Sleepers: The Complete Series (DVD)

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Sleepers: The Complete Series (DVD)

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Review of "Sleepers: The Complete Series (DVD)"

published 12/01/2017 | 2mennycds
Member since : 28/08/2015
Reviews : 284
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About me :
Sorry for my temporary absence, busy!
Pro Novel, gripping but with droll humour, well acted, far fetched yet credibly portrayed
Cons None for me, though some extras would have been nice
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""I've started dreaming in Russian again...""

Sleepers: The Complete Series (DVD)

Sleepers: The Complete Series (DVD)

Mrs M and I really enjoyed watching this the first time around. It was shown on one of the Freeview channels a few years ago, and we have a DVD recorder hooked up to the television – but we missed the first couple of episodes!

It’s no exaggeration to say that, on and off, we’ve looked out for its release over the years. I was delighted finally to see it – released this autumn, shortly before Christmas. It would be a present that Mrs M would be delighted to receive and that, like the best gifts, could be enjoyed by others, too – notably me!

We’d forgotten much of it but have thoroughly enjoyed watching it again, and we will watch it again and again.

The scenario…

MOSCOW… The old order has gone. In KGB headquarters a surprising discovery is made. Mock English street fronts are peopled by mannequins in 1960s clothing. There are reproduction house rooms decked out with English 1960s furniture and wallpaper – and more mannequins -along with a record player and vacuum cleaner. It’s a former training arena for KGB agents of the Cold War period.

A more remarkable discovery is to follow. An antiquated radio transmitter is switched on. Against all the odds it picks up a signal.


Albert Robinson is happily married with children to Sandra (whom he affectionately calls “squidgy-face”) and has children. He works in a brewery and is a union official. He speaks with a local accent. He has a bizarre past known to only one other man in the UK – and even to few elsewhere.

He is Russian KGB agent Vladimir Zelenski, a “sleeper” sent across to England in the Cold War to merge into her society, to become as English as a Russian could be. To become – to all intents and purposes – an Englishman beyond suspicion in order to be doubly deadly when called upon by Moscow to undertake some mission.

But the years have come and gone without any orders being received, and he has done what professionals call “gone native”. He has actually BECOME English to all intents and purposes.

To his dismay he hears long unheard sounds in his attic, and to his greater horror he sees his daughter looking at the radio. Russian voices speak.

There’s only one thing to do. Contact his fellow agent Sergei Rublev, living as “Jeremy Coward”. Like him, “Jeremy” is fully integrated into English society. He’s a high-flying, well-spoken merchant banker in The City!

The hunt seems to be on. Should they lie low – or surrender to Moscow rather than wait to be apprehended? If “Albert” is tracked down to Eccles, what will happen to his family? But he can’t bear the thought of leaving them, either. No way does “Jeremy” want to give himself up, and lose his £300k salary!

And the hunt IS indeed on. Moscow is keen to track down the men, fearing that they may be rogue agents, acting against the land of their birth. And the British and American secret services are onto what the Russians are doing. They, too, want to move in…

So follows true tension and drama, but peppered by dry humour, as events unfold. As well as a closing net there is lots of barking up wrong trees, too…

The acting

WARREN CLARKE was, to me, a great actor, and I’m a big fan of the police drama “Dalziel And Pascoe” in which he starred. In Sleepers he manages to play his role convincingly (despite its far-fetched plot). He is a great blend of toughness and vulnerability, and brings a fair measure of pathos to his role. When his wife becomes suspicious of his behaviour he exudes pain and the desire to be believed. His interactions with fellow star Nigel Havers are strong, with genuine comradeship and conflict.

NIGEL HAVERS is true to form as the suave, well-heeled City worker and playboy. I find his acting weaker than that of Clarke, but he plays his part well enough, and of course his character (and refined speech) provides the ideal foil to Clarke’s.

MICHAEL GOUGH has a lower key role as former KGB chief Andrei Zorin. His character is confused and rambling – but perhaps he isn’t as crazy as he appears. Not an easy role to play with conviction, but Gough manages it well.

DAVID CALDER similarly delivers a strong role as KGB agent Viktor Chekhov, experienced and shrewd, but perhaps having lost some of his incisiveness, and enjoying the western love of football.

JOANNA KANSKA plays the part of KGB agent Major Nina Grishina. She’s sexy in an ice-maiden sort of way, but tough and ruthless, with an instinct for spotting the significant amidst the trivial. The actor does an adept job of portraying a gifted and ambitious woman in a man’s world. I think it was a clever touch to make her role a female, rather than a male, one.

The plot

I’m giving away no further spoilers. Suffice to say that the plot has numerous twists and turns, and some positively nail-biting moments. There’s also tension and poignancy as “Albert’s” wife becomes increasingly suspicious and anxious about her husband. As mentioned already, though, I like the droll humour that’s interwoven, both in the acting and the script (for example, one young Russian invites his fellow agent out for “a traditional English curry”).

I feel that the production is pretty much optimum length, too. To me it’s long enough to allow the plot and characters to develop, and to allow the plot to be assimilated, without being long, drawn-out and boring.

Sorry – I can’t say any more than this!

The sound and picture quality

This isn’t a high definition production, but I find both the sound and picture quality adequate. In fact I sometimes feel that dramas based a few decades ago have an added ambience if they are comparatively low definition.

Thankfully, this production is free from extreme variations in sound volume that is becoming increasingly common. I hate having to turn the volume up to catch near-whispers only to be half-deafened moments later when voices are raised in anger.

The script

At times in the early episodes there is speech in Russian with subtitles – a convincing touch that helps to set the scene.

As mentioned above, the script is clever and witty, with some great droll humour as well as poignant passages.

Value for money?

I reckon £16.00 or so is good value for 220 minutes of entertainment, especially when it’s a series that we will watch many times.

Concluding comments

It’s different and perhaps far-fetched. On the other hand we now know that in the Cold War a man in London was killed by a poison-tipped umbrella, and another was poisoned by a radioactive isotope, so maybe the storyline of “Sleepers” is well within the bounds of possibility…


~~~ the novel, if unlikely storyline of two Russian agents who are almost English through and through

~~~ the chalk-and-cheese contrast between Warren Clarke’s and Nigel Havers’ characters

~~~ the twists and turns of the plot, with suspense and red herrings a-plenty

~~~ the droll humour both in the plot and in the script

~~~ the acting, especially of Warren Clarke

~~~ the clever, non-confusing way in which shifts of scene take place

~~~ the opening credits, with black and white footage of Russian and English scenes from the 1960s interwoven and sharply contrasting


~~~ nothing, to be truthful

It’s possible that in a few months’ time the price may drop further, but there again it may not be available for all that long.

There are no extras, which is a slight pity, and for that reason only I’d rate it 4.5 stars, but am happy to round it up to 5 rather than down to 4!

This is currently available from HMV and from Amazon for £15.99 new, and through Amazon’s Marketplace from about £13.60.



Episodes: 4
Duration: 220 minutes
Certificate: 12

Nigel Havers
Warren Clarke
Joanna Kanska
David Calder
Michael Gough

Written by John Flanagan and Andrew McCullough

First broadcast 1991

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Comments on this review

  • GeorgieH1994 published 08/02/2017
    Great review
  • Pointress published 03/02/2017
  • mikemelmak published 24/01/2017
    I'd be interested in this. The guy they so ruthlessly poisoned with the tea lived in a large block of flats in Muswell Hill I know well and his flat was uninhabitable for years after due to the radiation risk.
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Product Information : Sleepers: The Complete Series (DVD)

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Product Details

Actor(s): Nigel Havers, Warren Clarke, David Calder, Michael Gough, Joanna Kanska

Genre: Drama

DVD Region: DVD

Classification: 12 years and over

EAN: 5019322664260


Listed on Ciao since: 04/01/2017