Mr. Palfrey of Westminster (TV Series 1984– ) Poster

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Secret Security Operations by Ordinary People
jkorchok2 November 2005
This was an excellent series with a total of ten shows, released in 1984 and aired by PBS in the U.S. in the late 80s. They only ran the shows one time. Too bad! It was the last series written by George Markstein of Danger Man/Secret Agent fame. The situation is of a very small department under the indirect control of an unnamed English female prime minister (hmmmm, who could that be?). This department tackles Mission Impossible-style tasks that cannot be carried out by official means, but they do it with a staff of three (Mr. Palfrey, his secretary and his side-kick) and no high-tech gizmos or budget. How do they do it? Their "dirty tricks" are way more tricky than dirty. Both their subjects and their audience are taken on a ride, often with a surprise ending. My favorite episode was "Return to Sender" (I think that's the name, anyway) about a Russian double-agent who has decided he wants to return home. Mr. Palfrey assignment is to stop by any means necessary. Just when you think you're going to witness the agent's demise, Mr. Palfrey's mastery of psychology saves the day. I don't know how you're ever going to see the series, as repeated requests to the BBC to re-release it have gone nowhere, but if you get a chance, don't pass it up. - January 2005 Six years later: the DVD set is finally available from Acorn media. Well worth the purchase!
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9/10
Thinking person's spy drama
Irving Warner13 June 2011
I think this was an underrated series, and a very brief one it was. The acting and writing are superior to outstanding, and much of the art of its craft comes from the use of language and the consummate acting and directing--in addition to the strong scripts. Alex McCowan as Mr. Palfrey is simply superior--every bit the equal of Alec Guinesses's performance in (was it?) "Smiley's People". Yet the supporting casts are strong too, and worthy of praise--it's just that McCowan's performance is so strong and "right on", regards the character's motivations and overall personality traits, just a few of which are quirky. If you can, take in every one of these--especially if you like a more challenging variety of writing rather than action-oriented material.
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4/10
Cheap production mars potential
JonathanWalford10 December 2012
Somewhere in here there is a good series, but the cheap production values are distracting. The worst is that it is filmed on videotape - a classic drawback to many BBC productions in the 1970s and early 1980s (DVD boxes should come with warnings that the original content was shot on videotape...) Also, although the plots are not transparent, the next scene usually can be anticipated because the writing suffers from predictability and small scenes - intimate discussions between two people in a tiny sitting room or office. This series could be a great candidate for a remake - after a polishing of the script with the addition of a dash of humour to alleviate the drama. Originally filmed in 1984, it could be updated or set in 1984, but with more of an eye to 1984 culture and a tad more tension. If this were a meal I would say its good, but it needs salt and pepper.
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