Smiley's People

Season 1 Episode 1

A Mother's Assistance

Aired Unknown Sep 20, 1982 on BBC Two
out of 10
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Episode Summary

A Mother's Assistance
When a Soviet agent makes a peculiar offer to Maria Ostrakova, an exile living in Paris, he attracts the attention of Vladimir, aka The General. Vladimir does some research in the matter and decides he needs to talk to the one man he trusts in the British Secret Service, George Smiley. But then things go horribly wrong.moreless

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  • Somewhat slower than its predecessor.

    Three years after 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' we get the further adventures of George Smiley, though you wouldn't know it if you just watched the first thirty minutes. Smiley, a wonderfully understated performance by Alec Guinness, only appears halfway through this episode.

    The show seems set on confusing its viewers. In the first scene we get a bunch of people talking Russian in a factory. Then one woman leaves the factory and she talks French to a passer-by. Only then do we realise that we're watching a Russian exile in Paris. When she gets approached by a stranger with a sinister accent, we hear a background story full of Russian names. If you have an attention deficit problem, you probably lost interest here.

    The pace goes into a higher gear when we see Curd Jurgens, an international film star, as the mysterious General Vladimir. His dealings with a hopeless inept British Secret Service show that the producers are not afraid to poke fun at that British institution.

    Vladimir's death leads to a gruesome scene with Michael Elphick trying to shock the unflappable Smiley. As usual, Guinness' acting is a lesson in minimalism. The final scenes refer to events in 'Tinker, Tailor'. The producers are confident that the viewers will remember the complex plot of that mini-series.

    In comparison with 'Tinker, Tailor', this show takes longer to get to its central mystery. And the first episode suffers from a (initial) lack of Guinness.moreless
  • What is the connection between a penniless Russian woman in Paris and the brutal murder of an old man in a London park?

    Although it's disconcerting to find characters who are Russian or French or German speaking in English (simply so we'll understand them) when they're supposed to be speaking in their own languages, this is a fine opener for this second John Le Carre spy story. Curt Jurgens, in his final performance (he had died shortly before the first transmission), gives a rivetingly good performance as the stubborn old man who tries to contact George Smiley with news he insists is of shattering importance, only to get most of his face blown off by a close-range bullet. What's going on? Smiley is supposed to be retired, but must investigate. Just as we, in turn, must watch him - as in "Tinker, Tailor", the story proceeds without rush and doesn't worry about mystifying us, and we're hooked all over again.moreless
Eileen Atkins

Eileen Atkins

Madame Ostrakova

Guest Star

Ingrid Pitt

Ingrid Pitt


Guest Star

Anthony Bate

Anthony Bate

Oliver Lacon

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (5)

    • Leipzig: Do you know what we would say in the camps? "Questions are never dangerous. Only the answers."

    • Vladimir: (to the reluctant truck driver) In the making of history, God uses some very strange and inappropriate creatures. You are going to be one of them.

    • Superintendent: Most people expect to be shot in the chest. A neat, round bullet that drills a tasteful hole. It's the television that does it, I suppose. Whereas your modern bullet can tear off an arm or a leg.

    • Smiley: Vladimir was one of the best agents we ever had.
      Strickland: Because he was yours, you mean?
      Smiley: Because he was good.
      Strickland: He was potty.
      Smiley: He was loyal and honourable. In a shifting world, he held fast. So, yes, he was potty.

    • Sir Oliver: The Circus is a weak child still, George. At this stage of its rebirth it could die of the common cold. If it does, your generation will not be least to blame.

  • NOTES (0)


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