Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is proof that novels are better dramatised in TV series than in films. From the opening scene where the four chief suspects character's are shown in a meeting, (pompous, prissy, cynical and slobbish), we begin to descend into the murky world of espionage and counter espionage. George Smiley (Alec Guiness) is pulled out of retirement to secretly investigate a mole in the upper echelons of the security community. With blind trails and missing paper chains, he must rely on his memory and his old contacts to uncover the traitor.
This is anything but a blockbuster, with no car chases or wiz-bangs on screen. Instead there is the methodical and dogged methods of a sphinx-like master of the dark arts of intelligence. Smiley's nemesis is the shadowy Soviet spy-master, Karla, played silently but mesmerically by Patrick Stewart. The joy in this series is in the acting, script and direction, which draws out tension from hints and half-truths. This is surely one of the greatest ever TV dramas. Try to spot and name the actors making early screen appearances, such as a camp Warren Clarke!
On 2 DVDs, through seven episodes, the story leads to the unmasking of the traitor and to the heart of Smiley's relationships, both professional and personal. You cannot warm to Smiley, but you cannot help admire his intellect and dedication. The quality, both picture and sound, is very fair, but there are no extras, so you will just have to make do with this most intriguing drama as it was broadcast.