A Perfect Spy (1987)

TV Mini-Series  -   -  Thriller
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 414 users  
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This is the story of Magnus Pym, from his childhood to the end of his career in middle age. As a young man, there is little doubt that his father Rick was the most influential character in ... See full summary »

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Title: A Perfect Spy (1987– )

A Perfect Spy (1987– ) on IMDb 7.6/10

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Nominated for 2 Primetime Emmys. Another 1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »


Series cast summary:
 Rick Pym (6 episodes, 1987)
Rüdiger Weigang ...
 Axel (6 episodes, 1987)
 Jack Brotherhood (6 episodes, 1987)
 Magnus Pym (5 episodes, 1987)
Jane Booker ...
 Mary Pym / ... (5 episodes, 1987)
Tim Healy ...
 Syd Lemon (5 episodes, 1987)
 Miss Dubber (3 episodes, 1987)
Andy de la Tour ...
 Muspole (3 episodes, 1987)
Jack Ellis ...
 Perce Loft (3 episodes, 1987)
 Magnus Pym (2 episodes, 1987)
Leonard Preston ...
 Fergus (2 episodes, 1987)
Sarah Bullen ...
 Kate (2 episodes, 1987)
Madeline Church ...
 Georgie (2 episodes, 1987)
Paul Daneman ...
 Bo Brammell (2 episodes, 1987)
Peter Sands ...
 Nigel (2 episodes, 1987)
Lesley Nightingale ...
 Sabina (2 episodes, 1987)
Ian Thompson ...
 Police Superintendant / ... (2 episodes, 1987)


This is the story of Magnus Pym, from his childhood to the end of his career in middle age. As a young man, there is little doubt that his father Rick was the most influential character in his life. Rick was a raconteur, con man, thief, black marketer and all in all, simply larger than life. From a young age, Rick included Magnus in his schemes and the young man learned that you would do anything for the ones you love. When a university student in Switzerland, Pym meets the other person who will have the greatest influence in his life, Axel, a Czech refugee. As Pym enters his career in the British Secret Service, his relationship with Axel and the values he developed in childhood lead him down his own path of betrayal and loyalty. Written by garykmcd

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Release Date:

4 November 1987 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

A Perfect Spy  »

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(7 parts)

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Did You Know?


This BBC mini-series from a John le Carré novel was the first one not to star Alec Guinness. It was also the first one not to feature le Carré's famous George Smiley character which was played by Guinness. See more »

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User Reviews

A Trip Down The Secret Path
31 March 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

As a fan of author John le Carre I've slowly been working my way through both his books and the adaptations of them. I found this 1987 adaptation of le Carre's masterwork at my local library and sat down to watch it thinking I would know what to expect. I was surprised to discover that my expectations were exceeded in this miniseries, a fine cross between a spy thriller and a human drama.

Peter Egan gives a great performance as Magnus Pym, the perfect spy of the title. Carrying on in the long tradition of le Carre's strong main characters, Pym is also quite possibly the best. Egan plays Pym (who in fact contains many shades of author le Carre) as a man forced to spend his entire life lying and betraying sometimes out of circumstance and other times just to survive with the consequence of him becoming "a perfect spy". Egan plays Pym to perfection as a man always on the run, if not from others then from himself. Egan alone makes the six or so hours of this miniseries worth seeing from his performance alone.

Surronding Egan is a fantastic supporting cast. Ray McAnally gives one of his finest performances as Pym's con man father Rick who (as le Carre has said) is based strongly on the author's own father. McAnally plays a man who comes in and out of Pym's life and is one of the those responsible for Pym becoming "a perfect spy". In fact if it wasn't for McAnally's performance a year after this in A Very British Coup this would the finest performance of his sadly too short career.

The rest of the supporting is excellent as well. From Caroline John as Pym's mother to Alan Howard as his spy mentor to Rüdiger Weigang as the young Pym's friend turned controller to Jane Booker as Pym's wife the supporting cast is fantastic. Special mention should be made of the three young actors who played the younger Pym (Jonathan Haley, Nicholas Haley and Benedict Taylor) who establish the young man who would become the man played so well By Peter Egan.

The production values of the miniseries are strong as well. As the miniseries adaptations of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley's People proved these stories can only be told in miniseries format. The locations are excellent from the English locations to the those scattered across Eastern Europe and the USA as are the sets by Chris Edwards. The cinematography of Elmer Cossey adds an extra layer of realism to the world of the miniseries. Yet the highlight of the miniseries is really the script.

Screenwrtier Arthur Hopcraft tackled the job of adapting the six hundred or so page novel excellently. The novel was largely (at least in its early parts) autobiographical in that Pym's early life echoed much of John le Carre's life. The script for this miniseries is no exception as it traces the development of Magnus Pym from young boy to "a perfect spy". Never once does the miniseries deviate from its purpose of telling a fine human drama in the context of the world of espionage. If one ever wants proof that a spy thriller can be tense and fascinating without ever having one gun fight, fist fight, or James Bond style car chase this would be the proof. While the miniseries is six plus hours long it never wastes a moment and it all the better for it.

Though it might be overlong for some for those who don't have very short attention spans here is a must see. From the performances of Peter Egan and Ray McAnally to fine production values and a fine literary script A Perfect Spy is one of the finest miniseries who can expect to see. It is a fascinating trip down the history of the Cold War yet it is more then that. It is also a trip down what John le Carre has called "the secret path": the path of the spy the man who must lie and betray to survive. As much a human drama as a spy thriller A Perfect Spy isn't to be missed.

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