Peaky Blinders' sixth and final season may be the big Sunday night series on the BBC right now. However, it's got up-and-coming competition as ITV has debuted The Ipcress File opposite it, the new series based on the Len Deighton novel, which became a global bestseller after Hollywood made it into a movie starring Michael Caine in 1965. The new series, adapted by Oscar-nominated and BAFTA award-winning screenwriter John Hodge (Trainspotting), only just debuted in the U.K. Still, its premiere was neck and neck with Peaky Blinders — a head-to-head made all the more interesting as the new series stars Peaky Blinders alum Joe Cole in the Caine role as spy Harry Palmer.
The reviews of the new six-part Berlin-set The Ipcress File series suggest it is as good as the hit 1965 film (which spawned multiple sequels). The Guardian notes Deighton's original "snarling class politics" have transferred well into the new series, with Palmer cleaning up after a bunch of posh schoolboy politicos. Deighton initially created Palmer as a hard-boiled working-class spy as an antidote to 007's wealthy, connected public schoolboy after being fired from a writing gig on the James Bond film, From Russia With Love.
The original novel (and the film) revolves around nuclear arms testing and mind control. (IPCRESS stands for "Induction of Psycho-neuroses by Conditioned Reflex under Stress," and yes, that does have a bit of a "someone really wanted our initials to spell out "S.H.I.E.L.D." flavor to it. Blame the 1950s.) The new series has updated the story for the modern audience — the female characters are more well-rounded and have things to do, for example — but the main plot remains the same with Russia abducting scientists and a Cold War about to explode into a hot one. (It also has the unfortunate circumstances of being far more timely than anyone imagines when it was filmed last year.)
Here's the series synopsis:
The enthralling and atmospheric drama stars iconic British spy Harry Palmer. The twist-laden spy thriller offers a stylish and tense tale of abducted scientists, brainwashing, inter-departmental rivalry, treason, and a possibly unwise romance. Set in Berlin and London during the 1960s, The Ipcress File follows Harry Palmer – a British army sergeant on the make in Berlin during the height of the Cold War. In the newly partitioned city, a sharp working-class young man with sophisticated tastes can make a lot of money. Wholesaler, retailer, fixer, smuggler -- Harry's varied interests bring him into contact with everything and everyone – until the law catches up and it all comes crashing to a halt.
The series' main stars are Cole as Palmer, Lucy Boynton (Why Didn't They Ask Evans) as love interest Jean Courtney, and Tom Hollander (Us) as Palmer's boss, Major Dalby. The series also features Paul Bazely (The Hollow Crown), Petar Cvirn (Before We Die), Ashley Thomas (The Night Of), Tamla Kari (Britannia), David Dencik (Chernobyl), Nora-Jane Noone (Wildfire), and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (Dublin Murders).
The head-to-head will continue for the next month across the pond. But for fans of both series, it's going to be a long wait before they head across the pond. Peaky Blinders does not yet have a U.S release date on Netflix. However, looking at how long it took Season 5 to make the jump to American streaming after its U.K. run, fans are probably looking at a six-month wait or more before seeing the series finale arrive over here. As for The Ipcress File, all episodes will be coming to AMC+, as previously announced at the end of last year, with a late spring berth.
Though The Ipcress File does not have an exact arrival date (nor an assurance of a weekly release schedule), it is currently slated to arrive sometime in May 2022.