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 41.

    Great show but loosing the plot through poor sound and no subtitles.Having to guess what the actors are saying is not helpful in following the story line.

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    Comment number 42.

    Best telly I have watched in years, am hooked. Melissa George is fantastic

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    Comment number 43.

    So glad you're enjoying the show. To answer the question from jordan4marylebone: I think a woman in this world is so much more interesting. She's automatically the underdog. But it was incredibly difficult casting this role. We saw something like 200 actresses in London, New York, Los Angeles and Australia. A lot of them were amazingly talented, but I literally knew the first time I saw Melissa on tape that she was the one. She had this ability to play two things at once -- Sam's toughness, and the damage and vulnerability beneath. I don't know how she does it. It's like a magic trick.

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    Comment number 44.

    Great episode last night, cannot wait until next week.

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    Comment number 45.

    Fantastic episode last night ... so good I had to watch it twice !!!

    What a dramatic start, a brutal murder (by Turner's henchmen) quickly followed by the scene with Sam comforting the child. The ethical issue of Sam using Edward (the child) to gain access to Turner again gives great cause for thought.

    What really struck me in ths episode was that it appears to be Keel/Keale, the boss, who keeps pushing the whole mole issue. I'm begining to wonder is Keel/Keale the mole himself (the best form of defence is attack). I'm satisfied Deacon isn't the mole (as I previously suspected) as he's showing too much, apparently genuine concern, for his team.

    Another intriguing aspect of last nights episode was that perhaps there are at least two sub plots going on. We have the whole mole issue but now for the first time we have infiltration of the team by MI6 (Sam's ex). Great twist.

    Sam's team only needed the Turner bid as they had the other two (plus their client's own bid of course) so given the episode finale, the stand off with Chinese Inustries, you would suspect that the mole in team (Keel/Keale?) works for the Chinese. Hence the MI6 angle ? or, surely not, Turner is of MI6 interest and they are trying to protect his bid against the Chinease, hence their infiltration ?

    The question I'd liked answered is why was Sam's Mum murdered and by whom ?

    I missed Piers Morgan's Life stories tonight (wonder if it was any good).

    (Frank) Totalling entralling. The best TV in ages and worth the BBC license fee alone. Roll on next week.

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    Comment number 46.

    I have to agree with Antonia T Tiger - but Le Carre's cold war stories are impossibly difficult to match. Hunted has a more 'pulp' feel about it and is easy so I'll definitely carry on watching!
    The bespectacled MI6 boss, 'George,' looks more like Le Carre's description of Smiley than Alec Guinness... Coincidence?

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    Comment number 47.

    Frank, Hunted is fantastic and I am hooked. I am trained to fight and have brought down men twice my size. It is very realistic and Sam uses people/objects/places to her advantage of being smaller. Down with the critics!

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    Comment number 48.

    Hi Frank! I like Hunted but I love The X-Files. When are you and Chris going to make The X-Files 3?

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    Comment number 49.

    Hi Frank, I have heard that Hunted was created by you but sometimes written by others. I am wondering what exactly the creator does, because I was under the impression that the creator wrote the series.

    Thank you for your time,

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    Comment number 50.

    Hi Frank. I sent you a script to use for Hunted but instead you used your own. Why? Mine was much better. You and Chris Carter did the same thing to me a long time ago when I sent you scripts for The X-Files. I don't think you even read them. If you had used my scripts instead of your own that show would have been much better. I have a lot more scripts if you want to see them. Please can I have your email address as well as Chris Carter's addy? And your phone numbers too so I can talk to you about a writing position, because you never return my calls to your agent. Thanks. Chris Lyons, NYC.

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    Comment number 51.

    Thanks so much for all the positive comments. To answer ChrisL's post, I did create the series and write the first episode. After that, we convened a "writer's room," which consisted of me, three other writers, a script editor and a writer focusing on digital content. For the next six months, we outlined all of the subsequent episodes together. Each writer would complete his/her script based on the outline we devised together. This is the way series are typically written in American television, but rarely in the UK. I am big believer in this process, which fosters continuity and helps account for Hunted's narrative complexity, which you may be loving or hating at this point!

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    Comment number 52.

    OK. Thursday night. 21mins to go. Who wins the bid ? who is the mole ? What's keel's/Keale's position this week ? Why was Sam's Mum murdered ? Bring it on :-)

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    Comment number 53.

    My husband and I started watching Hunted from the first episode and we're now absolutely hooked. We're both fans of Spooks so thought this sounded new and interesting. I personally prefer Hunted - it is grittier. Aside from the script, the plot and the acting, there's so much thought put into making the most beautiful scenes. The colour, space and light in each scene are so well put together. I also agree with Fathima, I love Sam's wardrobe! I don't care that it is slightly unrealistic to see a petite looking woman beat up heavy boned men. I love it! More please!

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    Comment number 54.

    Absolutely hooked on this series! Thrilling and captivating the whole way through. Not been a single disappointing eposide yet. Cannot wait till next weeks!

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    Comment number 55.

    Thank you for all the positive feedback. Next week is a BIG episode. No one is who they seem -- and a lot will change.

  • Comment number 56.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 57.

    Hi Frank,
    You may not like my comment.
    This show has potential but I lost interest even from the pilot. This spy thing is great, suspense, mystery and all but it's at least one general rule, I think: that being that you have to know the main character and/or the team. From the pilot I don't know anything about her or the company that she works at so why should I care about them? And it seems that a whole season will go by until you reveal that and I don't have the patience for it.
    Secrecy and puzzle story can work for spy movies but not neglecting the above rule. I think that you miss out here what worked for spy movies like: James Bond, Alias (tv series), Nikita and so on.
    So, I will stop here just because I don't care about Sam Hunter and I don't know anything about her company so I don't know how things work. Sorry, I will pick up with the show later or if I find something different.

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    Comment number 58.

    Thank you, Frank, it is a lot clearer now. Loving Hunted's narrative complexity, and I cannot wait to see more.

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    Comment number 59.

    Loving the series, please could you tell me where I can buy the dress that Sam wore for her date with Lewis??

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Why do next weeks TV papers tell us what happens and who the mole is. Kind of wastes it a bit but its great viewing


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