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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  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Quite unbelievable nonsense. A lead spy with model looks takes out five heavies in the first fifteen minutes, sleeps sitting on the floor (?), returns to her job without a debrief and immediately rehired? And idiotic one minute conversation between her and colleague about 'love'? Where do you get these script writers from?

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    Comment number 22.

    @bournelegacy - I think they come from Hogwarts, it would explain some of the delusion at least.

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    Comment number 23.

    Great TV again. I've looked forward to this for the last couple of days and I wasn't disappointed. Sam's really coming into her own here and we're seeing more of the recurring child/childhood theme, it's a very emotive issue at the minute.

    The mole thing and who the mole is getting more intrigung. I'm guessing to be the mole you have to know what's going on and from this episode that can only be the grey haired boss (who appears to to a sadist) or, perhaps, the guy in charge of the monitoring team ?

    For those on here who here who think it's too dramatic and far fetched I'd say go watch the Discovery channel.

    Great TV (Frank) I'm more hooked than last time !!! roll on next episode.

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    Comment number 24.

    Thoroughly enjoyed it. I think the mole is the woman with the scots accent (cant remember her name ) mainly because of the scots connection in the flashbacks. Looking forward to next week.

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    Comment number 25.

    Thanks so much, Giz. Hope everyone's enjoying it. And for those of you wondering who the mole is... you won't have to wait for answers as long as you might think.

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    Comment number 26.

    Great series, Frank. It is great to have intelligent story telling back on t.v. and something for the audience to really think about, rather than just watching passively.

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    Comment number 27.

    Excrutiating. Embarrassing. Naff. Implausible. Weak. Can do better. Must try harder.

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    Comment number 28.

    Thanks, ChrisL. The revelations are going to come fast and furious in the next three episodes. I'm interested to hear what everyone thinks once you start to understand who's behind the plot to kill Sam.

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    Comment number 29.

    Hi Frank.
    Rumors are flying every which way that Chris Carter will soon be shooting a movie some place Downunder. Could this be the long awaited third X-F movie and if it is are you involved too?
    Sorry for not commenting on your show but I can't see it where I live, darn it. But news of another X-F movie would just about make up for not be able to watch Hunted! :-)
    BTW : Annie Gurton if you're going to make accusations like that against others you ought to know how to spell the accusations before you make them.

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    Comment number 30.

    "Spies live in a world of deceit and distrust. Their stories externalise our deepest fears..." Bit like Jimmy Saville then?

    Seriously, great TV and if you missed it check out iPlayer ASAP!

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    Comment number 31.

    Just watched the second episode and thought I MUST catch up by watching the first episode and readany reviews to see if it was me that had to stretch his grasp on reality. I thought Homeland stretched "artistic licence" but goes one step beyond th worst B movie ever. She enters a crime scene! gets the drop on the assasin and allows herself to be dissarmed! gets and gives a good thrashing with NO facial,hand,arm injuries and has no other effects, Dctr, death considers a hyperdermic injection in the hallwayof his CONTACT but hands the case over instead ! Hassan or whatever his name was overpowers his captures,doesnt club them with the steel pipe and run away ,but stops for the camera,gets battered with a heavy steel chain but can still mentaly function and try to kill the heroin (in the dungeon). The list is endless ,and I have only scratched the surface of the one episode that I watched,probably wouldn't have wached that if I had seen the first one. Come on surely this plot and story line (even though far fetched) should be strong enough on its own without the far fetched over the top bull---- that detracts from what could be good entertainment .COME ON .ARE YOU THAT SHORT OF GOOD SCRIPTS. Too frustrated and dissapointed to continue.

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    Comment number 32.

    I have not really got into the whole blog thing and reading all of the above I wouldn't be surprised if you (Frank Spotnitz) gave this blog up! How do you deal with all the criticism? I am really, really enjoying 'Hunted' and I decided to go onto your blog to see what like minded people were thinking. But I find the negative comments so depressing. Maybe that's the nature of blogs - putting up with the rough and the smooth. I'd rather continue discussing my television past-times in the real world. Looking forward to Episode 3. PS - my favourite comment : was from the Morris Marina Estate owner. Nice car.

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    Comment number 33.

    Thanks mazzaj for the nice comment.It drove to London and back for filming. Round trip of 850 miles. Not bad for a 36 year old motor. I am really enjoying Hunted and hope there are more flashbacks.

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    Comment number 34.

    There will be more flashbacks, larrymarina. As you may have guessed, the terrible events of Sam's childhood have some connection to present-day events.

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    Comment number 35.

    Buoyed by the positive chat, I'm back! I am hoping there is a mirroring effect of story of Sam as a child with the child of her colleague. It would mean the present-day child survives...?

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    Comment number 36.

    I am very taken with Sam's wardrobe - where can I get a list of some of the stuff she wears? Is there a costume designer or something? I have to have those boots...

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    Comment number 37.

    I'm really enjoying this but have to agree that Sam is too petite to be able to fight off those huge bull - necked types , however having seen some very tiny women do amazing physical sports at this summer Olympics I guess we can just about put that down to artistic license. I used to hate stories told in flash back but ever since watching the superb White Heat ( for me, the best drama on TV this year, by far) earlier this year iv changed my mind as it does get the viewer thinking. Amazingly I never watched Spooks and have no idea what it was about, but I think I will check it out once Hunter has finished. Some scenes were unbelievable , such as Hassan's being beaten with heavy chains around the head and still being compus mentus - it would happen in real life - but this ain't real it's telly escapism so don't watch it if your fav programme is Gardeners World !

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    Comment number 38.

    Again I'm really looking forward to tonights episode. 2 1/2 hours to go !!!

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    Comment number 39.

    Just watched hunted, the most thrilling exciting programme on the tele a the moment BRILLiANT!!! Can't wait till next week!
    Talented writer thank yoou for sharing with us!

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    Comment number 40.

    Hello Frank.
    What made you have a woman as a tough leading role, and not a female steroetype such as women in James Bond movies etc. I know this sounds a bit cliche but it,s good to have a woman who is strong in character and personality. and not like a wag or a typical female stereotype.


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