Acclaimed adaptation of John le Carre's novel about spy George Smiley, who is recalled from retirement.
Runtime: 50 minutes
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Karla (character) - Netflix
Karla is a recurring character in the works of John le Carré. A Soviet Intelligence officer, he is the head of Moscow Centre, le Carré's fictional version of the KGB, and the nemesis of le Carré's frequent protagonist George Smiley. Karla is nominally an unseen character who operates either through functionaries, hitmen, or by turning his enemies into double agents. Although other characters recount their past meetings with him, he only appears once during the events of the books. His real name is never revealed; instead, he takes his code name from that of the first spy network that he recruited. Karla is the central antagonist in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy, and Smiley's People, three novels which were later published as a single omnibus edition entitled Smiley Versus Karla or The Quest for Karla in the US. In the BBC's television adaptations of both Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smiley's People, Karla is played by British actor Patrick Stewart. Karla is only seen briefly in one scene in each production and does not speak.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - Fictional biography - Netflix
Much of Karla's history is unconfirmed rumour, passed by Smiley to his protégé Peter Guillam. Among the rumours are: that his father was a professional intelligence officer, first for the Czarist Okhrana and later for the Bolshevist Cheka; that as a boy Karla worked as a kitchen boy on a train in occupied Siberia during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905 (putting his birth somewhere in the late 19th century); and that he was trained in espionage by “Berg” (a possible reference to an alias used by Alexander Mikhailovich Orlov), which Smiley compares to “being taught music by a great composer.” The first recorded Karla activities came during the Spanish Civil War, when he entered Franco's fascist Spain posing as a White Russian journalist (i.e., an anti-Communist Russian), and recruited a large number of German agents. The network was code-named “Karla”, and the agent was later known only by that name. It was an outstanding achievement for such a young man and would become characteristic of Karla in the series. He next appeared during the German invasion of Russia, running networks of partisans behind German lines. He discovered that his radio operator was a double agent for the Germans and so fed him false information that confused the Germans. According to one legend, at “Yelnya”, Karla caused the Germans to shell their own forward line (presumably a reference to either the Yelnya Offensive during the first Battle of Smolensk, or the second Battle of Smolensk). During his years as a field agent, Karla traveled in several countries, recruiting agents who would later become highly placed in their respective national regimes. He traveled to England in 1936 and 1941 and recruited Bill Haydon, code-named “Gerald”, who eventually became the number-two-man in the “Circus” (the British Secret Intelligence Service). At another time he recruited Nelson Ko, a high-ranking technocrat in the People's Republic of China (according to Connie Sachs, Karla was one of the few Soviets to predict the souring of Sino-Soviet relations). In 1948, Karla was snagged in one of Stalin's random purges of the Soviet military and intelligence organisations and sent to prison in Siberia. His wife, a student from Leningrad, killed herself. However, Karla served his time and returned to intelligence work; the experience did nothing to dull his devotion to the Communist cause. In 1951, while setting up a network in California under the name “Gerstmann,” Karla was unexpectedly caught when his radio codes were broken. Though he escaped the United States, he was arrested in Delhi on his way back to Moscow and tortured by the CIA. After he proved impossible to crack, the CIA turned him over to Smiley, who attempted to use reason to get Karla to defect to the United Kingdom. Smiley felt that his case was ironclad: Karla's superiors at Moscow Centre were clearly looking to make him the scapegoat for the failure in California, and he was facing certain execution. Rather than giving in, Karla instead studied Smiley's words for signs of a hidden weakness, correctly deducing Smiley's insecurity regarding his unfaithful wife, Ann. Ultimately, Karla agreed to return to the Soviet Union, stealing Smiley's lighter prior to departure. He returned to Moscow and somehow contrived to have his superiors dismissed and executed, with himself appointed in their place. After being promoted away from active fieldwork, Karla sought to create his own independent apparatus inside Moscow Centre, believing that his personal agents were too important to leave to others. After several years, he finally became senior enough to create this apparatus (named in Smiley's People as the Thirteenth Directorate). He founded a special camp outside Moscow (towards Kiev) and trained a selection of handpicked men (usually ex-military officers) to act as handlers of his various moles. Among his most valuable moles was Bill Haydon, a high-ranking MI6 agent.