The Ipcress File is a British cold war spy thriller television series set in 1963. Written by John Hodge and directed by James Watkins, it stars Joe Cole, Lucy Boynton and Tom Hollander.
The series is a very loose adaptation of the 1962 novel The IPCRESS File by Len Deighton. The story has been extensively reworked, with plot and some characters radically altered and a lot of new material added, making the TV series significantly different from Deighton’s original.
The series is also influenced by the 1965 film, most obviously by adopting the “Harry Palmer” and “Jean Courtney” character names coined for the film.
Spy chief Major Dalby gives small-time crook and black-marketeer Corporal Harry Palmer a way out of Colchester Military Prison by offering him a job as an intelligence officer in his small but influential Whitehall security unit, WOOC(P).
The unit’s investigation into a missing British nuclear scientist expands into a case of international espionage which is documented in the contents of the eponymous “IPCRESS File”.
WOOC(P) is a (fictional) civilian department of the British intelligence community, reporting directly to the Cabinet. In the novel it is described as “one of the smallest and most important of the intelligence units” but it is never stated exactly what the initials stand for, only that it is ‘provisional’. In episode 1 of the series Dalby states that the unit is called ‘War Office Operational Communications (Provisional)’ and enjoys the fact that both MI5 and MI6 are envious of it.
- Joe Cole as Harry Palmer, a WOOC(P) intelligence officer.
- Lucy Boynton as Jean Courtney, a WOOC(P) intelligence officer.
- Tom Hollander as Major Dalby, director of WOOC(P).
- Joshua James as Philip “Chico” Chillcott-Oakes, a WOOC(P) intelligence officer.
- Anastasia Hille as Alice, a WOOC(P) intelligence officer.
- Ashley Thomas as Paul Maddox, a CIA intelligence officer.
- David Dencik as Colonel Gregor Stok, a senior Soviet intelligence officer.
- Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as General Cathcart, a senior US military commander.
- Paul Higgins as Douglas Campbell MP, Minister of Defence at the pre-1964 Ministry of Defence (MoD).
- Matthew Steer as Professor Dawson, British nuclear physicist.
- Tamla Kari as Deborah, Palmer’s ex-wife.
- Anna Geislerová as Dr. Polina Lavotchkin, Russian physicist and defector to the West.
- Corey Johnson as Capt. Skip Henderson, US military.
- Mark Quartley as Pete, Deborah’s new husband.
- Chris Lew Kum Hoi as Lin Hai.
- Nora-Jane Noone as Dr. Karen Newton, American psychiatrist.
ITV commissioned the series in December 2020. Filming on the series began in March 2021 in Liverpool and Shrewsbury. Further locations in Croatia were used, including Zagreb (King Tomislav Square and the Archaeological Museum), Split, Rijeka and Opatija.
- Visually, director James Watkins makes several nods to the directing of Sidney J. Furie, with regular use of angled camera work, and in places borrows almost shot-for-shot the framing of certain scenes.
- One of the most recognisable homages to the film is during the opening sequence in episode 1, featuring coffee grinding and coffee making, and the very first opening shot of Palmer’s glasses. Watkins said “[It was a] little wink … the gaze is out of focus and then it finds focus when he puts the glasses on.”
The Ipcress File Series
Production & Filming Details
- James Watkins … (6 episodes, 2022).
- Tara Finegan … executive music producer (6 episodes, 2022).
- Andrew Bonner … line producer (1 episode, 2022).
- Will Clarke … executive producer (1 episode, 2022).
- Jenny Farrent … line producer: second unit (1 episode, 2022).
- John Hodge … executive producer (1 episode, 2022).
- Sanford Lieberson … executive producer (1 episode, 2022).
- Andy Mayson … executive producer (1 episode, 2022).
- Paul Ritchie … producer (1 episode, 2022).
- Steven Saltzman … executive producer (1 episode, 2022).
- James Watkins … executive producer (1 episode, 2022).
- Andrew Eaton … executive producer (unknown episodes).
- Len Deighton … (novel) (6 episodes, 2022).
- John Hodge … (6 episodes, 2022).
- Tom Hodge … (6 episodes, 2022).
- Stuart Gazzard … (6 episodes, 2022).
- Altitude Television.
- Filmgate Films.
- ITV Studios (in association with).
- Turbine Studios.
- Sveriges Television (SVT) (2022) (Sweden) (TV) (Also streaming).
- Release Date: 06 March 2022 to 10 April 2022.
- Rating: Unknown.
- Running Time: 60 minutes (per episode).
- Country: UK.
- Language: English.