Early US Fandom
The Sandbaggers One convention is remembered
by the OpsRoom.
The Sandbaggers aired on Public Broadcasting System television
stations in just a couple of American cities in the mid-1980s.
But by the early 1990s, the number of cities with Sandbaggers
broadcasts had grown, the series had been mentioned favorably
in a few newspapers, and the Dalgliesh dramas starring Roy Marsden
had aired nationwide as part of PBS’s Mystery! series.
As a result, interest in The Sandbaggers began to spread via
word of mouth, especially among established American fans of British
cult television — particularly Blake’s Sevenē—
and organized Sandbaggers fandom was born. Its locus was on the
East Coast, primarily the mid-Atlantic states.
shirt, a game, and lots of zines
The organized fandom never was huge, and it only lasted a few
years. Nevertheless, its members produced many clever and imaginative
A T-shirt. Designed by Jeanne DeVore, the shirt had a front which
said Property of Sandbagger #2 and a back which listed the crossed-out
names of all the Sandbaggers who perish in the series, followed
by Run Mike Run! as a sort of graffito.
A hand-crafted Sandbaggers edition of the board game Clue--Cluedo
in Europe. Some of the rooms were Peele’s plant filled office,
Burnside’s office with artifacts from his adventures on
his desk, including the ruler that John Tower Gibbs gave him,
and Malta. This had a chalk outline on the patio in front of the
Newsletters. One was called A Sense of Occasion, another was
the bulletin of S.I.S., the Sandbaggers Information Service.
The team behind A Sense of Occasion produced an impressive 1992
fanzine, It Couldn’t Happen Then, It Couldn’t Happen
The zine had fiction, poetry and artwork and is assembled so
that a reader has to flip it over to switch from the 98-page It
Couldn’t Happen Then section to the 123-page It Couldn’t
Happen Now component. In the former, the fiction is set contemporaneously
with the events of the televised series; in the latter, after
The team who published the S.I.S newsletter also did some color-covered
fanzines, which were called First Principles.
Caryn Dunkel and Michael Macomber organized and ran a convention
called Sandbagger One in New Jersey in August 1992. Actor Ray
Lonnen was the guest of honor.
One person who attended the convention told the Ops Room, Ray
Lonnen was a charming guest. He posed for individual photos with
everyone and didn’t mind people taking pictures all the
time he was talking. There was also a video room: ‘We were
able to see some of Ray Lonnen’s work that we had not seen
on US TV.’
‘Also, he told us that Willie had not been killed in Malta
in ‘Opposite Numbers,’ the last Sandbaggers episode.
‘If there had been another season, Willie would have had
Neil’s job, and unfortunately would had been confined to
a wheelchair. Neil would have had Peele’s job.’
Given the relative obscurity of The Sandbaggers, especially in
the United States, did many people attend Sandbagger One? ‘It
is hard to remember how many people were there, but I am sure
it was over 100 people. They were coming and going and the con
did last two days.’