Hunted: Our fascination with spies

Thursday 4 October 2012, 11:00

Frank Spotnitz Frank Spotnitz Writer

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My career has been most closely associated with science fiction, which is no surprise given the years I spent writing and producing The X-Files TV series and feature films.

But for Hunted, the new series I created for the BBC, I've moved away from science fiction to the spy genre, which is my favourite in all of film and television.

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Hunted trailer: 'Think about the chaos you've unleashed'

There are some obvious reasons for this.

Spy stories provide plenty of opportunities for action and suspense - things motion pictures can deliver with unique effectiveness.

But I think the real appeal of the spy genre is much deeper.

By definition spies are duplicitous. They appear to be one type of person when they are actually someone else altogether.

They pursue one agenda while pretending to serve another. A spy simply cannot be trusted.

To varying degrees the same can be said of all of us, spies or not.

We all present a face to the world that is not exactly the person we are inside. Because part of us always remains hidden, none of us is truly knowable - not our parents, siblings, spouse or friends.

It's not surprising we all yearn to be surrounded by people we can trust. And fear betrayal.

Sam Hunter (Melissa George) on the set

Melissa George as Sam Hunter during filming

That for me is what spy stories do so well. Spies live in a world of deceit and distrust. Their stories externalise our deepest fears.

By design Hunted plays on these fears in the most intimate way I could imagine.

Sam Hunter suspects that she has been betrayed by the man she loves. She must expose herself to mortal danger, knowing she can't trust him or anyone else.

Of course Sam is more than an embodiment of our collective fears. Brilliantly realised by Melissa George, she is a unique, complex, contradictory character with a dark and troubled past.

I am neither a spy nor a woman and yet I find it very easy to identify with Sam. I suspect many audiences will too.

Complicating Sam's situation is the brave new world in which she we now live.

Over the past few decades espionage has become increasingly privatised. Sam doesn't work for MI5 or MI6 - she works for Byzantium, a private security firm dedicated not to defence of the realm but to serving the interests of its clients.

These clients' identities are not revealed to operatives like Sam which makes identifying who might want her dead - and why - even more difficult.

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Sam runs for her life through the alleyways of Tangier

Researching this world proved less difficult than you might imagine.

Business is booming - there are now thousands of private security firms operating all over the globe.

And while they keep secret their client lists they were very happy to talk (with names withheld) about the work they do.

I collaborated with a team of talented writers for six months on the stories for Hunted.

We devised a complicated web of deception with lots of action, suspense, and plot twists and turns.

But at the heart of it all we tried to never lose sight of the character of Sam, who anchors this dangerous world in a deeper emotional truth.

Frank Spotnitz is the executive producer and lead writer of Hunted.

Hunted begins on Thursday, 4 October at 9pm on BBC One and BBC One HD. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

More on Hunted
Watch Frank Spotnitz talk to BBC Writersroom and BBC Media Centre.
Melissa George and Adam Rayner interviewed on BBC Breakfast.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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Comments

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    Comment number 1.

    Hi Frank, really looking forward to seeing your show Hunted. I have been a fan of yours since your many collaborations with Chris Carter, and I think that you have created some of the most thought-provoking and intelligent series on television, such as the X-Files. I agree with your ideas on the duplicity of human nature, and how this allows the audience to really connect with Sam. I also love that you have picked a female protagonist, and it looks as though you have created the perfect balance between femininity and the strength needed for a good spy.

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    Comment number 2.

    I obviously don't get moern comedy but at least there was no canned laughter

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    Comment number 3.

    Thanks, ChrisL. I'll be checking in with this blog from time to time. Hope you enjoyed the show!

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    Comment number 4.

    I'm hooked. Great first episode. Interesting ethical issues to contemplate, Sam uses the child to get at Grandad even though she herself appears to suffered childhood trauma (was her Mum, perhaps also a Spy, murdered ?). More intriguing though, who is the Mole ?. Great TV for the dark Winter evenings.

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    Comment number 5.

    Hi Frank,

    Enjoyed the first episode last night. Very stylish and full of original twists. Looking forward to the next one,

    Clive

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    Comment number 6.

    Hi Frank.
    Enjoyed Hunted last night. A very complex story. It was my Morris Marina Estate that was featured in the flashbacks. Hopefully there will be more as we need to know how her mother was involved and subsequently murdered.Were there any still pictures taken of my car as it will give it a bit of history. If there is a follow up to Hunted the car will be there if needed. Great spy drama..............Larry.

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    Comment number 7.

    Hunted was so dull I won't be watching again. Another example of how the BBC can't compete with HBO when it comes to stuff like this. Badly acted, uninspired casting, awful script. The lead character seemed to be more concerned with her pout than anything else, and her "undercover" act was completely transparent.

    Thank god Homeland is back on our screens on Sunday, proper drama with a great script and cast.

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    Comment number 8.

    Agree fully with James above and also look forward to Homeland ;o)

    Further hmm... Far to unrealistic, in one scene she has a fight with a guy nearly twice her size, punches to her face and get her head smashed against a post but guess what, no marks at all on her face hmm... and during the beginning she acts very controlled and confident but just before she gets shot she seems frustrated and nearly out of control.

    Hope it gets better 5 out 10 so far.

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    Comment number 9.

    Sorry to have lost James, but I'm glad you'll give it another try, papadkuk, and delighted you were intrigued by the ethical issues, Giz. There are a lot more of those to come...

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    Comment number 10.

    Frank. Welcome to BBC ONE!

    The first episode was thoroughly enthralling, a thrilling rollercoaster of personal emotional backstory mixed with under-hand dealing and internal conflict. Yes, initially, I wasn't quite sure if the organisation was either Government sanctioned or private but all became clear.

    The biscuit crumb "signs" in the newspapers was very Conan Doyle, (best to emulate from the best, I suppose) as was the sense of 'whose watching who doing whom' (correct construction of terms?) was very BOURNE movie with a hint of 24 and the classic series version of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE.

    These are not criticisms as HUNTED became, across the hour, a Gestalt beast of all its peers. Glorious. Mellisa George was engaging, believable as Sam but I wonder if Billie Piper had turned down the role/character?

    Yes, as reviewers have said, did no-one notice the stupid "false-walled-room-with-a-view-on-the-the-same-street" in the edit? The panes could have been 'frosted' with CGI?

    Six days and counting until episode 2.

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    Comment number 11.

    Lara Croft understudy meets wooden soldiers in an incomprehensible and unbelievable plot. If you are going to watch this, prepare to suspend belief and detach your brain.
    She should have stayed under water for the duration of the show - but there again, having survived a short range shot in her stomach, she would have survived!

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    Comment number 12.

    Thank you for the reply, Frank. And yes, I did enjoy the show; the story gripped me from beginning to end and, as others have said, the show addressed some really interesting issues. Great television.

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    Comment number 13.

    I was already looking forward to seeing this. Even more so since learning about Spotnitz's involvement from this blog.

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    Comment number 14.

    Hi Frank,

    Such a nice thing to see a writer as talented and well revered as yourself putting yourself forwards for a blog like this, and taking criticism amongst the majority of praise.

    I enjoyed the pilot and feel like there is much more to come in the future that will take it away from the Alias/Spooks procedural element. Which feels especially viable given the far more intriguing moral issues raised (with the child as a mark angle) that gave the pilot the unique element that will bring back viewers for episode two and beyond.

    I'm a young produced writer (I have a new pilot being released soon, trailer is here: http://www.channelfix.com/video/811/ )

    If you ever need a writer's assistant or you'd like to help a budding talent my details are all on here (This is so cheeky it just might work).

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    Comment number 15.

    Sorry but after watching every episode of 'Spooks' over the years I was expecting the same high standard of acting and story line but was disappointed with both. The casting falls short of average and is unbelievable given the scenario we are expected to believe. Sorry guys but although early days this doesn't appear plausible for a decent series. Please re-hash 'Spooks' asap.

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    Comment number 16.

    I can see very much what you mean about the deceit and questions of trust that pervade spy fiction. But "Hunted" just doesn't suit me. Sorry, but in so many ways it feels a little too superficial. I'd rather rewatch "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy".

    But you've given me one idea: if it's a world of private security companies, what do they do with people on Work Experience, cheap to the company, and expendable.

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    Comment number 17.

    Maybe her mother wasnt murdered. She maybe committed suicide when she saw the price of fuel

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    Comment number 18.

    Pity the BBC finds it necessary to plough straight into a "next time..." preview even before the credits, spoiling the following episode for anyone who thinks the point of a mystery drama is seeing the mystery being gradually revealed through unexpected twists and turn of the plot.

    Is the concept of "cliff hanger" foreign to today's BBC producers, or do they just think it makes them look smart to use every fashionable gimmick available?

    it seems to me that showing clips of the next episode demonstrates a lack of respect for the writers and the viewers and a failure to understand the genre.

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    Comment number 19.

    Is Hunted coming to Australia please? If so, which channel and when?

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    Comment number 20.

    Very irritating the way the main character speaks/looks. Very cold, zombie-like. She's even like that when she talks to her own work colleagues! No-one talks like that, not even spies!

    Might get a little tiring watching this over the next few weeks.

    When the BBC said that there would be new spy dramas, I was hoping more for the Tinker Tailor type, not more guns and bombs Spooks type.

 

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