiler:being followed by green Norwegian agents on a training exercise.]]
* InherentInTheSystem - Most of the intelligence community is bent towards maintaining the status quo as a result of the governments and bureaucracies each agency serves.
* InstantDeathBullet - Subverted in "At All Costs".
* InsufferableGenius - Burnside is a draconian boss, but superhumanly dedicated to his job and the safety of his agents. Likewise, he regularly lies to his superiors and schemes under their noses, but he's just that good at deception, and it usually serves the interest of the Service.
* InterserviceRivalry - SIS and MI5 don't get along.
-->'''Wallace:''' I have a friend in Five who...
-->'''Burnside:''' Nobody has friends in Five.
* KnightTemplar - Burnside does not hesitate to take matters in his own hands and has a fanatical anti-Communist streak.
* MakeItLookLikeAnAccident - Arranged by the ''protagonists'' a few times, when there's a KGB mole who's prominent enough that their trial or suspicious death would cause a scandal.
* MauveShirt - If your callsign is Sandbagger Two, you're not long for this world, but at least we'll have a few episodes to get to know you. [[spoiler: Mike Wallace survives, and may have been promoted to Sandbagger One in Series 4.]]
* TheMole - Several, including a prominent cabinet minister as well as [[spoiler:Edward Tyler, Director of Intelligence.]]
* NotMyDriver - Wellingham gets kidnapped this way in "Enough of Ghosts".
* ObstructiveBureaucrat - In Burnside's mind, this describes virtually everybody, but Deputy Chief Peele most often fills the role.
* OneLetterName / EveryoneCallsHimBarkeep - The head of SIS is always referred to only as "C"; it takes an entire season to learn his real name and even after that nobody other than Wellingham uses it.
* TheOnlyOne - Diplomacy won't work. The CIA can't get an agent there in time. The Prime Minister refuses to authorize military action. Any number of elements force the Sandbaggers into the line of fire.
* OutGambitted - Wellingham thoroughly outmaneuvers Burnside in the season 2 finale.
* OvertRendezvous - Burnside and Jeff Ross tend to meet while strolling through the park.
* PerpetualPoverty - On an institutional level. The SIS is perpetually under pressure to make budget cuts. Neil, who thinks his Sandbaggers are already underpaid for risking their lives and liberty on a regular basis, is constantly fighting to stop his Sandbagger complement being reduced to just two, and frequently has to call in favours in from the CIA during operations.
* PointyHairedBoss - Deputy Chief Peele, who is more of a career man than an intelligence officer, although he does show glimpses of competence once or twice. The Prime Minister and the rest of the government usually are treated as Pointy Haired Bosses, as well.
* PrisonerExchange - Subverted [[spoiler: when Burnside orders her shot halfway across.]]
* RefugeInAudacity - Perhaps most notably when Burnside wins a bureaucratic argument by ''moving the capital of Venezuela'' (ItMakesSenseInContext.)
* RevolversAreJustBetter: In "A Feasible Solution", Willie Caine is armed for the first time in the series. While he states that he DoesntLikeGuns, he prefers to use a revolver. We later see that Mike Wallace also prefers them.
* SadisticChoice: In "Special Relationship", a mission goes wrong and [[spoiler: Laura Dickens is captured in East Germany. If left in jail, she'll break under interrogation and destroy several operations. Burnside can only get her released by getting the French to release one of their prisoners, in exchange for unpermitted access to American intelligence information. So, Burnside can leave his girlfriend in prison, or doom the Special Relationship with the CIA.]] This leads Burnside to TakeAThirdOption (see below).
* SecretTestOfCharacter - Wellingham administers one to Peele in the season 2 finale.
* ShaggyDogStory: A few, usually played for maximum DownerEnding. In the third episode, Burnside decides to [[spoiler: wreck Alan Denson's relationship so he won't get married and leave the service, as he was recently forced to shoot Sandbagger 2 to prevent his capture on enemy soil, leaving only two agents.]] When a background search on [[spoiler: Denson's girlfriend Sally turns up nothing he can use, Burnside personally threatens to have her kidnapped, stripped, drugged and photographed if she doesn't break off her engagement herself.]] Later that night, [[spoiler: Alan calls Sally to say he's reconsidered leaving and wants to push back the marriage, so she assumes Neil convinced Alan instead and commits suicide with alcohol and pills... and then Alan is struck by a car and killed outside his front door, leaving Burnside with only one Sandbagger and two needless deaths on his conscience ''anyway''.]]
* ShootTheDog - Burnside, notably in "At All Costs."
* ShownTheirWork - Perhaps showing a bit ''too'' much - one of the second series episodes was censored for contravening the Official Secrets Act.
* SpiritualSuccessor - Creator/GregRucka's love of the series led to his homage/reworking, ''ComicBook/QueenAndCountry''.
* SpyFiction - Extremely Stale Beer.
* TheSpymaster - Burnside, obviously. Also, the chief of the CIA station in London, Burnside's opposite number at MI5, and several foreign intelligence chiefs. Particularly amusing is the struggling head of the fledgling Norweigan intelligence service:
--> "What do they have, two men and a reindeer?"
--> "Something like that."
* SpySpeak - Played straight, but usually not overdone. A typical example uses the "Metaphor" approach, with Burnside in the role of a manager talking to two salesmen in the field.
* TakeAThirdOption: Burnside is handed a SadisticChoice in "Special Relationship": [[spoiler: leave Laura Dickens imprisoned by the East Germans, who will break her in interrogation and blow the cover of half of Hungary, or buy her freedom through a deal with the French, which will destroy the Special Relationship with the CIA.]] Burnside comes up with a nasty alternative: [[spoiler: he deals with the French for Laura's release via a prisoner exchange, then has her killed during the exchange so he doesn't have to follow through on his end of the bargain.]]
* TheTeetotaler - Burnside doesn't drink alcohol. But he drinks Coke by the gallon.
* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech: John Tower Gibbs, Peele and Wellingham all try this on Neil at various points and it doesn't really take. Marianne finally gives a well-deserved one to him in the penultimate episode. Whether it would have got through to him, we'll [[CutShort never know.]]
* TyrantTakesTheHelm - John Tower Gibbs in season 3 falls somewhere between this trope and BaitAndSwitchTyrant.
* [[WhatTheHellHero What The Hell, Hero?]] - Burnside commits some truly despicable acts, including threatening to blackmail a Sandbagger's girlfriend [[spoiler: which drives her to suicide]] and ordering the assasination of [[spoiler:one of his own agents, who is also his lover.]] Willie Caine's otherwise rock-solid loyalty is severely shaken by the latter, although his dedication to the job brings him back.