Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979)

TV Mini-Series  |   |  Drama, Thriller
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In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced out of semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6's echelons.

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Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 4 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »
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Series cast summary:
 George Smiley (7 episodes, 1979)
 Peter Guillam (7 episodes, 1979)
Anthony Bate ...
 Sir Oliver Lacon / ... (7 episodes, 1979)
George Sewell ...
 Mendel (7 episodes, 1979)
Bernard Hepton ...
 Toby Esterhase (5 episodes, 1979)
 Bill Haydon (5 episodes, 1979)
Hywel Bennett ...
 Ricki Tarr (5 episodes, 1979)
Terence Rigby ...
 Roy Bland (4 episodes, 1979)
 Jim Prideaux (4 episodes, 1979)
Michael Aldridge ...
 Percy Alleline (4 episodes, 1979)
Alec Sabin ...
 Fawn (4 episodes, 1979)
 Control (3 episodes, 1979)
Duncan Jones ...
 Roach (3 episodes, 1979)
Daniel Beecher ...
 Spikely (3 episodes, 1979)
John Wells ...
 Headmaster (2 episodes, 1979)
Frank Compton ...
 Bryant (2 episodes, 1979)
Frank Moorey ...
 Lauda Strickland (2 episodes, 1979)


George Smiley has been retired for about a year when he finds a friend from the Circus, his old outfit in British Intelligence, sitting in his living room. He is taken to the home of an advisor to the Prime Minister on intelligence matters, where he finds evidence that one of the men in the senior ranks of his old agency is a Russian spy. Smiley is asked to find him, without official access to any of the files in the Circus or letting on that anyone is under suspicion. With only a few old friends, his own powers of deduction, and secrecy as weapons, Smiley must unearth the spy who turned him out of the Circus. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Thriller

Parents Guide:





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Release Date:

29 September 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Az áruló  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (7 parts)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


While talking to Smiley about his encounter with Toby Esterhase, Ian Bannen's character Jim Prideaux says "He (Esterhase) said the Circus had nearly gone under due to Operation Testify and I'm currently the number one leper..." Years later, Bannen played a leper in Braveheart (1995). See more »


In episode 2, when Ricki Tarr meets Tufty Thessinger to send a cable, the ends of Tufty's tie are even. A few minutes later, the little end hangs 2 inches lower than the fat end. See more »


Bill Haydon: Got a rabbit to pull out of your hat, Percy? You've got that Britain-can-make-it look about you. Very intimidating.
See more »

Crazy Credits

In the closing credits, the church prayer "Nunc dimittis" is played. This prayer describes Simeon's wish to depart this world after having witnessed the newborn Messiah. In context, this theme is used to bid farewell to the viewer. See more »


Referenced in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Past Prologue (1993) See more »


Nunc Dimittis
Composed by Geoffrey Burgon
Sung by Paul Phoenix and the Boys of the St Paul's Cathedral Choir
See more »

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User Reviews

29 January 2003 | by (London,England) – See all my reviews

The book by John Le Carre is intricate and multi layered and to attempt to film it was brave of the BBC. One wishes they had such courage these days, but that is another story. It is a television masterpiece.

The acting is superb. Alec Guinness was made for the part of George Smiley. From his opening scene in a London bookshop to the last shot of his face he is mesmerising. The supporting cast are the cream of British actors at the time. Some of them only have one scene like John Standing, Beryl Reid, Joss Ackland and Nigel Stock but they become real people before your eyes. Ian Bannen as Jim Prideaux is particularly moving and Hewyl Bennett gives the performance of his life.Even the actors who don't say anything look just right.

It is plainly filmed but that adds to the atmosphere. On the face of it life is normal and ordinary but beneath there is betrayal, anguish, danger and pain. The motif of Russian dolls in the opening credits is good. Dolls with faces, then one without and then an emptiness. In the end Smiley solves the mystery but the mystery of life is beyond him.

The music is great,sparse but edgy. I can watch this time and again and still get something out of it.

66 of 71 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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