It is quite obvious, watching the final episode of TTSS, in which Bill Haydon has been unmasked as the mole and is sitting with a bloody nose on a bed talking to Smiley (see clip) about why he did it, veering between spitting fury and weeping misery, that Ian Richardson would have made a terrific Peter Wimsey.
Inevitably, one thought leads to another. Wimsey works for the Foreign Office, sort of unofficially to start with, but becoming more formal. Certainly by whatever he’s doing in WWII he must have some pretty serious sort of status, even if his social standing allows for a certain plausible deniability in case he gets caught: “Nothing to do with us gov, just a rather too independent-minded aristocrat thinking that chaps together can sort things out”. We’re never told that Wimsey speaks Russian, but it wouldn’t be implausible for a man of his linguistic talents to learn it. Besides, even post-war you could still cover a lot of European diplomacy with German and French (still can).
So it’s 1945. Wimsey has survived the war: it’s having been decided that he is far too recognisable to send on secret missions, he’s shunted off to intelligence. After the war things quieten down, but he stays involved in some way. By now he’s been around for some time, he’s met a lot of people, and he’s the sort of person you want when you’re negotiating treaties and so on, and inevitably he meanders over to Russian affairs.
The rest we know. The old order is ending, but what is to replace it? Feeling middle-aged, a little bored, increasingly cynical, perhaps above all craving a new source of excitement, Wimsey finds himself thinking that perhaps his sister Mary was right after all. And so he ends up spying for Russia.***
So we come finally to the scene that set off my train of thought. Wimsey has finally been unmasked. Obviously he didn’t make a mistake himself, and certainly not one that involved his having more information than he would have picked up by sleeping with someone’s wife, so whatever finally gave him away must have come from elsewhere, but the end result is the same. He ends up in a poorly run security facility, awaiting transfer to Moscow.**** Which brings me back to the beginning, with Richardson as Haydon looking like Wimsey and the cut and paste bit. Wimsey confesses not to Smiley, but to Harriet. She will not be going to Moscow.
As for the Jim Prideaux role: there’s only one man who’s going to shoot Wimsey. Curtain falls on Bunter, in the woods, with a sniper rifle.
** Not to Bletchley and code-breaking – he’s no mathematician, and by day 3 he’d be doing a Miles Vorkosigan turn and investigating the plumbing.
*** Much of the length of this fic in the full version would be taken up in making this seem psychologically plausible.
**** Cue compulsory joke about how after Edwardian public school, Soviet Russia will come as nothing new to him.
*I do hope that someone somewhere has written a TTSS/The Wind in the Willows crossover.