After three series this show is still going strong on BBC, and that is surprising. With the wealth of strong political, spy and police based drama coming from the States to both Channel 5 and Channel 4 it must be difficult for a BBC spy drama to even keep up, especially considering the first series launched during the run of 24!
Interestingly 24 was running on BBC at the time, and they had commissioned Spooks as well as broadcasting it at the same time – one might ask if they wanted it to fail. It didn’t.
The inside word is that they saw the completed version of the first episode and sent it back to hastily recut in a 24 style, and although that’s calmed down slightly since the original episode, it still retains that same feel but a bit less frantic.
That’s not to say the episodes aren’t any less edge of your seat than 24, they really are just as exciting. There is a lot packed into an episode and the drama and tension is just heightened with the typical British style of some of the characters.
Now, that’s where I think it wins. The characterisation. They are really British and a unique mis of individuals, with the strong but vocal boss, the restrained and inward lead spy, and the young, eager and often misled team members. It all lines up perfectly. Add to that the sarcastic and biting British humour and you have an excellent cast. Peter Firth plays the head of MI5, and is undoubtedly the head of the cast. His strong and brooding personality steals all the scenes he appears in and is a highly underrated actor.
The stories are never contrived and often highly relevant for real world events, which is something very surprising considering the television studios desire to avoid anything that might upset the odd individual, but Spooks doesn’t. It won’t pull any punches.
Actually, my only desire for the series is that it was on more often. Episode one of the third series was tense as anything, with my girlfriend telling me to calm down during the episode.