British Secret Service: Smiley vs Bond

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The thought has flashed through my mind on more than one occasion as to whether George Smiley or James Bond were better approximations of real-life in the British Secret Service. And it turns out, I wasn’t alone.

Given that Smiley is a downbeat, process-driven pinhead, the conclusion is hardly stunning but the novel version of Bond at least had a crippling backstory worthy of any of today’s TV crime-busting detectives. So, according to a bloke from the British Secret Service, Bond had too many bullets and didn’t follow any rules. Sure thing.

What makes Bond a great hero is precisely the fact that he travels round the world intent on achieving his outcome and he might regret his actions but that never stops him doing his thing. I believe that trope makes him the successful character he undoubtedly is.

In contrast, Smiley knows the rules and follows them, doggedly getting to his goal despite the oppressive nature of the British public school life which drags him down with every step on his journey. And that trope is what makes him the fictional giant he undoubtedly is.

In conclusion: yeah, thought so – but an enjoyable journey to reach this non-conclusion. Nice.