Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Starring: Alec Guinness, Joss Ackland, Michael Aldridge, Ian Bannen, Anthony Bate, Bernard Hepton and George Sewell
BBC Worldwide
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: PG
Available now

Who can spy on the spies? Some say George Smiley is in innocent retirement. Others say he was sacked after a Czech scandal. But all agree that nobody ever leaves the "circus" without some unfinished business. Brought out of retirement to trace an enemy infiltrator in the department where he was once the prize employee, the shy and retiring master of espionage moves forwards to investigate and finds himself going backwards over very old ground...

After years of work in movies, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy sees Sir Alec Guiness in his first major TV role. Guiness is perfect as the shy, almost innocent (although he is anything but) ex-Secret Intelligence Service member.

The first four episodes, while entertaining enough, are rather slow paced and the story drags considerably because of this. It is only during the fifth episode that things start to get exciting. The final instalment will have you glued to the TV for the duration.

Patrick Stewart, better known these days as portraying Captain Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, turns up in a short, non-speaking role - although the new packaging for this DVD release has his name boldly displayed on the back cover. There are plenty of other familiar faces amongst the cast (including Beryl Reid and Joss Ackland)

No attempt has been made to scrub up the original print - plenty of scratches and dropout still remain. This is a shame as a cleaned up print would have added so much more to this collection.

While this series is extraordinarily well shot and acted, it is unlikely to appeal to anyone who is not already a John Le Carré fan, or at the very least a fan of spy thrillers.

The only extra is a one hour documentary on Le Carré's (AKA David Cornwell) life, although how much of this is true remains to be seen. Le Carré claims that he has forgotten how to lie (surely a lie if ever there was one) and this documentary helps to add more mystery to the man of mystery.

At £15 for two discs this is another fine BBC release.

Nick Smithson

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