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 61.

    Patsy2493, I'm working on getting that information for you. I'll post when I have the answer. And I agree with you larrymarina. I wish critics would at least warn the reader first if they're going to write a spoiler.

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    Comment number 62.

    Hi Frank - great drama can't wait for the next episode. can you tell me where I can find out about Sam's styling and wardrobe. I really like the coats and particularly the chunky grey jumper worn by Sam in episode 3. I would like to buy one for Xmas. Thank you and ignore the negative comments, Hunted is great.

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    Comment number 63.

    Some wardrobe information for Patsy2493 and bubsy: Sam's blue dress was by Antonio Berardi. At the time of filming, it was available exclusively at Harrods. I'm afraid we don't know where it can be purchased now. The chunky grey jumper was from APC, as was the coat she wore to the funeral. The navy blue pea jacket was from Rag and Bone.

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    Comment number 64.

    It's so refreshing to see good drama back on the BBC, loved the first episodes. I have been missing decent TV since we lost Waking the Dead from the BBC. Really hope to see a second series.

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    Comment number 65.

    Hi, loving the show, absolutely brilliant and refreshing, was a big fan of spooks, so was looking for something to fill the void.
    Hunted has been a welcome addition, great cast, direction, production and writing.
    When I foundoutnaboutt he show, expected a spooks style drama, but even though its a spy series the storylines are so far away from Mi5 working for the good of queen and country.
    Right from the off have been hooked with Sams story/ backstory, Can't wait until the conclusion really hope bbc commission more series as this show is up there with the best shows on tv in Britain at the moment.

    A gripping epic

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    Comment number 66.

    Another brilliant episode. I still cant figure out why she was taken hostage and why her mother was murdered. Wonder if the Americans are liking it.Could do with more shots of the marina mind you.

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    Comment number 67.

    Fantastic. Every week just gets better. Tonight's episode had a real sense of the Da Vinci Code about it (Secret Societies, Art Museums and Priests). Turner reminds me of the "Krays" but I can't help suspecting he's being looked after by Mi6. Why would MI6 want Sam dead in Tangiers ? (Is our hero a villian ? What's her Mum's secret ?). The recurring childhood theme (Card from school, Sam's flash backs, held captive as a child) are excellent and gripping. Keel/Keale doesn't sit well with me. He's still in my reckoning for the mole.

    Sam get's more attractive every week, no matter what she wears. (Frank) Brilliant. Roll on next week.

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    Comment number 68.

    It's so good to hear so many people are enjoying the show. The narrative is very demanding, so it's OK if you feel a little lost right around now. If you hang in there, it all starts to coalesce as we approach the end of the series.

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    Comment number 69.

    I love this series! The casting is great...I have always been a fan of Melissa George even more so after she played Lauren Reed in Alias. I love spy drama's and this one always leaves me waiting for the next episode.

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    Comment number 70.

    I went against my better judgment and watched episodes 2-4 also. It's a lot to comment but I will resume to this: Inconsistency. Sam Hunter is a top agent who wins a fight with just about anyone but she enters careless into Faroux room just so he can surprise her with a gun. And in the 4th episode to be easily surprised and immobilized by a creep to stick a needle in her. Come on. I agree with steadier. Too much fault play here.
    I don't know how other people here doesn't notice these things and don't get frustrated about it. What you people watched all your entire life? Only Benny Hill?
    PS. In a further episode Sam will probably be beaten by an old lady.

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    Comment number 71.

    Great viewing.
    Anybody criticising this should get a reality check. If you want a factual program, tune into the History Channel or National Geographic !
    Loving the twists and turns, and please don't tell my wife, but have fallen hook, line and sinker for Sam !! :-)

  • Comment number 72.

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

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    Comment number 73.

    Where are her affections, with Aidan or Stephen? Have been on tenterhooks all week!

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    Comment number 74.

    Yet again another riveting episode. Finally Sam's been compromised (by the bent Police Inspector) but interestingly this has come at exactly the same time as Stephen's relationship has broken down with his father. If I was Stephen I'd choose Sam :-)

    It looks like the file given to Stephen will help explain why Sam's Mum was murdered (Hour Glass ?). Did Sam's Mum know about the "hundreds killed" the now murdered Professor knew about ?

    In response to no. 73 Pedran, I think Sam's feelings have always been with Aidan (surely he can't be the Mole but does he protest too much ?).

    Great twists and turns and excellent TV.

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    Comment number 75.

    Thanks for all the thoughts. The answers to so many of the questions we've asked since Episode 1 start coming next week, and Episode 8 is one revelation after another. I'm very excited for everyone to see these final installments.

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    Comment number 76.

    Hi Frank, thank you, thank you, thank you.... I've was hooked after the first 120 seconds of Hunted. I am not an avid TV watcher to be honest and I am selective when it comes to drama/fiction but this series has me. I just can't wait for the next episode, in fact I find myself counting down the days. I love the twists and turns, the suspense and the jigsaw of the story coming together week on week. Bravo to all involved.

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    Comment number 77.

    Look forward to Thursday evenings, great viewing. Any idea where Ian (Lex Shrapnel) got his leather jacket from?

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    Comment number 78.

    just-will, Ian Fowkes' leather jacket is from All Saints.

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    Comment number 79.

    Some people here complaining about how much better HBO is at doing things should go back to watching John Adams and the Tudors then as they are just as historically and practically inaccurate and the acting is overrated in them as well

    one guy even sites "Spooks " as being an example of a good spy series , let me tell you mate I am not overly fussy about the realism of such drama on TV any more than I am when watching the latest say James Bond movie , but to site spooks as being anything but an overacted ham fisted ohh ahh production that if it was reality it would kill off most of the agents in the first episode, as being better than this little ditty is a bit like moaning that Dr who is historically inaccurate lol.

    some people were complaining about a few scenes where the character Sam doesn't appear to sustain any injury in some of the fights, well actually I was impressed after some of these fight scenes she does appeared well blooded and bruised , these of course are the same people who would probably rave about the borne movies ( in every fight he would have surely collapsed afterward and died of exhaustion , had this been" real life" to use the movie critic vernacular .

    I really don't know what mood these people must be in when they watch these series , but it seems to me that the bigger the corporation usually American and the size of the budget has a direct relationship with how some people criticism of these dramas
    Hunted is a low budget BBC production and on balance the acting is superb, I don't agree with one post that Mellisa George is more concerned with her pout, on the contrary she should be , part of the characters job is to seduce and act out the life of a normal/abnormal other self so i would imagine that pouting would be one of the character chief assets, other critics site her entry into the Arabs ex pretend lover as careless because" she wins all her fights and never loses " unquote , actually she has lost quite a few fights and real people make mistakes , besides in the scene in question the Arab guy had plenty of time to prepare what with the noise of her entry.
    I do admit in fairness though that her apparently easy subjugation by the creep from hourglass was a valid point.

    However as for the poster Bourne legacy ( as if that doesn't say it all) he seems astonished that anybody could be hired five minutes after being away for a year . I wonder what sort of job he has but it must be one in which he would not be appreciated if he did the same , but actually "borne" there are some of out here that are so good at our jobs that even if we died our ex bosses would dig us up, but never mind you go back to stacking shelves.

    incidentally lots of people in the real world sleep out of bed on floors I think their called homeless isnt it ?

    Now to "Martinfartin" who thinks he knows how spies should act ( not like the character Sam) but wants more tinker tailor soldier spy , All I might add who act twice as zombiefied as the SAM character in Hunted
    Then there is "Alcesterman" who finds the plot incomprehensible, why oh why would he be watching spy movies then when most are famous for their early incomprehension , he also believes it is not possible to survive a short range shot in the abdomen , better tell that to 1.2 million war victims then ALcester.

    James thought it dull and his little helper and fellow "Homeland " Fan Papadkuk agreed with him , Hmmm Homeland ,another pile of over overacted sensationalist garbage from our friends across the pond , but I agree more exciting if you don't like having your brain challenged, as of course you don't with 90% of US productions because the intellectual level of the average American would just not either warrant as such and besides it would bomb and the producer would lose money .

    All in all the only attempt at a valid criticism IMO of this series was by "Dr Walter 21"

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Hi Frank, love the show. I have a question about Hunted. I have seen on the adverts that it is described as an original British drama, but I do not understand how the BBC can say that when you are American, and Melissa George comes from Australia. What is it that makes it British, is it just that it has been commissioned by the BBC?


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