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Jerome Willis speaks

Peele is...Well, he's Peele
Burnside's nemesis is a well crafted and acted character, muses David Koukol.

One of the brilliant touches of Ian Mackintosh’s writing is that he populated ‘The Sandbaggers’ with characters who are believable because they are neither all good nor all bad.

True, there are those who may lean more one way than the other. Sir James Greenley, the first C, is notable for being the most consistently noble and honest character. Matthew Peele, the Deputy Chief of SIS, played with amazing subtlety and attention to detail by Jerome Willis, is a figure almost universally criticized and condemned by the other characters.

It’s very easy to accept this, but this wouldn’t be The Sandbaggers if matters were that simple and direct. Peele adheres strictly to the rule book, and is a bit in awe of people in positions of greater authority and prestige. His toadying ways are seen early in the first episode, First Principles. Upon receiving a phone call, he immediately affects and saccharine tone when he learns that Sir Geoffrey Wellingham is on the line.

After the call, he reprimands Neil Burnside for the direct line between Burnside and Wellingham: ¦He is the Permanent Undersecretary of State. He should talk to C...or me!² Peele cries indignantly. Burnside is, after all, only Director of Operations, even if he was once married to Wellingham’s daughter.

Peele and Burnside clash on departmental procedure quite often. Burnside is a crusader who is willing --anxious, even--to cut corners. Peele favors ‘decision by committee. Decision after proper reference upwards.’ He also doesn't win any points by throwing out such quips as ‘Ours is not to reason why,’ and ‘My opinion is that we should follow our orders.’ Often he makes these statements without appearing to have given any thought to the specific matter under discussion. And, while Peele is not by any means stupid, he does have another blind spot. Personal ambition gets the better of him in the second season finale, Operation Kingmaker.

Peele works in overdrive to get into the onto the short list to replace Genteelly tests Peele’s independence of vision by suggesting the rival services SIS and MI5 be consolidated.

Peele immediately writes a paper advocating this. This is something he never would do under ordinary circumstances, as seen in his attitude towards MI5 in other stories. Even the thought of becoming C has made Peele power drunk, Burnside observes.

Why does someone of his age and authority act this way?

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