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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Top Rated TV #137 | 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)
 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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The acclaimed BBC production of John le Carré's classic spy story. See more »


Drama | Thriller


TV-14 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





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Release Date:

29 September 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

König, Dame, As, Spion  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (7 parts)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The two actors who have both played Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars film franchise, English actors Ewan McGregor and Alec Guinness, have now both also appeared in filmed adaptations of novels by John le Carré. McGregor appears in Our Kind of Traitor (2016) while Guinness starred in the original Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979) television series. See more »


In episode 6, when Peter Guillam is testing the taping system at the safe house, he says the recorder is voice-activated, but it doesn't stop turning on his first silent pause, which is much longer than his second and third pauses, when it stops instantly. 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 »


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

An outstanding dramatization of a brilliant book
29 December 1998 | by (Melbourne, Australia) – See all my reviews

It is rare that an adaptation of a complex novel translates well to the small screen. Often detail is eliminated for sake of time and the plot loses aspects that are key to the real story.

The team of John Le Carre and John Irvin has created what may go down as the benchmark for the Spy story mini series. In six hours of television they lay out piece by piece the background of each of the characters in a slow and gentle manner enabling the viewer to capture a sense of both the person and the time in which they are placed.

Irvin permits the story to move in a 'typical English manner', with George Smiley, the principal character almost rolling along from one event to another. Alec Guinness is outstanding in this role and it seems the it was either written with him in mind or he was born for it. I suspect the later is more likely. Smiley and his quirks are key to unravelling what is a complex plot with the usual twists and turns of they spy genre.

The casting of the rest of the players is equally superb with an ensemble performance by the who's who of the English stage. The goodies are all flawed people while the badies, many of who are within the British Secret Intelligence Service, are bad in the way that only the English can truly be to each other.

If you enjoy Le Carre and are prepared to put in 6 hours to view the entire series you you will be richly rewarded.

28 of 30 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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