Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Deutchland '83 - A Wonderful new take on the Spy game in the Cold War!


The series Deutchland '83  premiered originally on 17 June 2015, on SundanceTV in the United States. The broadcast was in the original German language, with English subtitle in the United States, making it the first Series to air on a US network in German. It has now moved to Channel Four here in the UK , up against the twin Titans of BBC's War & Peace and ITV's Endeavour, I found it utterly compelling on catch up . 




The show begins with Ronald Reagan, smiling out of the TV, espousing the evils of Socialist Regimes and being scoffed at by uber permed and shoulder padded Lenora holding contraband Nescafé  Gold in her desk drawer.


Meanwhile Babyfaced East German Border Officer Martin,  is scaring the living day lights out of Students in possession of subversive texts... The works of Shakespeare, bought on the blackmarket. He and his colleague find it all immensely amusing. Martin is on the radar of the Stasi, the fact is Lenora knows all about him because she is indeed, his Aunt!


He is actively recruited by the HSV, an elite agency to go to the West and report back. He is intelligent, knowledgeable about Soccer which is what is needed to infiltrate the confidence of one particular high ranking officer. He speaks both Russian and English. He flat out refuses, he is in love and his mother is ill  and in need of a Kidney Transplant. The interview ends in a broken finger and being drugged by a cup of that very same Nescafé!


Kidnapped and taken to Bonn, Martin takes his very first opportunity to escape and hides in a Supermarket which is well stocked with all manner of goodies not available back home. When he is apprehended he is introduced to the nutritionally vapid fast food of the West too.


Given a new identity as Moritz Stamm taught the difference in language and how to undertake several espionage tasks, microfilms,reading upside down, lock picking and seamless handoffs, he is soon sent as Aide -De- Campe to the General  in place of the Assasinated Stamm.



Like any new job, getting to grips with the phone exchange is his first task and here, listening posts are in Russia and East Germany. The Secretary is waspish and utterly disdainful, but Martin / Moritz has a knack with the ordinary soldier. His boss' idealistic son is a little harder to read, but it  proves to be the General's Sister - in -Law that is the real fly in the ointment. Having to drop some Rohypnol in her drink so she does not reveal that she overheard him talking to his girlfriend in the East.




The Americans in the rush to beat the Russians in the Arms Race are planning to attack. In retaliation the Russians would easily be able to destroy West Germany so they are brokering a deal with the US. Poor Martin is now stuck, in order to ensure his sickly mother will get treatment from Conniving Aunt Lenora,he has to intercept the US plans as to when and how a US attack might happen.

The premise is fresh with the main protagonist being across the political divide. There is a gentle humour to proceedings and the pace is fast without feeling frenetic. Young star Jonas Nay is wonderfully naive whilst still displaying a quickness of reaction that makes it easy to relate to his plight. We are used to foreign language shows here in the UK so the subtitles were no detraction from the story at all. I cannot wait to see what happens next.

Anna Winger, co-creator of the series, has said that one major reason she chose to set her Cold War espionage drama in 1983 is because of the music coming out of Germany at the time: most obviously Nena's "99 Luftballons," the bubbliest tune about nuclear catastrophe ever to cross over from the top of the West German charts to No. 2 in the U.S. Other songs by New Order ( one of their most iconic, Blue Monday)  10cc and the Eurythmics pepper the first episode and it adds a great  feeling of nostalgia particularly as I was starting to become aware of the news in 1984 and the Reagan era was the first Presidency that ever entered my consciousness.

Catch up on 4OD and see the next instalment on Sunday. Definitely going to be part of my New Year tv regime.

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