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Par Ian Wylie (Manchester Evening News, 30 mai 2003).
THE good guys are back on Her Majesty's secret service in a new series for your eyes only.
Spooks was a big hit when it first came to the screen last year and recently won a Bafta award for best drama.
"I was thrilled when the producers called to tell me how well it had done," says Matthew MacFadyen, who plays senior MI5 officer Tom Quinn.
"They put huge billboards up to promote the series and the strange thing was there was one right outside my flat. I would walk out of my front door and think to myself: `Oh, there I am,' which was the weirdest thing. But then, after a while, it became strangely normal to see my face staring back at me every day."
Fans will know there's an explosive start to the new series, which begins where it left off, with Tom's girlfriend, Ellie, and her young daughter in mortal danger.
"Tom has inadvertently taken a laptop computer home and then he gets a call from an Irish terrorist who tells him that there are explosives in the laptop," recalls Matthew (BBC1, 9pm, Monday).
"Tom is outside the house, and Ellie and Maisie are inside. Because of the extra security measures on the house, he can't get in and they can't get out - and that's where we left them."
In real life, the 33-year-old former Warriors star is going out with actress Keeley Hawes, who also returns as MI5 agent Zoe Reynolds. Their romance was sparked during filming for the first series.
Reality and fiction are often blurred when it comes to the drama, created before the world changing events of September 11. Executive producer Jane Featherstone explains: "There were times when we found our fiction blending imperceptibly with the news.
"One episode, for example, was about race issues and, at the time it was broadcast, the 10 O'Clock News followed with a story about race riots. There were a number of times when items in the news seemed frighteningly to mirror what had just happened on the screen."
UK Gold is screening a repeat run of the entire first series this weekend before BBC1 shows episode one of ten in the second run. It features the assassination of the Northern Ireland Secretary, killed along with his two daughters by a car bomb.
Digital viewers don't have to wait a week to see the second episode, which follows on BBC3 at 10.30pm on Monday. It tells the story of a mullah at a Birmingham mosque who is suspected of extremist activities, and young boys who are being turned into suicide bombers.
A later episode involves the nightmare scenario of a germ warfare attack on a British city. Tom and the team walk into their office - The Grid - and are faced with an Extreme Emergency Response Initiative Exercise (EERIE).
They are told a dirty bomb has exploded in London and they have to decide how to deal with it.
"As the episode unfolds the team become unsure whether it is an exercise or not," says Matthew.
"I finally get to use a gun in that episode, so I was thrilled. I love all the physical stuff where you get to charge around."
Infamous for the deep-fat fryer death of Lisa Faulkner's character, Helen, Spooks has recruited some new faces alongside MacFadyen, Hawes and David Oyelowo, who plays Danny.
"MI5 not 9 to 5" is still the slogan for the series, largely filmed at Pinewood Studios - home of the James Bond films. Spooks creator David Wolstencroft moved to England after growing up in America, where the drama will be screened later this year.
HE believes series like the Manchester trio of Cutting It, Clocking Off and Queer As Folk are the equal of The West Wing, ER and The Sopranos. And Spooks is as relevant as ever.
"In the current political climate, never have people been more aware of the risk of terrorist threats," says David. "Sadly, it is at the back of all our minds that what happened in the US on September 11, 2001, could be repeated in some way."
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