Reilly, Ace of Spies

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.

Reilly, Ace of Spies
Sam Neill portraying Sidney Reilly in the television mini-series, Reilly, Ace of Spies (1983).
Based onAce of Spies by Robin Bruce Lockhart
Screenplay byTroy Kennedy Martin
Directed byMartin Campbell
Jim Goddard
StarringSam Neill
Jeananne Crowley
Leo McKern
Tom Bell
Kenneth Cranham
Norman Rodway
Theme music composerHarry Rabinowitz
Dmitri Shostakovich (main theme)
No. of episodes12
Producer(s)Chris Burt
Johnny Goodman
Verity Lambert
Running time50 min
Original networkITV
Original release5 September 
16 November 1983

The mini series was 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.[1] Sam Neill stars as the eponymous character.[2] The theme music is the romance movement from Dmitri Shostakovich’s The Gadfly Suite, though Shostakovich is not actually credited (Harry Rabinowitz is credited with the music).[3][4]


There are twelve episodes, each approximately 50 minutes in length (the first episode is near 80 minutes).[3]

Title Directed by: Written by: Original air date
1"An Affair with a Married Woman"Jim GoddardTroy Kennedy Martin5 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 CampbellTroy Kennedy Martin7 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 CampbellTroy Kennedy Martin14 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 CampbellTroy Kennedy Martin21 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 GoddardTroy Kennedy Martin28 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 GoddardTroy Kennedy Martin5 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 GoddardTroy Kennedy Martin12 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 GoddardTroy Kennedy Martin19 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 CampbellTroy Kennedy Martin26 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 CampbellTroy Kennedy Martin2 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 GoddardTroy Kennedy Martin9 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 CampbellTroy Kennedy Martin16 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[5]

Best Film Editors:

  • Edward Marnier
  • Ralph Sheldon

Home media

The series was issued on Region 1 DVD by A&E Home Entertainment, under licence from THAMES International, talkbackTHAMES and FremantleMedia Ltd on 22 February 2005.[6]


  1. Billington, Michael (15 January 1984). "A Spy Story Even James Bond Might Envy" via
  2. Corry, John (19 January 1984). "By TV 'REILLY: ACE OF SPIES,' A SERIES" via
  3. "BFI Screenonline: Reilly, Ace of Spies (1983)".
  4. "Harry Rabinowitz | Biography & History". AllMusic.
  5. "1984 Television Craft Film Editor | BAFTA Awards". Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  6. "Reilly, ace of spies". 7 December 2005 via Open WorldCat.

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