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Game Set and Match (ITV Thriller, Ian Holm, Mel Martin)



Excellent downbeat spy drama series Game Set and Match was based on a trilogy of novels by Len Deighton. The 13 parter sees semi retired secret agent Bernard Samson (Ian Holm) drawn back into active service after the agency (known as The Brahms Network) he helped set up is compromised. He finds that his old East German nemesis Werner Volkmann (Michael Degen) and his wife, KGB agent Fiona (Mel Martin) are also involved.

Based on Berlin Game, Mexico Set and London Match this expensive series filmed extensively in all three locations and was superbly cast. Surprisingly it failed to strike a chord with the viewing audience and was considered something of a failure. Reviewing the show in the Evening Post (Friday 7 Oct 1988) critic Linton Mitchell felt the series opener feature length episode was too much of a slow burn and that the pace of the series had perhaps been slowed down as part of the “George Smiley” effect – Le Carre’s spy dramas had been a major hit on the BBC and it’s true they did have a somewhat languorous feel.

Meanwhile Jeremy Jehu in The Stage (Oct 6 1988) felt that the production veered away too much from the source material “it is not until the end of the second hour long episode that the plot reaches the first page of Berlin Game, the first book.” Jehu also felt that Holm made for an unsuitable Sansom saying “Holm hauls himself around like a man who has just discovered that he had a week to live seven days ago.”

The series did manage a few firsts during the making of the series. The crew were the first to be allowed to film at Mexico City’s military shrine Chapaultepec and also the first to film a drama sequence at Mexico’s National Palace. In Berlin they were also allowed to film at Checkpoint Charlie. Although not all location filming was quite so close to reality. A 700 foot long stretch of Russian wall complete with watchtowers, razor wire, infrastructure etc was actually built in Cheshire.

Cast: IAN HOLM as Bernard Samson; MEL MARTIN as Fiona Samson; AMANDA DONOHOE as Gloria Kent; MICHAEL CULVER as Dicky Cruyes; PETER VAUGHAN as David Kimber-Hutchinson; JEREMY CHILD as Henry Tiptree; MICHAEL ALDRIDGE as Silas Gaunt; GOTTFRIED JOHN as Erich Stinnes; MICHAEL DEGEN as Werner Volkmann; ANTHONY BATE as Bret Rensselaer; FREDERICK TREVES as Frank Harrington; JOHN WHEATLEY as Julian McKenzie; STRUAN RODGER as Morgan; BRIGITTE KARNER as Zena Volkmann

Writer: John Howlett / Novels: Len Deighton / Producer: Brian Armstrong

UK / ITV Network – Granada / 1×100 minute episode 11×50 minute episodes / 3 October – 19 December 1988

1/2. BERLIN GAME PARTS 1 AND 2 (3 Oct 1988)
3. BERLIN GAME PART 3 (10 Oct 1988)
4. BERLIN GAME PART 4 (17 Oct 1988)
5. BERLIN GAME PART 5 (24 Oct 1988)
6. MEXICO SET PART 1 (31 Oct 1988)
7. MEXICO SET PART 2 (7 Nov 1988)
8. MEXICO SET PART 3 (14 Nov 1988)
9. MEXICO SET PART 4 (21 Nov 1988)
10. MEXICO SET PART 5 (28 Nov 1988)
11. LONDON MATCH PART 1 (5 Dec 1988)
12. LONDON MATCH PART 2 (12 Dec 1988)
13. LONDON MATCH PART 3 (19 Dec 1988)