Directed by Lewis Teague and produced by Richard L. O'Connor, with story by Tom Clancy, Steve Pieczenik and Steve Sohmer, it featured an ensemble cast including Harry Hamlin, Lindsay Frost, Wilford Brimley, Deidre Hall, Ken Howard, Bo Hopkins, Carl Weathers, Kim Cattrall, John Savage and Rod Steiger. The miniseries was directed by Lewis Teague.
In post-Cold War Washington an inexperienced political appointee, Paul Hood (Hamlin), is to head the supposedly obsolete National Crisis Management Center (NCMC) - with an eye to downsizing it. No sooner is he introduced around by Deputy Director Brigadier General Mike Rodgers (Carl Weathers) than he's in the middle of a crisis: a rogue KGB unit hijacks three Ukrainian based nuclear warheads for sale to the Middle East. National Security Advisor Admiral Troy Davis (Brimley) orders Hood and the Op Center to locate the warheads, verify their location and prepare a viable recovery plan.
Hood is initially handicapped by ignorance and naivete; when told about a honeytrap, he asks: "Who are we working for: the United States government or the Mafia?" Nonetheless he quickly demonstrates ability to absorb new information and lead intelligently. The warheads are located and electronically confirmed aboard a KGB front-owned freighter sailing down the Bosphorus, declared destination Mombasa.
But top secret information is leaking to high powered Washington reporter Kate Michaels (Deidre Hall) and to the Israelis, whose Mossad representative Werkauf (Luis Avalos) threatens will take unilateral action if the US does not. Hood is further harassed when his unhappy wife Jane (Catrall), who doesn't like Washington or understand the seriousness of his job, leaves town. This gives Pamela Bluestone (Lindsay Frost), the Center's brilliant psychiatrist "mind-reader and Good Witch of the East," the opening to make a play for Hood.
Before any action can be taken the intelligence-leak must be pinpointed and plugged. To that end the Center plants a bogus intelligence report on Adm. Davis for White House consumption – only to confirm that the leak leads from the President (Ken Howard) to the Israelis via Kate Michaels, the President's mistress.
Hood and the Center reveal the deception to Adm. Davis and present the chain of evidence; Davis in turn forces the President to end his liaison with Michaels. Meanwhile, Hood, dispirited by Jane's departure, tries to resign, but Adm. Davis talks him out of it.
With their source blown, the Israelis give Hood the buyer's identity and his file: Abdul Fazawi (Kabir Bedi), former Mossad agent-turned-arms-dealer. Fazawi must be neutralized before the recovery operation begins, or he will disappear to set up another such deal.
Then wily rogue KGB Col. Stolipin (Sherman Howard) alters the ship's course towards Libya, reducing the time-frame in which the recovery team, codenamed "Linebacker", can act. Hood sends Pamela Bluestone and Dan McCaskey (Bo Hopkins), deputy assistant FBI director and Center' crime/terrorism expert, to New York to arrest Fazawi, who must be in custody before "Linebacker" moves. But Fazawi is late to his rendezvous. When he does show up he is arrested but Werkauf shoots him dead, wounding McCaskey and another FBI agent before being shot dead himself. With hind-sight Bob Herbert (John Savage), the Center's wheelchair bound Intelligence Officer (Beirut Embassy bombing, 1983), realizes that the Israelis used the Center to flush Fazawi into the open. Meanwhile, "Linebacker" has gone into action; following a short, hard fight they take control of ship, surviving crew and warheads, and disarming the scuttling charge.
At next day's press conference the President announces that contrary to 'irresponsible... unfounded reports', there are no stolen nuclear warheads: the US, Russia and Israel have just concluded a joint exercise simulating theft and recovery of dummy warheads, and to prove it he introduces the Russian and Israeli ambassadors to answer questions. When asked how she got the Russians and Israelis to cooperate Liz Gorman (Mia Korf), the Center's long suffering and resourceful Press and Congressional Liaison, replies: "I appealed to their sense of national interest... Well you know: blackmail."
Davis confirms Hood head of the Center for as long as he wants the job. Hood declines being interviewed by the Washington Post and heads home to his two preteen daughters, alone with the housekeeper while their mother is out of town. But when he opens the door his wife is waiting instead: Adm. Davis called Jane to explain why Paul has been so busy. As she takes him into her arms he hesitantly returns the embrace, a wary look on his face.
NCMC StaffHarry Hamlin – Paul Hood, Director NCMC
Carl Weathers – General Mike Rodgers, Deputy Director NCMC
Bo Hopkins – Dan McCaskey, FBI & Interpol Officer (& Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI)
Lindsay Frost – Pamela Bluestone, Psychiatrist
Mariangela Pino - Martha Macken, Political & Economics Officer
John Savage – Bob Herbert, National Intelligence Officer
Tom Bresnahan – Matt Stoll, Operations Support
Mia Korf – Liz Gorman, Press & Congressional Liaison
David Garrison - Bill Mathis, Sciences and Environmental Officer
Todd Waring - Lowell Coffey, Lawyer & legal Advisor
Elizabeth Alley - Sgt. King, Ops Room Communications Operator
Lou Liberatore - (Surveillance technician)
WashingtonKen Howard – The President
William Bumiller – Lou Bender (Presidential aid)
Wilford Brimley – Admiral Troy Davis
Other cast membersKabir Bedi – Abdul Fazawi, Arms Dealer
Deidre Hall – Kate Michaels (reporter)
Sherman Howard - Uri Stalipin
Victor Love - Captain Ted Drake
France Nuyen – Li Tang (antique book shop madame)
Luis Avalos – Verkauf (Mossad)
Kim Cattrall – Jane Hood (wife)
Rod Steiger – Rudi Kushnerov (Boroda) (Russian liaison)
George Alvarez – Captain Rodriguez
Robert Broyles - Chief
Tom Villard - Press Aide
Producer: Richard L. O'Connor
Executive Producers: Tom Clancy, Toni Dailey, Steve Pieczenik, Steve Sohmer, Brandon Tartikoff
Director: Lewis Teague
Music: Patrick Williams
Film Editing: Tina Hirsch
Cinematography: Alan Otino Caso, Casting: Joel Thurm, Production Design: Donald Light-Harris, Art Direction: Erik Olson, Set Decoration: Ronald R. Reiss, Costume Design: Darryl Levine, Hair Stylist: Mimi Jafari, Makeup Artist: Martha Preciado, Special Effects: Kam Cooney, Stunt coordinator: Chuck Waters.
Note: these reviews reference the original 170-minute mini-series, not the 114-minute edited version.
"Op Center Drowns In Numbing Details. The Four-hour Mini-series Is A Talky Piece Dressed As A High-tech Espionage Thriller. It's Not Just The Weapons That Are Deadly" introduced Jonathan Short's 1995 review in the Philadelphia Inquirer. While praising Rod Steiger and pitying Hamlin for some of the lines he had to utter, his review objected to what Short felt was over-simplification: too much talking and not enough action. In his words "It's certainly very kind of writer Steve Sohmer to think of the mentally challenged," and went on to compare it to Get Smart without actually naming that series.
John P. McCarthy's review in Variety (February 23, 1995) called it "...a moderately insightful, by-the-numbers lesson in geopolitics" though "the team’s banter tends to be sophomoric." Nonetheless he praised "The strong ensemble (which) occasionally rises above the material." He also pointed out the series' three themes: the cost of serving one's country in terms of broken homes; "deception, which brings in issues like adultery and spousal abuse. Patriotism at this level involves great personal sacrifice, and no one — enemy or lover — can be trusted." Thirdly, "The U.S. is not prepared for international crises..."
Steve Johnson, of the Chicago Tribune, after decrying the script's lack of subtly, confusing "techno-chatter" and "stick figures," felt that "...it deftly conveys the claustrophobic, paranoiac atmosphere of a place such as Op Center's headquarters. In this environment, everybody is tailing everybody else..." Johnson concluded: "It's ultimately worth the attention required, because a well-plotted, fast-paced story unfolds, one that does a good job of moving the spy thriller genre onto the less certain sands of modern geopolitics."