Reilly, Ace of Spies

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Reilly, Ace of Spies
Sidney reilly 8.jpg
Sam Neill portraying Sidney Reilly in the television mini-series, Reilly, Ace of Spies (1983).
Based on Ace of Spies by Robin Bruce Lockhart
Screenplay by Troy Kennedy Martin
Directed by Martin Campbell
Jim Goddard
Starring Sam Neill
Jeananne Crowley
Leo McKern
Tom Bell
Kenneth Cranham
Norman Rodway
Theme music composer Harry Rabinowitz
Dmitri Shostakovich (main theme)
No. of episodes 12
Producer(s) Chris Burt
Johnny Goodman
Verity Lambert
Running time 50 min
Original network ITV
Original release 5 September 1983

Reilly, Ace of Spies is a 1983 television miniseries dramatizing the life of Sidney Reilly, a Russian Jew who became one of the greatest spies ever to work for the British. Among his exploits, in the early 20th century, were the infiltration of the German General Staff in 1917 and a near-overthrow of the Bolsheviks in 1918. His reputation with women was as legendary as his genius for espionage.

The mini series is written by Troy Kennedy Martin, and based on the 1967 book Ace of Spies by Robin Bruce Lockhart, whose father R. H. Bruce Lockhart was one of Reilly's fellow spies. Sam Neill stars as the title character. The theme music is the Romance movement from Dmitri Shostakovich’s The Gadfly Suite.


There are twelve episodes, each approximately 50 minutes in length (the first episode is near 80 minutes).

Title Directed by: Written by: Original air date
1 "An Affair with a Married Woman" Jim Goddard Troy Kennedy Martin 5 September 1983 (1983-09-05)
1901: Professor Sydney Rosenblum is taken from a train and held under unofficial arrest in a provincial Russian village, suspected of stealing confidential oil surveys. The young wife of an elderly vicar may hold the secret to his escape.
2 "Prelude to War" Martin Campbell Troy Kennedy Martin 7 September 1983 (1983-09-07)
1904: Reilly is stationed in Port Arthur and forced to help the Japanese, against his better judgement, in taking the port from the Russians. As a mass evacuation gets under way, Reilly’s plans are put at risk by a soft-spoken detective.
3 "The Visiting Fireman" Martin Campbell Troy Kennedy Martin 14 September 1983 (1983-09-14)
1905: A British operation to steal German ship plans is in danger of being uncovered. Zaharov wants the plans and Cummings wants a compromised agent saved, but Reilly decides on a unique approach to the problem.
4 "Anna" Martin Campbell Troy Kennedy Martin 21 September 1983 (1983-09-21)
1906: Reilly’s search for Margaret takes him to Paris, where Cummings forces him into helping secure an oil contract from an Australian who may sell to the Rothschilds. An unexpected turn of events reunites Reilly with his sister.
5 "Dreadnoughts and Crosses" Jim Goddard Troy Kennedy Martin 28 September 1983 (1983-09-28)
1910: Apparently now working for the Germans in Russia, Reilly is to bid on their behalf for a valuable weapons contract, giving him a chance to finally get his revenge on Zaharov.
6 "Dreadnoughts and Doublecrosses" Jim Goddard Troy Kennedy Martin 5 October 1983 (1983-10-05)
1910: Reilly’s winning of the weapons contract depends on his marriage to a Russian Countess. Unfortunately, Margaret’s reappearance, engineered by Zaharov, threatens to ruin everything.
7 "Gambit" Jim Goddard Troy Kennedy Martin 12 October 1983 (1983-10-12)
1918: Back in Russia, Reilly is tasked with appealing with the Bolsheviks to end their peace treaty with Germany and return to the war. When Lenin refuses, he sets in motion a plan to overthrow the government and place himself in power.
8 "Endgame" Jim Goddard Troy Kennedy Martin 19 October 1983 (1983-10-19)
1918: Reilly’s plans come under strain when the British fail to give Savinkov the promised military support and Dzerzhinsky scuppers plans to assassinate Lenin. But then unexpected events change everything.
9 "After Moscow" Martin Campbell Troy Kennedy Martin 26 October 1983 (1983-10-26)
1918: Reilly and his friends filter back to Britain and face questioning from an official enquiry. As Lenin's condition becomes stable, both Reilly and Dzerzhinsky plan their next moves.
10 "The Trust" Martin Campbell Troy Kennedy Martin 2 November 1983 (1983-11-02)
1924: Reilly is in exile in New York drumming up support and money for Savinkov’s anti-bolshevik movement. A new organisation, the Trust, campaigns for Savinkov’s return, but Reilly suspects that Dzerzhinsky is behind them.
11 "The Last Journey" Jim Goddard Troy Kennedy Martin 9 November 1983 (1983-11-09)
1925: Reilly’s propaganda war against the Trust has gone well enough for them to reach out and invite him to Russia. He hopes to finally undermine Dzerzhinsky’s operation, but Dzerzhinsky is already under scrutiny from Stalin.
12 "Shutdown" Martin Campbell Troy Kennedy Martin 16 November 1983 (1983-11-16)
1925: Reilly has been arrested and is subjected to interrogation and torture. Back in Britain, Pepita fights to find out the truth while Cummings campaigns for his release. As Dzerzhinsky’s whole operation is put under threat, a last minute deal is attempted.



Won 1984 BAFTA TV Award

Best Film Editors:

  • Edward Marnier
  • Ralph Sheldon

Home media[edit]

The series was issued on DVD by A&E Home Video on 22 February 2005.

External links[edit]