The Circus, The Laundry and Apophenia

A month or so ago I re-watched the classic 1979 BBC adaptation of LeCarré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – partly to get ready for the new Gary Oldman movie, but mainly because it is so damn good. I was happily viewing when one shot caused my jaw to drop:


George Smiley is on his way to the Lamplighter’s HQ to interview Toby Esterhase. I saw the ‘Starlight Laundry’ sign and immediately thought of Mr. Stross. His wickedly entertaining Laundry series is a Secret Service/Lovecraft/bureaucracy horrorthrillercomedy amalgam that I can recommend unreservedly. “Aha”, says I, “I’ll bet this scene is The Laundry’s birthplace!”

Alas. A little while later I tweeted – wondering if there was any back story to the choice of a laundry in the BBC shot.  [technical note – I will work out the ’embedding Storify w/in a WordPress post’ kinks in the fullness of time – for now, a screen scrape]

“Apophenia is the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data.” *

And lest anyone think I’m particularly observant/pattern recognizing/perceptive, I think this one belongs in the “even a blind pig can believe he’s found an acorn once in a while” bucket.

3 thoughts on “The Circus, The Laundry and Apophenia

  1. I have not seen the 1979 version, but the new Oldman version is a complete mess in my opinion — incredibly bad job of editing, flat acting, and I came away wondering (honestly) whether there was a script. I was not alone in that opinion — heard people saying it out loud as we left the film. I had high hopes, I have low standards, and I see a lot of film, and this still crashed and burned. Now I want to see the 79 version to see what COULD have been done!

  2. Ouch. One thing the BBC had going for it was a lot more time: 7 episodes at approx. an hour each.

  3. Yep, like me watching Carry On Camping and thinking that J.K. Rowling got her names/terms from Harriet Potter and Mr. Muggins…..

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