Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

The Angst of Nel Gurgle

So the title of this post is an obscure sort of series of jokes: my friend elisem has a friend she sometimes refers to on lj as Nel Gurgle because of a journal entry he once made, and I think of him that way because it helps for me to have a way to separate out the Exceedingly Public Famous Person and the person who is friends with some of my friends, even though I don't actually know either of them personally. So the name Nel Gurgle is sort of in my head for when I am feeling silly anyway.

Anyway. I have been watching Sandbaggers as part of the Ongoing Mrissa Spy Fiction Experience. It was kindly lent me by carbonel, and I am finding it quite useful for reminding me of spy things I do and do not want to be doing.

But oh lordy. What I am not doing is emotionally engaging with it.

Sandbaggers is a British show thirty years old, and this shows in various ways. The seasons are short--six or seven 45-minute episodes long--and filled to the brim with white men. There is some action but a lot of the politics and logistics of the spy game.

The main character is Neil Burnside, but I call him Nel Gurgle, because he has a Conspicuous Cool Black Leather Spy Coat (so does the real-life Nel Gurgle!) that he only wears when he is in Bulgaria doing spy things and not when he is home in the SAS office managing Swedish flight attendants--wait, I seem to have gotten that slightly wrong. Not when he is at home in the SIS office managing men spies. There was a woman spy once in a few episodes and he got her killed, and now he can never have a woman spy again. He has also gotten some men spies killed. Logically, this is why the department consists entirely of a cat, an iguana, and a one-legged budgie called Larry.

Sandbagger One: Actually I'm here to tell you Larry's gotten killed. Nel Gurgle: I am so torn up about Larry I will now stare at the Thames or other convenient body of water. Sandbagger One: I am considering resigning over Larry. Nel Gurgle: Damn. I won't stop you. Sandbagger One: Well, I won't resign until you can train Larry's replacement. Nel Gurgle: There won't be anybody qualified. Also I will expect you to emotionally invest in the replacement even though they will get killed in twenty minutes. Sandbagger One: I will promptly do so, and notify his parents of his death personally. [His parents swim around in a bowl, being goldfish, that being the only category of being left that Nel Gurgle has not gotten killed]

Seriously, it's as though they expected to spend half of every episode with us watching Kirk, Picard, or whoever getting all torn up about Ensign Redshirt. You can kill a dude every episode. Or you can spend all your time on Teh Grief 'N' Woez. But not both, Nel Gurgle! Not both!

Also, there is a completely loathsome series of exchanges between Nel Gurgle and his former father-in-law ("I object to people reminding me that he is my former father-in-law! Now I will use this relationship to my own ends!") wherein the former father-in-law is like, "Can't you at least meet my daughter for drinks? Because she wants to get back together, and she's driving me bazoo. And I will totally bribe you with foreign policy objectives just to get my obnoxious child out of my hair." And Nel Gurgle is like, "No way, dude, she is just too obnoxious even for foreign policy objectives." And dad-in-law is like, "Yeah, she is pretty obnoxious, due to the wanting you to do stuff outside work and craziness like that. Too bad she is my blood kin and I am stuck with her and could not, like, have raised her better and stuff!" And I watch these, and I think, "Run like the wind, ex-wife-slash-daughter! Run like the wind, British government! Obtain hobbies and/or civil servants who have the gumption to tell their relatives to get hobbies!"

And yet I appreciate the willingness to kill at least some named characters, which too much modern filmed spy fiction just does not have, and I appreciate moments where one obscure European spy group engages in kidnapping and skullduggery to pressure a random other European government to their own ends, and...yeah, there are definitely moments. But oh, Nel Gurgle...sometimes you need a good kicking, and angst is not the same.

Tags: small screen

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