‘I’ve got a story to tell you and it’s all about spies, and if it’s true – and I think it is – you boys are going to need a whole new organisation.’ – Ricki Tarr
Alec Guinness, Michael Jayston, Anthony Bate, George Sewell, Sian Phillips, Patrick Stewart, Hywell Bennett, Ian Bannen, Beryl Reid, Josh Ackland
Identikit: George Smiley, watchful, middle-aged, cuckolded intelligence officer, is asked out of enforced retirement to track down a mole at the heart of the British Secret Intelligence Service.
Classic episode: In episode four there is a flashback during which Smiley meets Mr Guestman – actually his arch-rival Karla – in 1941, when the British had him in irons in a Delhi jail. It’s a fine scene between Patrick Stewart and Alec Guinness, during which Karla doesn’t say a word, but we sense it is the Soviet agent – facing a firing squad back home – who still outmanoeuvres the Brit trying to turn him.
Theme music: End credit music was Nunc dimittis by Geoffrey Burgon.
Sequel: Smiley’s People, 1982
Watercooler fact: Before filming, Alec Guinness, who based many of his performances on the observation of real people, asked John Le Carré to introduce him to a real spy. The author took him to lunch with Sir Maurice Oldfield, the former Chief of British Intelligence.