CLIPPed Faces

When I was building the Adam Curtis search engine, I noticed that the combination of CLIP and FAISS was pretty good at coming up with good suggestions for “Tony Blair” and any other figure that you care to name that pops up throughout the documentaries. And I wondered - I’m sure most of these people turn up in the CLIP training set, being historical figures, but how well would it do on somebody that almost certainly wasn’t (e.g. me)?

import torch
import faiss
import clip
import numpy as np
import faiss.contrib.torch_utils
import glob
from PIL import Image

model, preprocess = clip.load("ViT-B/32", device='cpu', jit=False)
def encode_image(filename, id):
    image_tensor =  model.encode_image(preprocess(Image.open(filename)).unsqueeze(dim=0))
    image_tensor /= image_tensor.norm(dim=-1, keepdim=True)
    return image_tensor, torch.tensor([id],  device="cpu", dtype=torch.long)

Photos of me!

Recognition

Okay, so we’ll grab two images of me, encode them into vectors with CLIP, but obviously if those are the only two vectors I have to choose from, it’s not much of a test. But! I have the Adam Curtis FAISS index just lying around, and it has a great selection of talking heads and other things that makes for a relatively decent test (as Peter Snow would say, this is “just a bit of fun”). I know that the IDs in the Curtis dataset are 64-bit ids, so I’m going to fudge it with the new entries by using low-digit IDs that are not going to collide (and I checked beforehand just to make sure that I wasn’t getting collisions to be on the safe side).

faiss_index = faiss.read_index("curtis.idx")
ref_tensor, ids = encode_image("IMG_0331.jpg", 111)
faiss_index.add_with_ids(ref_tensor, ids)
check_tensor, _ = encode_image("IMG_4069.JPG", 0) 
distances, indices = faiss_index.search(check_tensor, 5)
indices
tensor([[                111, 1914273147895908598, 1911355963158792438,
         1914859604205340918, 1910780652289493238]])

The big surprise is that it does seem to work with no additional training being necessary! With just one photo added, it is already matching me amongst a 150k set of different images. Not too bad! Let’s just make sure that it’s working okay by doing a test against a picture of Mr. Tony Blair.

blair_tensor, _ = encode_image("blair.jpg", 0)

distances, indices = faiss_index.search(blair_tensor, 5)
indices
tensor([[7189953302034286838, 6916916776419100918, 7336140665801869558,
         7180745063950354678, 8920012398545733878]])

And here’s the first result, which is definitely Blair.

Image.open("/home/ian/notebooks/curtis/web/app/static/images/the_trap03_10415556398636929516_003333_7189953302034286838.jpg")

png

Anchoring With Text

The other thing I noticed when working on the search engine is that CLIP is pretty good at reading text. So another approach we could try is adding my name to one of my photos, encoding that and a bunch of other photos of me, then doing a search for “Ian Pointer” and seeing what comes back - whether it can anchor on the text on that image and whether the vector representation of that image is close enough to pull in the other versions of me in the index.

faiss_index = faiss.read_index("curtis.idx")

ref_tensor, ref_ids = encode_image("ian_text.jpg", 111)
check_tensor, check_ids = encode_image("IMG_4069.JPG", 222)

faiss_index.add_with_ids(ref_tensor, ref_ids)
faiss_index.add_with_ids(check_tensor, check_ids)
text_features = model.encode_text(clip.tokenize("Ian Pointer").to("cpu"))

text_features /= text_features.norm(dim=-1, keepdim=True).float()
r = text_features.to('cpu').float()
    
distances, indices = faiss_index.search(r, 5)

indices

tensor([[ 368881852814592245, 2327282344735017205, 9001564851015125238,
         6284035229181315318, 6287482820904650998]])

Okay, that didn’t work so well. But! What if we do something really stupid and just add more instances of my name on the photo so CLIP takes the hint?

faiss_index = faiss.read_index("curtis.idx")

ref_tensor, ref_ids = encode_image("ian_text_lots.jpg", 111)
check_tensor, check_ids = encode_image("IMG_4069.JPG", 222)

faiss_index.add_with_ids(ref_tensor, ref_ids)
faiss_index.add_with_ids(check_tensor, check_ids)


text_features = model.encode_text(clip.tokenize("Ian Pointer").to("cpu"))
text_features /= text_features.norm(dim=-1, keepdim=True).float()
r = text_features.to('cpu').float()
    
distances, indices = faiss_index.search(r, 5)

indices
tensor([[                111,  368881852814592245, 2327282344735017205,
         9001564851015125238, 6284035229181315318]])

So if you add a bunch of text to the image, CLIP will “read” the text, but it feels like the information encoded in the vector space is in a separate cluster to the rest of the image details, as we’re not seeing the other picture of me coming back on following searches. This surprises me a little, as I was seeing the opposite in test queries in the Curtis database, but it’s likely they were matching a lot more in the image clusters of the vector space regardless of the text it was finding.

Hiding

But what if I want to fool the system? Here, I’m taking the picture of Tony Blair, adding my name over the top (which makes me feel a little dirty, but whatever), and then searching for “Ian Pointer” again. Will CLIP be confused?

faiss_index = faiss.read_index("curtis.idx")

ref_tensor, ref_ids = encode_image("blair_text.jpg", 111)
check_tensor, check_ids = encode_image("IMG_4069.JPG", 222)

faiss_index.add_with_ids(ref_tensor, ref_ids)
faiss_index.add_with_ids(check_tensor, check_ids)


text_features = model.encode_text(clip.tokenize("Ian Pointer").to("cpu"))
text_features /= text_features.norm(dim=-1, keepdim=True).float()
r = text_features.to('cpu').float()
    
distances, indices = faiss_index.search(r, 5)

indices
tensor([[                111,  368881852814592245, 2327282344735017205,
         9001564851015125238, 6284035229181315318]])
Image.open("/home/ian/notebooks/curtis/web/app/static/images/cant4_15115732058354422251_003609_368881852814592245.jpg")

png

Again, CLIP zeroes in on the text, but the rest of the returned search items are exactly the same as before, so I don’t think it has been fooled all that much.

Wrapping Up

In this strenuous and stringent bit of testing, it seems like CLIP actually does have some value as a zero-shot facial identification system. Which is vaguely terrifying. It might be interesting to expand this idea out further, maybe with larger and more appropriate datasets like Celeb.A, or if you just happen to have a few million photos hanging around.

And remember, don’t have nightmares.

Bryan Adams Just Won't Leave

It’s been a while, but The Story of… is finally back as an accompaniment to the Friday night repeats of Top of The Pops. And isn’t it just a fun experience when they get to an act that currently looks like you’d bump into them on the high street as they were coming out of New Look, and they’re just full of joy about their time in the chart and their appearances on the show. Something I’ve missed since it seemed to be put on hiatus due to the pandemic and the semi-closedown of BBC4.

Also, watching it with an American is recommended. It’s more fun when you have to pause to explain Betty Boo, Chesney Hawkes, and The Wonder Stuff are, or expound on your declaration of “of course Bob is there! It’s Vic and Bob!", when they mainly know Bob Mortimer from Would I Lie To You?. And “yes, the ice creams are playing guitar. It’s the KLF, you just have to go with the flow”.

Next week? PEAK MR. C!

Actually, it’s been a banner week for iPlayer, as somebody deep in the bowels of the BBC has decided to put up The Young Ones and all of 2point4children. Sadly, the former are the cut versions, but I have the DVDs for them. 2point4children, though, is completely uncut, including those pesky music cues, and it’s probably the great lost big BBC sitcom of the 90s…ånd now, thanks to get_iplayer, I have all of it.

In local news, our escape room is really about to happen! We’re going to be putting the finishing touches on it this week, and our first run-throughs take place next weekend! For those of you reading that are in the area and would like to take part, why not head over to the website and see what dates are still available? Come see what we’ve done to the basement!!

Finally, keep your eyes peeled for, yes, some technical content this week! I know all of you reading this blog have been itching for some more neural network action, so that’s what you’re going to get. I remain somewhat obsessed with CLIP (though, in fairness, this upcoming entry is an idea I had about a year ago and just never actually sat down for a couple of hours to try it out until this week).

Neunundneunzig Luftballons

I will say that the weekend got off to a rather mixed start. On the bright side, I ended up not having to go to NC for 24 hours after all. Which was nice! On the other, I got about three hours sleep on Friday night and had to deal with a cat going to the toilet on the carpet at 1am. Less fun.

But

But.

BUT.

I may have found a source for a copy of Emergency Ward 9, the last Dennis Potter play I don’t have (okay, the last one I don’t have that wasn’t wiped. I’m not magic). Plus a few other bits and pieces…basically, the Spring will be filled with the joys of BBC plays from the 60s and 70s if I get my way!

Meanwhile, in other BBC Archive news…it was finally the week that we got to see this majestic bit of Top of The Pops footage:

And is if the heavens have opened, the BBC are finally going to be showing The Story of 1991/2 in the next fortnight. It’s like Jimmy broke the seal.

Somehow, it’s March?

(Annihilation Mix)

All in all, I’m a touched more concerned that my flights next week go through DC’s National Airport than I was, ooooh, a week or so ago. And I have also been told that my childhood rationale of “we live near so many military bases that we’d all be wiped out in a first strike” is…not exactly comforting.

Anyway, aside from impending world-wide doom, the art for my first comic is done! Now all I need is somebody to letter it…and write the rest of the stories. Easy! 🥺

And on to March. Which, fingers crossed, is going to be Escape Room Month. We’re going to get it done!

IPC Subeditors Dictate Our Youth

First up - this is an amazing Humble Bundle package of British comics ranging from the 60s right up to the present day, including some of the most celebrated Dredd epics of the last few years. You might want to check it out!

I have a four day weekend! Which means I will likely feel guilty by the start of Monday for not doing half of my original (wildly over-optimistic) plans. I’ll be beating myself up all day and going into the start of work feeling like I’ve already failed. I’m not saying it’s a good system…

But! We have done some things! Tammy has made great progress on the Escape Room downstairs - we now have a new fireplace and an almost complete fake wall (with a window!). It looks like we’ll finally be running it throughout March. I also made carnitas and we played our first game of Mind MGMT, which is a great hidden movement game that doesn’t take four hours to play (looks over at Fury of Dracula). So maybe it wasn’t too bad…

Announcing: Lewknor Turn

Hello. Comics!

Lewknor Turn

The Next Stop Is Lewknor Turn is a story in an upcoming collection1 I’m putting together. Pencils and inks are by the great Nicolás Nieto, letterer Still To Be Decided. There will be a website forthcoming when there’s a bit more to show off, but it’s looking good so far.

(This the Project Formerly Known as Morning After Pill, named after a Meanwhile Back In Communist Russia song that references Oxford’s train station. Obviously. Just try to guess what Project Camouflage is…)

In other news, I have splurged a little on the basis of my imminent tax return (I always over pay taxes, so I get a significant refund this time every year. Is it incredibly inefficient? Sure, but but I’d rather have that than owe something), and I now have a proper chocolate-grade airbrush and a fancy compressor coming my way. There will be coloured chocolates to come later this year…perhaps starting with some quite swish Easter eggs. It’ll have to wait until after our Escape Room Shenanigans are finished, though. And that’s coming together too, with furniture placed and the fake walls all up. At the end of the month, we will be taking the basement to the 1920s!

And that’s about it for this week, although I did also give beeswax-lined canelés a try out this weekend. Sadly, not quite as good as my butter-lined molds, but I think that was mainly down to having a little too much beeswax/ghee mixture in the bottom of the mold, resulting in less browning on top than I’d normally expect. Very crunchy though!


  1. It’s likely to be digital-only, but we’ll see what paper prices are like by the end of the year, shall we? ↩︎

Paul Robinson Turns Erinsborough Into A Chemical Site

I really have to start keeping notes during the week again; I find myself with little to say this weekend, except that the news that Neighbours may be ending after almost 40 years makes me a little sad, and I hope it ends with Karl Kennedy doing a ten-minute speech to camera in the same manner as Jimmy Corkhill in the last episode of Brookside. It never was what you’d call quality television, but a comforting presence whenever I go home. And one of those weird shows where a foreign programme is kept alive by another country — the only other example I can really think of is how the BBC stepped in to help fund the final series of Due South.

Otherwise, I guess I’ll see you all back here in another seven days; hopefully I’ll have something more interesting to talk about…

Briefly, Raleigh

I was hoping to have a long entry on my Raleigh visit…but it was somewhat restricted to about three blocks of downtown and the airport, so not a lot of interesting things happened. I will say that the Kouign-Amann at Lucettegrace is really good, and unfortunately my memories of Beasley’s are always better than the reality. I even came home a day early, not just because of the disappointments, but not not either.

Sometimes I like to watch 90s documentaries on the Internet just to remember optimism. You may need to click through to fully experience the 90s Channel 4 goodness.

By the end, though, I’m always left with this feeling.

via GIPHY

Anyway, I guess a slightly melancholy end to the month, but that possibly has a lot to do with the -17ºC temperature at night…with -21ºC coming this following weekend! 😮🥶

And I just broke a Kitchen-Aid mixing paddle I’ve had for ten years, so it’s going great…

Holding Week

Reasons why I couldn’t sleep Friday night on a postcard to W12 7RJ…all I know is that at 5am, I was strangely cold and hot, could barely open my eyes, and the cat had given up sleeping on my legs sometime around 4am. Not a great night.

Otherwise, a week of not much going on. Work progresses on a bunch of things — Camouflage got a Projected GAN trained for it this weekend, as well as a bunch of decisions about who to contact to give it a signal boost…and I’ve decided prizes? I swear, it’ll make sense in a few months, honest.

Morning After Pill1 is definitely moving along, with my collaborator about a quarter of a way through the first block. Again, all will become clear…and I hope it gets more traction than the Tinker, Tailor piece, which got…almost zero. Still, it’s there now, and it’s something that can just hang out forever, so maybe it’ll be a sleeper. And I am pleased with the detective work at the end anyhow.

Next week is going to be a little different as I’ll be in Raleigh for a large chunk of it. Not really looking forward to dealing with airports again, but I’ll have all the masks and a brace of lateral flow tests. And if you’re in the Triangle and resting this, wondering why I haven’t mentioned this trip; well, it’s a little last-minute, and I don’t really plan on leaving the hotel much. We will be back in May for Hamilton at DPAC, though, so hopefully we see a bunch more of people then.


  1. I forgot that I’m not allowed to name things. The choice of song is for the mood rather than anything else. And a mention of the Oxford railway station makes mysterious noises↩︎

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy — The Edits

If I’ve ever talked to you about about Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy before, it has probably gone a little like this:

  • First, I’ll launch into a grand diatribe about how it’s quite likely the best English language drama serial ever made, with an over-long segue in which I point out yes I do mean that, and I specifically target the so-called “Golden Age”, AKA “the Americans finally work out how to make good television”. And yes, I’m including The Wire. Shut up.

  • Secondly, if you haven’t backed away or found the nearest exit yet, I’ll tell you to watch it with the admonishment “But you must watch the seven episode UK version. The US edit only has six episodes and is obviously inferior!”

  • Thirdly, these days, I’ll continue the rant by defending the cultural impact of the BBC and how pathetic little wastrels are doing their best to eliminate that from our lives in favour of a Netflix subscription.

And for many years, ever really since I found out about the two different versions, that was my brief. After all, seven episodes versus six — there’s an entire episode missing! What I never really did was examine what was missing in the US edit. During my first 2021 re-watch (I do it at least once a year, obviously), I announced to the world, or at least my Twitter followers, that 2021 was to be the year where I finally went through them and decided once and for all what was in and what was out.

You’ll notice that it’s 2022 now. I spent months of 2021 seeing this on my to-do list, carried forward every week. There was always something else, or I felt the weather was too good (TTSS really needs to be watched on a cold, drizzly day for the best effect), or any other number of excuses. But, over the Christmas break, I finally broke out GridPlayer and did side-by-side comparison, along with answering a mystery about Operation Testify that you may not even have wondered about. So let’s begin!

The Glasses

Episode 1

My original plan was to tackle an episode a week, stretching the feature out into the thinnest gruel to bulk out my posting in 2022. That plan disintegrated as soon as I watched the first episode, as there doesn’t seem to be any difference between the UK and US versions at all. Which seems to be completely at odds with my memory of things, but there you go.

(if you look at the running times of the episodes, they are different, but I think that’s basically explained by the difference in PAL and NTSC frame rates).

Anyway, love to Ann!

Love To Ann Everybody’s Love To Ann!

Episode 2

Recaps

🇬🇧[0:00-0:43]: Ricky Tarr ready to start his story of his time in Lisbon.

🇺🇸[0:00-0:44]: Ricky Tarr ready to start his story of his time in Lisbon. Exactly the same as the UK, as you’d expect at this point!

We get our promised differences early on. At 🇬🇧[5:47-6:40], there’s an extra scene in the nightclub where Ricky Tarr is keeping an eye on Boris as her drinks vodka alone in the corner. Instead of this, we have a quick establishing shot of the next morning as Ricky heads towards Tufty’s office for debriefing at 🇺🇸[6:08-6:09].

Later, when Irina is heading to her meeting with Tarr, there’s a long shot of Irina walking up some stairs at 🇬🇧[13:09] which is missing from the US edit.

As Smiley moves into the Islay Hotel, his unpacking scene is extended at 🇬🇧[44:35-44:45], showing him checking the cupboards in the room, and there’s an extra scene with the hotel manager and Mendel about incoming post at 🇬🇧[45:17-45:52], which includes a repeated use of his “you’ve known me long enough” catchphrase (which, as he used it in the previous scene, likely made this ripe for editing). The US version replaces it at 🇺🇸[45:46] by an exterior shot of the Islay Hotel sign — an establishing shot that you’ll be seeing a lot of during the run.

At 🇬🇧[46:54], the episode ends, but the Americans are not finished yet by a long shot. Instead of ending with Smiley asking Guillam to head to the Circus, 🇺🇸[46:49-51:52] follows Peter into MI6 as he attempts to obtain the file on Tarr’s cables. This could be a way of ramping up the tension at the end of the episode instead of the UK’s flatter ending…or it could just be filling the hour (or it could be a way of not having Episode 2 end the same was as Episode 3 as we’ll see later).

Episode 3

Recaps

🇬🇧[0:00-0:59] - Smiley asking Guillam to steal documents from the Circus.

🇺🇸[[0:00-1:26]: As well as a shorter version of the scene above in the Islay Hotel, the recap also includes a condensed version of Guillam playing “Burglar Bill” in the Circus.

Now things start to get wild. After the titles, 🇬🇧[2:20] starts us off with the Circus jaunt that was at the end of the previous episode in America. There’s an extra scene at 🇬🇧[3:00-3:25] where Guillam operates the squeaky lift to get to the top floor.

At 🇬🇧[5:58], Smiley walks out onto Broad Street in Oxford. Note that Peter still hasn’t got to the duty log yet! But, as he’s got it in the US, we open the US episode with Smiley in Oxford to see Connie Sachs at 🇺🇸[2:22] in the US. Once both episodes are done talking about ‘halcyon days’, the UK episode turns back to Peter, with an additional tiny scene at 🇬🇧[14:43-15:01] where he actually goes into the toilets which wasn’t present in the previous US episode’s telling of the event. There’s also an additional flick-through of another log book at 🇬🇧[16:12-16:20].

At 🇬🇧[29:12-29:50], Hayden and Smiley are talking in the corridor about the upcoming meeting — skipped in the US (for now, anyhow). This is followed by a scene in Control’s reception at 🇬🇧[29:51-30:50] where Smiley tries to find out why Control has cancelled all meetings and gone to ground before Smiley heads off to Hong Kong.

This is absent in the US edit, which instead comes crashing in medias res at 🇺🇸[24:46] (🇬🇧[31:01]) where Control is ranting about Witchcraft.

The UK edit gives up at 🇬🇧[44:08], basically on the same note as episode 2, with Smiley asking Peter to steal more documents from the Circus, this time on Operation Testify. And again in the US, we see Peter back at the Circus again rather than waiting until the next episode, with an establishing Circus shot at 🇺🇸[38:13] (previously seen at the start of episode 1) and then into the Testify Caper itself. The episode ends at 🇺🇸[50:41-54:23] with George and Peter in the car on the way to see Tarr, finishing on the detail that Karla is feeding information to the Circus.

Episode 4

Recaps

🇬🇧[00:0-0:55]: Back at the Islay Hotel, summing up Control’s downfall and Smiley asking Guillam to go back to the Circus to get more information on Operation Testify.

🇺🇸[0:00-1:25]: Replay of the Circus interrogation scene, this time including the Hayden huddle talk before cutting to the car with Peter and George, with Peter yelling at slow cars that wasn’t present in the last American episode, but is present in this UK episode’s telling of the scene when the British catch up with the narrative.

Once we get into the UK episode, we’re back at the Circus, 🇬🇧[02:14-2:26] but instead of an establishing shot of the London exterior, we start in the Circus library instead, complete with an extra cut-away back to the librarian in comparison to the US section in the previous episode. The UK edit continues its obsession with lifts with an extra scene again at 🇬🇧[07:30-07:59] where Peter talks to Toby and Paul about martial arts training.

At 🇬🇧[15:01] , the scene is extended as Hayden huddles with Bland and Peter as Peter is signing the Witchcraft form, and at 🇬🇧[15:31-15:40], there’s little bit more of Peter explaining to George in the car about the form he signed before yelling about Tarr. Once you get to 🇬🇧[16:28], we’ve caught back up with the end of the previous US episode.

Let’s have a stern picture of Patrick Stewart doing his cheapest role. Two series, not one word.

Karla

Incidentally, at 🇺🇸[21:45] or 🇬🇧[34:41] is likely where Smiley works out who Gerald is - the UK version gives us a longer in this scene at 🇬🇧[35:40-35:49] to have Smiley stand up in the hotel bedroom and ponder a little more than he does in the US edit.

At 🇬🇧[40:14], the UK episode ends with the news that Prideaux has been traced and is working as a teacher…but the US still has half its running time left, so at 🇺🇸[27:21] cuts over to Prideaux at the school. It still has even longer to run, so at 🇺🇸[36:18] we’re off to talk to Sam Collins about the night of Operation Testify (🇺🇸[51:33] - is your first flashing alarm about who the mole is) before ending at 🇺🇸[51:50].

Episode 5

Recaps

🇬🇧[0:00-0:46]: The UK loves the Islay Hotel. Summing up of where they are on Testify and that they’ve found Prideaux.

🇺🇸[0:00-2:54]: Retelling of Sam Collins and Hayden on the night of Operation Testify. Then, back in the present, Collins and Smiley wrapping up their conversation.

The UK episode opens with the adventures of Jumbo and the Alvis as seen in the previous US episode. Aside from the two edits being at completely different places in the narrative, there’s not a huge amount of additional material here in the British version. At 🇬🇧[25:35-25:44] there’s a couple of extra shots of Prideaux walking through the woods to meet up with Smiley, and at 🇬🇧[32:46-33:09], Prideaux comes out of the hotel bathroom and demands to go somewhere they can breathe. And finally at 🇬🇧[42:16], there’s a tiny extra portion of footage with Smiley driving off in the darkness which isn’t in the US edit.

The material in the UK edit only takes the US up to 🇺🇸[21:00], so it’s Joss Ackland time!

Joss Ackland Stealing The Show

I know The Honourable Schoolboy is problematic due to the Hong Kong location being central to the plot and it not being all that great of a book anyhow, but we were totally robbed of a Grand Jerry Westerby Adventure when they skipped it in favour of Smiley’s People.

(I’ve also just found out that they merged him with Collins in the 2011 film and I am outraged all over again)

Episode 6/7

Recaps

🇬🇧[0:00-1:16]: Prideaux and Smiley finishing up their conversation at night outside the school. 🇺🇸[0:00-3:31]: Prideaux and Smiley talking at night and the confrontation with Toby Esterhase. 🇬🇧[0:00-0:52]: Our final visit to the Islay Hotel, and Tarr holding up the Paris Embassy.

Episode 6 in the UK is so so short - 41 minutes and that’s with titles!

At 🇬🇧[32:08-32:09], there’s an extra second or so of footage of Smiley waiting by the door after Peter says he’ll join up at Sussex Gardens. The episode ends for viewers in Britain at 🇬🇧[38:33], which includes a little bit more of Ricky Tarr walking along the ferry and looking out to see, for those of you that really get into that smouldering Hywel Bennett action.

We’re now into episode 7 (but still 6 in the US), and there’s just a smidgen more of the setup at Lock Gardens, with 🇬🇧[2:09-2:10] including a little more of Guillam fiddling with wiring before Gerald comes a-calling. But otherwise, the two edits play out exactly the same.

Back At The Circus

Perhaps the most surprising outcome of the exercise is that there’s actually not much difference between the two edits at all, completely contrary to what I remembered and have been telling people for years. The six/seven episode structure really does make you think that you’re missing a lot in the US edit…but it turns out you’re really not.

So why are they so different? shrugs My speculation, for what it’s worth, is that the seven episode edit is what the director intended. I’ve looked through the Radio Times entries for the initial broadcast on BBC2 and I can’t see any real reason that the programme would have been chopped up — if the episode runs to fill a 50-minute slot, then Horizon follows at 21:50. If there’s only enough for a 45-minute slot, then Horizon is on at 21:45. I don’t think that would be acceptable in the US, though. Even back in the early 80s, WGBH would have to have formatted the show for broadcast on the PBS network, and each episode would have to be roughly consistent for scheduling purposes. And you can see that in the run-time differences; there’s only 2:55s separating the shortest and longest US edits, whereas the UK version is basically inventing Netflix variable runtimes 35 years early with a massive 8:10s.

I also wonder if there was a conscious decision in the US edit to change the ends of episodes 2 and 3 to prevent them both ending with Smiley asking Guillam to steal documents from the Circus, as this really is the only point of the two versions that messes around with the narrative.

Anyhow, returning to the original question, which should you watch? Well, I’m still biased towards the UK edit, I’m afraid. Yes, there’s not much difference in the end, but the more leisurely pace afforded by the extra shots here and there and the episode breakpoints feels better to me. Take the introduction to Prideaux at the school — the scene with Jumbo and the Alvis feels like it belongs at the start of an episode, introducing us to a new world within the story and it just breathes so much better there than slap-bang in the middle of the US’s episode. And although I can think of good reasons above why they messed with the narrative in episodes 2 and 3, I think the UK’s extended version of the Circus visit interleaved with the visit to Connie Sachs works better from a storytelling perspective than doing them serially.

But having said all that, I probably won’t yell at people demanding they watch the UK version any more, so consider yourselves all lucky.

Bonus: When Did Operation Testify Take Place?

But before we leave, one last thing. Inspired by @mumoss’s amazing work over at Dirty Feed, I wondered if we could actually pin down the date that Operation Testify actually took place. The smoking gun is Sam Collins’ retelling of the night in question; while he’s drinking the cans that eventually get him fired, he’s watching a football game.

I’m not exactly a huge football fan, but I am a British person of a certain age, and I can definitely recognize Barry Davies’ voice when I hear it. So that means it’s Match of the Day, and his commentary mentions a few players, one in particular being Paul Mariner. One search later, and we discover that one side is Ipswich Town.

If we assume that the filming dates on IMDB are correct (which is normally dangerous, but hear me out for a bit), then filming took place between October 1978 and March 1979. While we shouldn’t rely on those dates, given that it was broadcast in September 1979 we can probably say that filming likely took place during the 78-79 football season.

If only we had a site that lists Match of the Day matches with commentators and even YouTube clips. You know, even in these terrible days of grifters and web3, the Internet can still be amazing sometimes.

After looking through the list, we’ve narrowed it down to the four Ipswich Town matches Barry Davies provided commentary for (after checking 77-78 as well, just to be certain that we’re not trusting the IMDB):

  • 17/09/77 (Ipswich v. Liverpool)
  • 04/11/78 (Arsenal v. Ipswich)
  • 25/11/78 (Man. City v. Ipswich)
  • 03/03/79 (Ipswich v. Nottingham Forest)

Can we go even further? I think so. Firstly, we have a video clip of Arsenal vs. Ipswich, and Ipswich are playing in blue, when they’re clearly playing in their white away kit in Tinker, Tailor. I think we can eliminate the Forest as well for the same reason, as we can see in the highlights.. And here’s a programme of the Liverpool game that also says Ipswich were playing in blue.

We’re down to only one real date. And I think there’s even more evidence. Take a look at this screenshot from the episode itself.

[The TV]

From the commentary and what we can see of the two different kits, this is clearly showing the captain of the other team. He’s wearing a number 5 shirt, and if we have a look at the programme for the Man. City v. Ipswich game, we can see that their captain was indeed wearing 5 that night.

[City Ipswich Programme]

Operation Testify took place on the night of the 25th November, 1978.