By Sean Tuohy
Could an award-winning British spy writer have been a spy himself?
Ian Machintosh—author of five spy novels in the late 1960s, early 1970s—created his first television show while serving as a naval officer. He proposed the show to his superiors as a way to modernize the British Navy in the eyes of the public.
“Warship” premiered in 1973 and featured British warships during peacetime. The program mostly focused on the officers’ personal and professional lives.
Macintosh was still employed by the government when he began working on his next series—a cutting edge spy show about the dirty side of British intelligence. Macintosh was very coy when it came to his career. He never denied being a spy, but never admitted to it either…
“The Sandbaggers” premiered in 1978. Dark. Gritty. Realistic. Nothing like it had been seen on TV before. Following a group of highly trained operatives on deadly secret missions, “The Sandbaggers” went places few shows did at the time. Because Machintosh was a government employee at the time, he had to submit each of his scripts for review. Several episodes were pulled and were labeled “missing” because they contained sensitive marital.
Machintosh was the sole writer on “The Sandbaggers.” During the third season, he was on vacation with his girlfriend and friend in Alaska when his single engine plane went down. The wreckage was never found.
There has been plenty of mystery surrounding Machintosh’s death. His plane went down in area that was not monitored by either the United States or Russia. Also, he made a stop at an abandoned airfield just before the crash. Had Machtinosh still been a spy while also writing a TV show!? Did a hostile government fear he knew too much?! We will sadly never know.
The producers of “The Sandbaggers” decided not to carry on with the program after losing its only writer.
We assume Machintosh faked his own death, assumed a secret identity, and is pumping out hit TV shows in an underground bunker.