Smiley's People (TV miniseries)

British television miniseries

Smiley's People is a 1982 television miniseries, in which the murder of a Soviet defector forces his old handler, British spymaster George Smiley, out of retirement. His investigation leads to an old nemesis, the Soviet spymaster known only as "Karla". This will be their final dance. It acts as a sequel to the 1979 miniseries Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

Directed by Simon Langton. Written by John Hopkins, based on John le Carré's novel of the same name.
Smiley and Karla in the final confrontation.

George Smiley

  • (re an antique book on his desk) Oliver, would you mind leaving that alone? It's not mine, and it's worth half the gross national product.
  • (on Guillam's Porsche) What a perfectly revolting little car! How ever will we all fit in?

Toby Esterhase

  • You remember the first rule of retirement, George? No moonlighting, no fooling with loose ends, no private enterprise, ever. You remember who preaches this rule, at Sarratt, in the corridors? George Smiley did. Quote, "When it's over, it's over. Pull down the shutters, go home," unquote. We're over, George. We've got no license. They don't want us anymore.
  • Grigorieva got herself a driving license two months ago. And she's terrible! Terrible, like lousy. You know what Pauli Skordeno says to me? He says, "Toby, I need danger money just to follow that woman."
  • He's so conspicuous he's embarrassing.
  • Well, they like the guy, George. You know how watchers are, it's like or hate all the time. They like him.
  • (on Karla's defection) George, all your life! Fantastic!


  • Saul Enderby: (reading) "Karla's signal referred me to several émigré families who might be persuaded by pressure to adopt such an agent as their own child, since blackmail is considered preferable to bribery." Damn right it is. Cheers. At the present rate of inflation, blackmail's about the only thing that keeps its value.
  • Villem Craven: I ask him, "Vladimir, who knows I do this for you?" "Only Mikhel, a very little," he said. "Mikhel is my friend. But even to friends, we cannot trust." "Enemies I do not fear," he said, "but friends, I fear greatly."


Connie Sachs: Is that booze you're toting in your pocket, or a bloody great gun?
George Smiley: It's fatal either way.
Connie Sachs: Oh, goody, let's have lots!

Toby Esterhase: This an interrogation, George?
George Smiley: You know me, Toby.
Toby Esterhase: Sure I know you. You want matches so you can burn my feet?

Toby Esterhase: George, do me a favor, okay? You want a Hungarian babysitter someday, call me. You go messing around with creeps like Kirov and Leipzig, you better have a creep like Toby look after you. You're an old spy in a hurry, George. You used to say they were the worst.
George Smiley: Oh they are, Toby, they are.

Ferguson: I'm still on the side of the angels.
George Smiley: I didn't know we had any angels.

George Smiley: In my time, Peter Guillam, I've seen Whitehall skirts go up and come down again. I've listened to all the excellent argument for doing nothing, and reaped the consequent frightful harvest. I've watched people hop up and down and call it progress. I've seen good men go to the wall and the idiots get promoted with a dazzling regularity. All I'm left with is me and thirty-odd years of cold war without the option.
Peter Guillam: So what does that mean in little words?
George Smiley: It means that if a rogue elephant, to use Saul Enderby's happy phrase, charges at me out of the thicket of my past and gives me a second shot at it, I intend to shoot it dead - but with the minimum of force.

George Smiley: It's simply a question of whether your Service wants the product. I can't see that anything else is ultimately of very much importance.
Saul Enderby: Can't you, by God! Oh, I want him all right. I want the Mona Lisa, and the Chairman of the Chinese People's Republic, and next year's winner of the Irish Sweep. I want Karla sitting in the hot seat at Sarratt, coughing out his life story to the inquisitors. I want the American Cousins to eat out of my hand for years to come. I want the whole ball game, of course I do.

Saul Enderby: It isn't some wicked Bolshie plot, is it, George, to lure us to our ultimate destruction?
George Smiley: I'm afraid we're no longer worth the candle, Saul.

George Smiley: So how [security] conscious is he?
Toby Esterhase: George, he's Russian, okay? The Russians think the butterflies are spying on them.

George Smiley: So which way will he jump when we hit him?
Toby Esterhase: Burning, George, that's always a hazard, know what I mean? Some guys get heroic and want to die for their countries suddenly. Other guys roll over and lie still the moment you put the arm on them. Burning, that touches the stubbornness in certain people.

Toby Esterhase: Grigoriev has a salad. She has steak and chips, glass of beer, and a slice of cake. George, the guy will fold, believe me! You never had a wife like that.
George Smiley: No, I don't think I ever did.
Toby Esterhase: You think he wants to be locked up in a two-room flat in Moscow with that bitch for the rest of his life? Ha-ha, don't worry.

George Smiley: You are Counselor Anton Grigoriev of the Soviet Embassy in Berne, yes?
Anton Grigoriov: Grigoriev? I am Grigoriev. Yes, well done! I am Grigoriev! And who are you, please? Al Capone? Who are you? And why do you rumble at me like a commissar?

(last lines)
Peter Guillam: George, you won.
George Smiley: Did I? Yes... yes, I suppose I did.



See also