Four-part drama about a writer recruited into espionage work by British intelligence during the First World War. Based on the writings of Somerset Maugham




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Series cast summary:
Alex Jennings ...  John Ashenden 4 episodes, 1991
Joss Ackland ...  Cumming 4 episodes, 1991
Ian Bannen ...  'R' 4 episodes, 1991
Jason Isaacs ...  Andrew Lehman 3 episodes, 1991
Sarah Bullen Sarah Bullen ...  'R's Secretary 2 episodes, 1991
Fiona Mollison ...  Sarah 2 episodes, 1991
Jane Hollowood Jane Hollowood ...  Maid 2 episodes, 1991
Peter Stockbridge Peter Stockbridge ...  Roberts 2 episodes, 1991


Four-part drama about a writer recruited into espionage work by British intelligence during the First World War. Based on the writings of Somerset Maugham Written by Simon Shearn <>

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Release Date:

17 November 1991 (UK) See more »

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Technical Specs


(4 parts)


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Did You Know?

Crazy Credits

Explanatory comment in closing credits of final episode: "The Ashenden stories were based on W. Somerset Maugham's experiences as a spy in World War I. Many of them were destroyed because of the Official Secrets Act. After the book's publication, Maugham never again made his home in England. He died in France in 1965." See more »

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User Reviews

Theatrical BBC production deserves another look.
19 October 2017 | by khunkrumarkSee all my reviews

Ashenden is a sumptuous and glossy BBC production that seems to have been left behind as just a name in our TV memories now. It had almost everything going for it... exotic and detailed production values, a stellar cast of British acting talent and a thoroughly interesting and important set of stories to tell...

John Ashendon is on the mend from a bout of TB (tuberculosis) and has been refused employment by the armed services. Determined to do his bit for Queen and country he becomes a spy, because, as he says... '...nobody would suspect a writer of comedy plays!'

This series of four stories is clearly aimed at people who went through the nightmare of the second world war. There's nothing here to draw in a younger audience at all. No 'action', no humour and no neatly tied up loose ends.

Unfortunately, despite the expense, detail and obvious affection that was thrown into this show, the acting is rather theatrical and wooden. There's an over-emphasis on body language that suits a stage play but looks rather melodramatic on a TV screen.

That said, this is still an enjoyable and captivating drama... if you have the patience for British television drama. It doesn't carry the gravitas of 'Foyle's War' but it does take its subject matter seriously.

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