The 1983 miniseries Reilly Ace of Spies dramatizes the life of Sidney Reilly who helped inspire Ian Fleming’s fictional spy James Bond. Based on the 1967 book of the same name by Robin Bruce Lockhart, the miniseries starred Sam Neil as Sydney Reilly. It is a masterful performance and likely increased his fame as a result. The problem with the miniseries is that if you read the book, too much creative license was employed in dramatizing the stories. Sometimes that can be good but it changes the tenor of the stories and changes things in ways that do not make sense.
It is however a very entertaining series if you just see it as creative fiction. Sam Neill plays Reilly well. One of the problems is that Reilly is a dark character. He could be charming, clever, and could acquire intelligence quite well when needed. He was also unscrupulous, ruthless, a serial bigamist and womanizer, and a murderer. But his pluses and the ability to speak Russian fluently (along with several other languages)made him a logical choice to be sent to Russia in 1917. And it is those events in Russia that have historical significance.
The theme chosen to open each episode comes from the romance movement of The Gadfly by Dmitri Shostakovich. Personally it seems a bit melancholy for me but considering its setting is well chosen. Reilly’s world is shown through the various photographs that flash before us as the tune plays. The tune sticks with you long after the show ends. This YouTube rendition of the opening uses it owns photos of the period to mimic the opening of the show (which is copyrighted material)along with the music. The last photograph is of Reilly.
I highly recommend reading the original book and then Andrew Cook’s Ace of Spies:The True Story of Sydney Reilly(2004). For in depth look at what British spies did in Russia (including Reilly), Giles Milton’s Russian Roulette: : How British Spies Thwarted Lenin’s Plot for Global Revolution(2013) is excellent.