The Spying Game

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The Spying Game Empty The Spying Game

Message  Matthieu le Sam 10 Avr 2010 - 9:15

Par Richard McClure (TV & Satellite Week, 31 mai 2003). Very Happy
[3 pages scannées]
It ended on an explosive cliffhanger. Now Spooks is back with even more fireworks
When MI5 officer Tom Quinn was last seen in Spooks, he was facing his most important mission ever - desperately trying to save the lives of his girlfriend Ellie and her daughter Maisie who were trapped inside their own home with a terrorist bomb timed to go off in a matter of seconds.

Having endured nearly a year of suspense since that last cliffhanging episode, viewers finally learn the family's fate this week when the award-winning spy drama makes an explosive return to BBC1.

'It's quite a relief that Spooks is finally back,' says the show's creator David Wolstencroft. 'People have been asking me for months what happens next, but we've managed to keep the first episode shrouded in secrecy.'

Secrecy is the name of the game for Quinn (Matthew Macfadyen) and his intelligence service colleagues, Zoe Reynolds (Keeley Hawes) and Danny Hunter (David Oyelowo). Protecting Britain from the threat of terrorists and extremists, under the watchful eye of their boss Harry Pearce (Peter Firth), their dangerous jobs mean they must lie to their loved ones about the true nature of their work.

'It's not the operational side of the officers' jobs that fascinates me, it's more the emotional side,' explains Wolstencroft. 'What is the psychology of being a spy? How do these people deal with leading double lives?'

Having previously written the mental health drama Psychos for Channel 4, Wolstencroft was surprised when Spooks was turned down by the channel. Fortunately, the BBC 'rode in like a white knight' to rescue the project. The first series easily justified that decision, pulling in more than eight million viewers and, last month, winning a BAFTA for Best Drama Series.

Work has already started on a third series and the show has also been bought by a US cable channel. 'We had no idea it would be so successful,' says Wolstencroft, who admits that the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 gave Spooks an added relevance. 'We were actually having a script meeting when the attacks took place. Suddenly, national security issues were in the headlines.'

The first series made headlines of its own, following an episode in which agent Helen Flynn (Lisa Faulkner) had her head shoved into a deep fat fryer full of boiling oil. More than 350 viewers complained to the BBC about the shocking murder scene, but Wolstencroft makes no excuses for the manner of the character's demise.

'Had the victim not been Lisa Faulkner, I don't think people would have been so outraged. They were upset because we killed the fluffy bunny,' he says. 'It wasn't graphic violence, it was implied. But, yes, the aim was to shock. We wanted to make the point that none of the characters are safe. These are people in real jeopardy.'

To research the perilous world of counter-terrorism, Wolstencroft and his team of writers consulted ex-spies about the workings of the secret service. Former MI5 man David Shayler was involved in early discussions, only to later criticise the show for its unrealistic 'designer togs and hightech equipment'.

'Shayler left MI5 in 1996 and a lot of things have changed since then - there's a little thing called a laptop for a start: wunters Wolstencroft. 'Besides, Spooks isn't a documentary. We are taking leaps. If you walked into a hospital emergency room, it wouldn't be like ER.'

In the new 10-part series, the team comes up against suicide bombers, a potential mutiny in the British Army and a poison gas attack in London. They confront the threats with the latest developments in spy technology.

The show has dramatically increased its budget for gadgets and gizmos. 'All the equipment is real. It's not like we have a zero gravity machine concealed in the nib of a pen,' says Wolstenscroft. 'Spooks isn't a James Bond movie. Everything we do is plausible.'

So plausible in fact that Wolstencroft admits his research into the British secret service has made him paranoid about his own safety, 'I sometimes think I can hear clicks on my telephone line,' he says. 'But that's probably more to do with not paying my telephone bill.'
Feeling the heat: The murder of Helen Flynn (Lisa Faulkner, above with Macfadyen) shocked viewers
It's tough at the top: In his fight against national terrorism, MI5 head Harry Pearce (Peter Firth, above centre) expects total dedication
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