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Produced by British production company 'Kudos', 'Spooks' was a spy-drama which originally aired on BBC-One beginning in the summer of 2002.
The series was also called 'MI5' in countries like USA and Canada and eventually ran for 10 seasons until the series finale in 2011.
Despite occasionally losing out on TV ratings and audience numbers due to stiff competition from other shows which aired on rival networks in the same time-slot (such as Downtown Abbey), 'Spooks' on average managed to hold an audience-share of at least 5-6 million per episode in the UK alone and has managed to successfully air in syndication in almost every other nation where British drama and television is popular.
The storyboard of 'Spooks' showcased the lives and events surrounding a fictitious unit called Section-D of British national security agency, MI-5.
The unit's team-structure typically consisting of the Head of Counter-terrorism (Section D) (Played across the series by Peter Firth as 'Sir Harry Pearce OBE'); a section-chief (played by a multitude of actors starting with Matthew McFadyen, followed chronologically by Rupert-Penry Jones, Hermione Norris, Richard Armitage and Lara Pulver); a couple of junior case officers - usually one female and one male, a super-smart IT section and a liaison from GCHQ (introduced by 'Ruth Evershed's character in the show's second season).
Other recurring characters also included the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (played by Tim McInnerney as 'Oliver Mace'), a National Security coordinator and the all important Home Secretary. While references were made regarding the Prime Minister and the Director-General of MI5, their faces or names were never revealed
'Spooks' was praised throughout its run for its high-value production, its alignment references with real-life political crises and threats and very accurate knowledge possessed by the show's characters about various facts about the world, history, cultural trivia and political establishments.
The show was also unique in the sense that it repeatedly showed the departure of the protagonists by way of either being 'killed off' or leaving the service due to unavoidable circumstances. As Peter Firth said during an interview with Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear, 'Spooks is the only program that kills off 'heroes' on a regular basis since it is a great 'dramatic device'. The writers said the reason they did that was to show the audience that in the business of secrecy and intelligence services, one doesn't lead the life of a movie-hero and you can literally go at anytime.
'Spooks' also had its share of high-profile guest-actors across its 10 year run, including Hugh Laurie, Anupam Kher, Alan Castle, Iain Glenn, Laila Rouass, Jonathan Hyde, Anthony Head, Simon Akbarian, Alice Krige, Alexander Siddig, Andy Serkis and Martine McCutcheon.
Lastly, the characters of Section-D, the Home Secretary, the GCHQ liaison and National Securty co-ordinator were usually portrayed as the show's protagonists while members from MI6, CIA, the Joint Intelligence Committee and the FSB (later episodes) were usually portrayed as antagonists or at least working against the interests of Section-D in policy.
The Intro to the first episode of Spooks (May 2002)
Season 1 (2002)
The series premiered in May 2002 and consisted of 6 episodes - each with unique story-lines. The 6th episode which dealt with Section-D countering a Sudanese Islamic terrorist attack while trying to maintain a tenuous cease-fire with an Irish separatist group, ended in a cliff-hanger.
The episodes in season one were diverse in plots - the first episode dealt with MI5 dealing with a pro-life American female terrorist while the 3rd dealing with Kurdish separatists taking the entire Turkish embassy as hostage while dealing with a renegade ex MI5 operative who was selling MI5 and MI6 field-agent names for money.
Season-1 also established the high-value production of the series by casting well known actors in guest-spots: Hugh Laurie played 'Jools Siviter', Harry Pearce's opposite in MI6 and Anthony Head was cast in the show's 4th episode as an ex MI5 field-operative (who was also current section-chief Tom Quinn's recruiter) but who has now sold out to a Euro-Anarchist cell.
The success of the first season lead to a 2nd and 3rd season being commissioned by the BBC.
Controversy surrounding Episode 1.02
The 2nd episode of the first season attracted a lot of controversy and complaints from the audience due to the graphic depiction of the killing of one of the characters from Section-D.
Junior case officer Helen Flynn (played by Lisa Faulkner) along with Section chief Tom Quinn (Matthew McFadyen) managed to infiltrate a racist group of ex Army officers who're planning on starting race-riots. However, the two agents are caught out and are held at gunpoint unless Tom reveals details of his mission to the ring-leader Robert Osborne (played by Kevin McNally). When Tom doesn't budge, Robert Osborne kills Helen Flynn by burning her face off in an industrial-grade fryer.
Despite the series being aired past the U.K. Watershed of 9:00 PM, the complaints were significant although the BBC didn't come down too hard on the show's producers.
The killing of Helen's character also set the tone for the show's theme that at any time, the protagonist can be killed as is the case with real-world spying. At the end of the season, Jenny Agutter's character Tessa Phillips, who was a core member of the Section-D Grid (and almost Harry Pearce's equal in term of seniority) was also identified as a mole (yet setting another regular theme for the series) who was setting up phantom agents and pocketing their pays. She's discovered by Zoe during an operation who at the end of the season, reports her treachery to Harry Peace who then fires her.
Season 2 (2003)
Season-2 started off from the cliffhanger which ended Season-1 the previous year. This time, 10 episodes were originally broadcast during the fall of 2003 with the same cast returning to reprise their roles. In addition to the primary characters of the grid, Nicola Walker joined the show as GCHQ liaison 'Ruth Evershed' while Shauna McDonald was cast as newcomer 'Sam Buxton'.
Guest-stars during the season included Alexander Siddig (who played an Algerian double agent), Tomas Arana (a former CIA operative named Herman Joyce who's back in England seeking revenge against Tom Quinn who he believes destroyed Joyce's daughter Lisa after she couldn't cope with the pressure of life in MI5) and Megan Dodds as CIA's London chief Christine Dale.
The season's 10 episodes portrayed a different plot in each episode and ended with a nail-biting cliff-hanger, where Tom Quinn shot Harry Peace in the chest and escaped into the North Sea to prevent being prosecuted for the murder of a high ranking British Army officer.
Season 2 - Episode 2 (featuring an Islamic terrorist for the first time)
Season 3 (2004)
Season-3 premiered in late 2004 and started off from the cliff-hanger in the previous season which showed that Tom was still missing after shooting Harry Pearce. Harry however recovered from the shooting but is faced with the mammoth task of saving his department from being taken over by the Joint Intelligence Committee (headed by Oliver Mace who was played by Tim McInnerney).
Season-3 also marked a turning point for the show's main characters as the original 3 case officers departed the show in episode 2, 6 and 10 respectively - their characters being replaced by Rupert Penry-Jones as new Section-chief Adam Carter; Zoe Reynolds being replaced by Olga Sosnovska's character Fiona Carter (who was Adam's wife originally working with him in MI-6) and Danny Hunter's character being replaced by junior case officer Zafar Younis (played by Raza Jaffrey). The season was rare that it also contained an episode (which introduced Fiona Carter) that shed some light on Harry Pearce's personal life when it was revealed that his daughter Catherine was involved in making a documentary about a pro-Israeli militant group whose aim is the wiping out of Palestine off the world map.
Other guest stars included Bollywood actor Anupam Kher, Andy Serkis and Owen Teale. Though the season suffered a bit in viewership ratings, the series was met with critical acclaim due to the episodes being thoroughly researched and written based on advice from former MI-5 spies and police officers.
Tom Quinn gets decommissioned in Episode 3.02
Zoe Reynolds found guilty (Stung during her mission) before she's secretly exiled to Chile
Danny Hunter's death in the last episode of Season-3
Season 4 (2005)
With the departure of the first trio of main agents by the end of the previous season, Season 4 gave viewers a fresher perspective of brand new characters and more explosive story-lines as against the first 3 seasons.
The first two episodes of this season dealt with a very sensitive story surrounding a anthropological-terrorist group whose main aim was to cull the human race as it deemed it responsible for all the ills on Planet Earth. With singer Martine McCutcheon guest-starring, the episodes gained a steady following and a rise in audience-numbers as against season-3. The following episodes throughout the season also dealt with equally sensitive social issues including a far-right political party standing in for elections and also the final episode of the season dealing with a conspiracy theory surrounding the death of Princess Diana - the episode's main antagonist Angela Wells (played by Lindsay Duncan) alleging MI5 (and more particularly, Harry Pearce) was part of a committee which was directly responsible for orchestrating the car-accident in Paris.
Fiona Carter (Section chief Adam Carter's wife), who was played by Olga Sosnovska was killed off mid-season (after the actress was forced to leave the series due to her pregnancy) - her death caused due to her being shot by her ex-Syrian husband - it was also in this episode where it is revealed that Fiona's real name was Amelia but when her marriage in Syria fell apart, she was forced to change it (on Adam's recommendation) for the family's safety.
Moving forward, Adam Carter was shown to never be the same again - his emotional state suffering major setbacks due to Fiona's death including frequent nightmares about their son Wes Carter (James Dicker).
Fiona's 'female replacement' in the team was a young 'Jo Portman' (played by Miranda Raison, who was at that time also dating actor and her co-star Raza Jaffrey), Jo was originally a tabloid journalist who was later recruited by Adam Carter when they discover they had mutual interests in an operation.
Other newcomers in the season also included the new National Security coordinator Juliet Shaw (Anna Chancellor).
Season 4, Episode 10 - The cliffhanger where Adam Carter is shot and presumed dead
Season 5 (2006)
With Adam Carter surviving his gun-wound, the first episode in season-5 began with a chaotic Britain being on the verge of anarchy in the wake of terror attacks on one of UK's major gas-refineries and also threats against the British PM's son. The first two episodes of this season dealt with our spies dealing with a home-grown plot to overthrow the British government via a coup - the primary player being MI6 section-chief and Harry Pearce's counterpart, Michael Collingwood and oil-magnate Jocelyn Myers (played by Alan Castle). By the end of the episode, Ros Myers (Jocelyn's daughter and MI-6 operative) had switched sides and joined Section-D (recruited by Adam Carter)
The first two episodes of Season-5 also saw the departure of IT-specialist Collin Wells (Rory MacGregor) due to his brutal hanging by MI-6 agents who were supporting the coup by Michael Collingwood.
Other episodes in the series included more explosive storylines involving one where Israeli Mossad agents storn a Saudi trade-center and kill two Saudi diplomats - all to prevent a possible nuclear deal between England and Saudi Arabia while another dealt with a Christian extremist group targeting Muslims - their leader being supported directly by the Archbishop of UK. Season-5 also saw the onset of a budding romance between Harry Pearce and Ruth Evershed - the latter leaving the grid due to being stung in an operation (the producers decided to let go of the character due to Nicola Walker's pregnancy).
Season-5 received healthy ratings in general and as usual, the producers researched the stories in thorough detail by consulting real-life former MI-5 operatives.
Harry Pearce and Ruth Evershed (Season 5)
Season 6 (2007)
Premiering in 2007, Season-6 was different from the preceding seasons of Spooks in that it followed one constant story-line as against a different plot in each episode and also dived deeper into the relationships between Adam Carter and Ros Myers, who're shown to have an affair at the beginning of the season's first episode.
The primary story-line also revolved around the premise that a new resurgent Iran had been secretly developing Nuclear weapons (drawing parallels with the real-life Iranian nuclear crises around that time) and the focus of each episode was on our spies trying to foil any Iranian nuclear plot.
This season showed the departure of junior case officer Zafar Younis within the first two episodes after he was kidnapped by a group of mercenaries called 'The Redbacks' who abduct intelligence officers and 'sell' them to independent 'bidders' for information. At the end of the season, it was revealed that Zafar was taken to Pakistan and was tortured to death by one of the agents working for 'The Redbacks'.
Other major episodes also include one where armed far-right activists lead by Paul Mills (guest starring Mark Bazeley) hijack a BBC TV Broadcast of a special episode of 'Ask The Question' which seated Iranian special counsul Dariesh Bakshi (played by Simon Abkarian), the head of CIA-UK, Bob Hogan (guest starring Matthew Marsh) and the British Foreign Secretary; the final episode of the season which showed Jo Portman being kidnapped and raped by the Redbacks and Bob Hogan being exposed as a mercenary too (which led to his dismissal from the CIA).
Apart from the 'killing off' of Zafar, no other major characters departed the series and guest stars included Simon Abkarian, Matthew Marsh, Agni Scott (playing Ana, Dariesh Bakshi's wife and the mole working for MI-5 who has an ongoing affair with Adam) and Robert Glenister (who reprised his role as British Home Secretary).
As far as the Grid was concerned, two new characters, Connie James (played by Gemma Jones) and Ben Kaplan (played by Alex Lanipekun) joined Section-D; both being recruited indirectly with Ben being a journalist who sleeps with Jo in an attempt to dig deeper into a MI-5 orchestrated bomb-blast in Tehran during the first episode of the season.
The character of Ros Myers also left the series midway after being exposed as a mole working for a shadow organization called 'Yalta', who were shown to be the force behind Iran's growing strength as they believe American and Israeli military supremacy had to be balanced out - Yalta was also shown to be headed by former National Security coordinator Juliet Shaw (Anna Chancellor) and the former Attorney General of the UK (from Season 3 in 2004) - The audience was led to believe that Ros was killed using lethal injection but at the last moment, Adam swapped syringes and let Ros escape - she'd return to the show in the first episode of season 7 in 2008.
Overall, while maintaining healthy viewership, Season-6 did suffer a drop in viewer numbers but the BBC nevertheless did allow Kudos to produce another season for 2008.
Season 6 - Interview with Peter Firth
Season 7 (2008)
With the events from the end of Season 6 still haunting Jo (after her ordeal with Boscard of the 'Redbacks' who raped her after kidnapping her), she's shown to have recurring nightmares of the events although it was revealed that she killed Boscard with Adam's help.
Often regarded as the best in Spooks, Season 7 began with the introduction of a new character named Lucas North (played by Richard Armitage) who was a prisoner in Russia under FSB's guard for 8 years before being sent back to England as part of a prisoner-exchange program - Lucas North was apparently the chief of Section-D BEFORE Tom Quinn (the Section-chief from Season 1 to the 2nd episode of Season 3) and is reputed as being one of the best field-agents MI-5 ever had.
Season-7 also saw the departure of Adam Carter from the series - Rupert Penry-Jones who played Adam Carter since 2004 had expressed his intention of leaving the show so his character was killed off due to a terrorist attack backed by the FSB's London Chief, Akadi Kachimov (played by Stuart Wilson).
The season's primary story-line revolved around a project named 'Sugarhorse' which involved MI5 and MI6 running moles in the FSB and the top levels of Russian establishment to gather intelligence - This project had been compromised due to a mole within MI5 (who was revealed as Connie James). Connie was eventually caught after orchestrating a nuclear bomb to be planted by the FSB in London which she agrees to diffuse - but kills herself in the process. Journalist turned spy Ben Kaplan finds out that Connie was the mole and gets killed by her too.
Season 7's other notable episodes also included episode-4 where Al Qaeda's #3 Mohammad Khordad (played by Paul Bhattacharjee) offers to negotiate with MI5 for intelligence against what he believes is a common enemy for both the west and Al Qaeda's ideology in Iran. Another episode showed Ros Myers working undercover in a shady investment firm to bring down its head by Alex Maynell (Paul Rhys) who capitalizes on the Global Financial Crisis and shorts high-street banks for millions of pounds in profit.
Season-7 ended in a cliffhanger when Harry Pearce was kidnapped by renegade FSB officers including their London-chief Victor Sarkizian and was shown being taken to an unknown location.
Adam Carter's death at the end of Episode 7.01
Connie James gets killed towards the end of Episode 7.08
Season 8 (2009)
Season-8 began with Harry Pearce (presumed dead) being taken to a secret hideaway by FSB's London chief Victor Sarkizian (played by Peter Sullivan) and the being sold off to a group of Indian Intelligence officers headed by Amish Mani (played by Ace Bhatti) who force him to divulge information about a hidden stockpile of Uranium in England which was secretly stolen from Iraq before it could be used as leverage by the Americans to justify the 2003 invasion. To further manipulate Harry, Amish manages to almost capture Ruth Evershed (Nicola Walker) who's now living in Cyprus with a man named George and his son - Ruth however manages to extract herself back to the UK using Malcolm's help but is captured anyway and meets Harry, tied up, after almost 3 years. The Indian intelligence officers are eventually captured and both Ruth and Harry are saved and Malcom Wynn-Jones (Hugh Simon), retiring from the service after he realizes he's now too old to handle the daily pressures of the job.
This season also saw the departure of Jo Portman - she was killed by Ros in 8.03 when Ros tries shooting down the head of a gang of armed abductors who've captured and killed a Bilderberg-group like set of businessmen.
The season's primary story line revolved around a mysterious organization called 'Nightingale', who're after a complete reorder of world power with the aim of eliminating Pakistan off the map before the Taliban were able to get their hands on their nuclear weapons - at the end of the season, there's almost a nuclear war between India and Pakistan but it is stopped after timely intervention by the Pakistani President who orders an immediate release of a captured Indian Submarine off Pakistani waters - the end of this episode also saw Ros Myers being killed while trying to rescue British Home Secretary Andrew Lawrence (played by Tobias Menzies) who was poisoned by Nightingale's head of operations Russell Price (who's also head of European operations at the CIA).
Other characters who joined the series included young IT expert Tariq Masood (played by Shehzad Latif) and guest appearances by Gennvieve O'Reilly (who played Lucas's love interest and CIA-mole for Nightingale, Sarah Caulfield), Emil Hostina as Darshavn (Lucas's interrogator at Lubyanka for the FSB). Home Secretary Nicholas Blake (played by Robert Glenister) departed the series after he was smeared out of office by Nightingale - he'd later be revealed as a mole working for Nightingale at the start of season-9.
Ros Myers kills Jo Portman at the end of Episode 8.03
The last 10 minutes of Episode 8.08 (Ros Myers gets killed at the end)
Season 9 (2010)
With Ros Myers being killed, Harry Pearce realizes that like Malcolm, it might be time for him to move on and let someone else take the reigns - he finally asks Ruth to marry him, who turns him down, saying that given the nature of their jobs and what they've been through apart and together, marriage is the worst idea possible.
It is also revealed after Ruth's investigation into the Nightingale affair's aftermath that former home secretary Nicholas Blake was behind the bombing of the hotel at the end of the previous episode which killed his successor Andrew Lawrence and Ros Myers. Harry seeks revenge and tracks Nicholas up to a home in Scotland, where he poisons his drink and kills him, making it look like a natural heart attack.
Meanwhile, a new character named Beth Bailey (Played by Sophia Myles) joins Section-D, after working as a private contractor and crossing paths with Lucas North during an operation, along with another new recruit named Dimitri Levendis (played by Max Brown).
While Lucas North was promoted to being new Section-Chief after Ros's death, the entire season delved deeper into Lucas's mysterious past (predating his time spent in a Russian prison) - with a shady character named Vaughn Edwards (played by Iain Glenn) meeting him after 15 years - and revealing to viewers that Lucas's real name's John Bateman and he was directly involved in the bombing of the British Embassy at Dakar, Senegal in 1995. Vaughn begins blackmailing Lucas throughout the series into finding a top-secret file named 'Albany' else he'll reveal to Section-D who Lucas really is. At the end of the season, Lucas kidnaps Ruth in order to have Harry Pearce hand Albany to him.
Guest appearances in the season included Laila Rouass as Dr Maya Lahan (Lucas/John's first love from University of Leeds) who Vaughn seduces as bait for Lucas to bring 'Albany' to him; Vincent Reagan as Alec White (an external and former Internal Affairs officer to track a now rogue Lucas North who's goes absconding at the end of the season), Simon Beale as William Towers, the new Home Secretary and Colin Salmon as Mr. Beecher, the new head of CIA-London. A special appearnce was also made by Hugh Simon as Malcolm Wynn-Jones, who visits Harry to advise him that Lucas met him earlier seeking a file but believed he was lying about why he needed it - it is here that Harry and Malcolm find out the real truth about Lucas.
During the last two episodes of the season, Lucas North/John Bateman reveals that the real Lucas North was killed by him and Vaughn before the Embassy bombings in 1995 in Dakar and John assumed Lucas's identity thereon and joined MI-5 like the real Lucas North wanted to. John Bateman also shows his true colours at the end of the season when he kills Vaughn and kidnaps Ruth to secure safe passage from the Chinese (to whom Albany was meant to be sold to), so that he and his first and true love Maya are able to live happily ever after in a new country with brand new identities. However, in the crossfire, Maya's killed and Lucas seeks revenge on Harry Pearce for her death. Albany was designed as a genetic weapon which could target specific races but Harry reveals to Lucas that the technology's worthless and that the Chinese had nothing except a possible deterrent - realizing that Lucas/John had nothing else to live for, he commits suicide, much to the rest of the team's grief.
At the end of the season, Home Secretary Towers tells Harry Pearce that because Albany was a state-secret which he gave away to save Ruth, there would be a full investigation into his career, regardless of whether Albany's technology was fake or not.
Episode 9.01 - Harry Pearce poisons Nicholas Blake after discovering he ordered Ros's death
Lucas North reveals his real identity in Episode 9.07
The final showdown between Lucas/John and Harry before 'Lucas' commits suicide in Episode 9.09
Season 10 (2011)
The final season of Spooks premiered during the northern autumn of 2011 on BBC - The writers confirming a few months earlier that the 10th season would be the last for the show.
Season-10 was also shorter in the sense that it only contained 6 episodes as compared to the usual 8 to 10 episodes during the show's previous seasons, and focused on Harry's personal past dating back to the 1980s.
The primary story line revolved around a term called 'Tourmaline' who was the alias for a Russian mole working for Harry called Jelena Gavrik (played by Alice Krige) - it is revealed the Jelena had an affair with Harry and was also married to a former KGB officer turned oligarch and politician named Ilya Gavrik (played by Jonathan Hyde). The couple have a son (who was originally believed to be Harry's) named Sasha Gavrik (Tom Weston-Jones) who's an FSB officer and seeks revenge against Harry for the constant danger faced by his mother.
Season-10 also showed Harry Pearce being acquited off charges of treason after selling off Albany to the Chinese and returning to Section-D. A new section-chief (who had temporarily replaced Harry Pearce during his gardening leave) named Erin Watts (played by Lara Pulver) is introduced along with junior IT expert Callum Read (played by Geoffrey Streathfield).
Sadly though, Tariq Masood and Ruth Evershed were killed off during the series (with Ruth being the last ever character to be killed off during the show's 10 year run).
At the end of the last episode of Season 10, Tom Quinn (played by Matthew Macfadyen) made a cameo appearance as a private contractor working for Harry Pearce who assassinates a senior FSB operative running Jelena Gavrik (previously exposed as a traitor to Russia and orchestrating a war between Russia and the UK).
I'll let some video-clips do the talking for the final series of Spooks instead of writing too much....... :)
S10.01 (First 10 minutes)
S10.02 (Select Clip)
S10.E03 (Select clip)
Ruth questions Harry's motives (S10.5)
S10.06 (Harry's Rescue from CIA Custody)
I still watch 'Spooks' all the time and every time it is aired in syndication as I feel it is probably one of the most realistic spy-dramas to dawn on a major TV network and its legacy will always be remembered and recognized.
To conclude, I've attached a clip below which shows the 'Top Ten Moments' of the show as chosen by the cast and audience over the show's 10 year run.