Spooks (MI-5) – 10 reasons why we will miss it

Harry and Ruth. Pics: BBC

The Spooks of MI-5 may have survived assassination by the Taliban, Chinese agents and evil Russians, but the conniving mandarins of the BBC are much more ruthless and resourceful.

They’ve announced that series 10, starting next month, will be the last. Ben Stephenson, BBC drama controller, said (possibly while stroking a white cat), that Spooks had been a hit groundbreaking series that had helped to redefine BBC drama.

‘I would like to thank all those involved in the making of the show over the last decade both on and off screen,’ Stephenson said, ‘and hope fans will tune in this September to see what promises to be a fittingly high-octane, thrilling finale.’

This will focus on  Section D chief Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) confronting a secret from his past that could wreck him and the woman he loves, Ruth (Nicola Walker). New faces will include Lara Pulver (True Blood, Robin Hood) as new team leader Erin Watts following Lucas North’s devastating betrayal in series nine, along with Alice Krige (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Deadwood) and Jonathan Hyde (Titanic, Jumanji).

Before the final round of explosions and betrayals, here are 10 reasons why SpooksMI-5 to our American and French allies – will be sorely missed…

Lucas and Harry in series nine

1 Cracking stories
Lucas’s betrayal at the end of the last series, or the discovery that Connie was the traitor in series seven had enough gasp! factor to win the series audiences of more than six million in the UK and make it a worldwide hit in 50 countries.

2 Terrific cast
Spooks has raised the profile of stars including Matthew Macfadyen, Keeley Hawes, Rupert Penry-Jones, Richard Armitage and Hermione Norris, with guests over the years including Hugh Laurie, Lindsay Duncan, Iain Glen, Sophie Okonedo, Tim Piggott-Smith and Benedict Cumberbatch.

3 Phwoar factor
Looking glam while risking life and limb have been the likes of Keeley Hawes, Richard North, Hermione Norris, Sophia Myles, Rupert Penry-Jones and – for the more sophisticated lady – stoically lovelorn Peter Firth.

4 Absolute shockers
Whether it was Rupert Penry-Jones being blown to smithereens in the opening episode of series seven, admin officer Helen Flynn (Lisa Faulkner) killed by having her face immersed in boiling oil, or data nerd Colin (Rory MacGregor) being strung from a tree by traitorous MI6 agents, Spooks has always known how to make viewers sit up on their sofas.

5 Causing a stink
Helen Flynn’s death caused a wave of complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Commission, but the series sparked a kerfuffle at a higher level when the Chinese government reportedly lost its rag over the way its agents were portrayed as kidnappers, hackers and being ready to blow up London. Apparently, even Israeli intelligence phoned the Beeb to complain about how their operatives were depicted. Touchy.

6 Spookily ahead of the game
Following the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005, Spooks had an uncannily prescient episode ready to air that featured a terrorist bombing central London, including the real-life target of Kings Cross. The BBC considered pulling the show, but eventually settled for displaying a disclaimer warning of distressing content.

7 London
While to many Londoners the capital is a daily grind on the packed Underground or a scary place where people don’t pay for their shopping while leaving department stores through smashed front windows, in Spooks it’s a breathlessly glamorous setting with the camera whizzing across Millennium Bridge, round Canary Wharf and over the Royal Opera House (though some of the off-kilter camera angles can give you headache).

8 BBC Licence fee splashed all over the screen
Spectacular chase scenes, punch-ups, aerial shots and huge explosions – like the one that sent Ros Myers into the next world – made Spooks a tad more expensive than an episode of, say, Saturday Kitchen.

9 A pace that hurtles over gargantuan plot holes
We’ve had Russian submarines launching implausible cyber attacks to send the London financial markets into a tailspin (who needs a cyber attack?), we’ve had two MI5 agents wreaking havoc in the dark on a squad of Mossad hit men equipped with night-vision gear, Lucas going through a complete personality flip-flop to emerge as a traitor, and as for Tariq running a ‘probability algorithm’ and then some facial recognition software through hundreds of London CCTV cameras to pinpoint a foreign infiltrator in seconds… who’d have guessed they can do that?

10 The Trouble with Harry
Like Ken Barlow, Harry’s been there from the beginning, surviving death threats, kidnap, multiple betrayals and disappointment in love. At the end of series nine he was told his actions as head of counter-terrorism were being investigated and he should prepare for life after MI5. It is fitting that the character who has been the backbone of 10 action-packed series should be the focus of the final season. Given the show’s track record of having characters who are secretly traitors, it seems likely  Harry could emerge as Vladimir Putin in a rubber mask. Or that he’ll be killed. Or that he’ll walk off into the sunset with Ruth. Almost anything’s possible in Spooks.

Spooks series nine finale PREVIEW

Is it the end for Lucas and Maya? (Pics: BBC)

Monday, 8 November, 9pm, BBC1


Rating ★★★½

That hall of funfair mirrors that is Spooks has been distorting the identity of Lucas North throughout series nine, and in the tumultuous last episode the twists keep coming right up to the end credits.

Spooks has long specialised in shock set-piece episodes for its major characters, and the fate of Richard Armitage’s troubled agent has certainly kept his large fanbase buzzing on internet forums.

Is there any way out for MI5’s most dashing and skilled spy? Is he a traitor? Or is he playing a dangerous but brilliant double game with the Chinese that will see him welcomed back to Section D with congratulations from his boss, Harry Pearce (Peter Firth)?

Danger for Ruth

This climax lives up to the high standards set in previous series, being an assured mix of suspense and emotional tension. There’s Lucas’s love for Maya (Laila Rouass) at stake. Then Ruth Evershed (Nicola Walker) is placed in appalling danger, which of course frays the devoted Harry’s sense of duty.

A new element in the mix is Harry’s enlistment of ex-internal affairs specialist Alec White, played with great insolence by Vincent Regan. Arrogant, aggressive, lazy and alcoholic, the grizzled White is still the man Harry needs to ferret out his fugitive agent, and he is a spiky recruit, suddenly making the rest of the team (Lucas aside) look like a bunch of goody two shoes.

When Harry offers him three months’ salary for his services, White demands six, to which Harry replies, ‘No, three should do it. I’ve seen your bank balance.’ Checkmate.

Cliffhanger for Section D
Like its American near relation, 24, Spooks fires so many twists and identity switches that we rarely have the time or inclination to examine the plot holes or character somersaults.

But while it has survived  changes in cast and several controversies to win a large and devoted following since launching in 2002, it will be interesting to see how Spooks develops in series 10, if it gets the green light (and things are left delicately balanced here for more adventures).

How many more hostage situations, plots to blow up London and betrayals before Spooks suffers its own identity crisis?

In the meantime, hang onto your armchairs. In this finale there’s a surprise round every bend.

• crime zapper •

  Law & Order: UK signed off with another strong, twisting episode on Thursday. How often do you see a drama in which the heroes cock it up and an innocent victim is murdered as a result? A nurse insisted she was the victim of a mystery stalker who threw her down a flight of stairs. Brooks and Devlin thought she was making it up to get the police to take her fears more seriously. When she was then quickly murdered, and Brooks and Devlin ended up giving conflicting evidence in court, it gave viewers a powerful story of shifting moral standpoints. It’s been a cracking series, and happily ITV has already commissioned another 13 episodes. Of course, it is a tried and tested formula and ITV are just reheating stories from the US original series, but the cast – Bradley Walsh, Jamie Bamber, Harriet Walter, Ben Daniels and Freema Agyeman – are all good, and the stories are absorbing and pacy.

Just finished Stuart Neville‘s The Twelve – for once, the hype was bang on. ITV or the Beeb should drop their obsession with twee period favourites like Poirot and George Gently. This pulverising novel about a former Belfast hitman seeking to placate and avenge the ghosts of the 12 people he murdered is a genre-busting powerhouse of a book, but with moments of tenderness. If made well, The Twelve would be a headbutt in the face of UK television’s cosy crime scene.


What the hell is Lucas (right) up to in Spooks? It goes without saying that he isn’t the man we thought he was – people rarely are in Section D. But series nine is heading for some showdown between Lucas and his boss, Harry. And knowing what a high casualty rate the show has (Matthew Macfadyen, Keeley Hawes, David Oyelowo, Rupert Penry-Jones and Hermione Norris, among others, all having been fired or murdered), will it be the end of the line for Richard Armitage (Lucas) or Peter Firth (Harry)? ‘Shocking consequences’ are being promised by the Beeb…

Spooks new series, BBC1 PREVIEW

Lucas North and Harry Pearce (all pics BBC/Kudos)

Rating: ★★★½

BBC1, Mondays at 9pm from 20 Sept

Section chief Harry Pearce is stressed. He’s even thinking of getting married, or resigning, anything to escape the pressure of saving London from foreign nutters every week.

Who can blame him? The highest level of stress most of us have at work is looking at Facebook without being caught. As series nine of Spooks opens, Harry is still surrounded by traitors and megalomaniacs, still has to calculate how many innocent Brits he can sacrifice to stop them.

He asks Ruth, his intelligence analyst, if she ever feels she can’t go on.

‘Can’t go on, must go on,’ she says.

Dimitri (Max Brown)

New shocks for the Spooks
Too right. The last time we saw Section D, Ros was racing to save the Home Secretary when she was caught in an explosion. The new series opens with several shocks resulting from that climax, and Harry is immediately faced with personally taking revenge on someone he thought was a trusted friend.

Iain Glen’s first appearance

Actor Peter Firth has perfected a constipated look of alarm-cum-panic. ‘This is my I-want-some-good-news face,’ he says as the latest crisis looms, which looks exactly like his ‘My-buttocks-are-tightly-clenched face’, and his ‘Will-you-marry-me face’.

His mood isn’t helped by Lucas’s attempt to terminate a Somalian Al Qaeda boss, Abib, going disastrously wrong. Pirates hijack the container ship carrying Abib and Lucas, who is pretending to be a crew member. But are they pirates? And what is in the sealed container? And who is that frightened Russian prostitute?

The Russian prostitute

Sophia Myles and Max Brown
This is a cracking opener to the series, with plenty of tension and action. But there is also some fleshing out of character here, and between the shoot-outs and shouting we learn more about the principals and meet intriguing new faces.

Of which there are four – Sophia Myles is Beth Bailey, some kind of privately contracted spook who wants to join M15.

Home Secretary (Simon Russell Beale)

Typically, Lucas doesn’t think Beth is all she appears to be – which is rich coming from him, as we discover when Iain Glen lurches into the story as an ominous figure from Lucas’s past, confirming series nine’s mission to delve into hidden recesses of the characters.

Section D’s hunky he-men
Simon Russell Beale is the new Home Secretary. And Max Brown is ex-Special Boat Service operative Dimitri, who will give Richard Armitage as Lucas a run for his money in the show’s hunky he-man stakes.

Lucas is taken prisoner

It all amounts to a fine re-boot for one of the Beeb’s most avidly followed series (just check out the online Spooks communities).

As the chilled-out Home Secretary says to a rather ragged Harry Pearce at the end of this opener, ‘Until the next catastrophe.’ Which will be along every Monday for the next eight weeks.

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