Out of the shadows and back in the spotlight
- Spooks returns for a third series on BBC ONE this autumn
As the security services come out from the shadows,
and intelligence hits the top of the news agenda, the stakes have never
been higher for Spooks.
The series has a reputation for an uncanny prescience when it
comes to mirroring real-life events.
"This show has always reflected the world around
us, now more than ever," comments Executive Producer Jane Featherstone.
"We felt it was important to look at the use of
intelligence as a political tool, at how politicians attempt to influence
the security services.
"These days surveys tell us that terrorism and
immigration come near the top of people's concerns. Since Iraq, intelligence
is even more in the forefront of everyone's consciousness.
"Every year when we start
developing scripts, we spend a lot of time thinking about what might
happen and sometimes we predict the future too well.
"We had to re-think a storyline about interrogation
techniques in the wake of what happened to prisoners in Iraq and had
to revisit the episode to make it feel more relevant and contemporary.
"In fact, there are some truths that we think audiences
wouldn't believe if we turned them into drama.
"This genre of TV drama allows us to have real,
modern heroes who can and do make mistakes in the face of the complex,
ethically-challenging world this is."
And while the outside world moves faster than ever,
the team at Thames House also has to contend with internal machinations
- losing a key player and getting to know a dynamic newcomer.
Executive Producer Simon Crawford Collins comments:
"MI5 has a high fall-out rate, it's partly why there are so many
young people in such important roles.
"Tom Quinn's departure gave us an opportunity to
show how people get mangled by the job. In this world everyone is expendable.
"Meanwhile, the MI5 spy-processing machine ensures
that someone new can be sitting at your desk the next day.
"The production team weren't so resilient, though,
when it came to Matthew's departure most of them have worked
on all three series and watching his last few scenes, there wasn't a
dry eye in the house.
"His departure made way for
Adam Carter, brilliantly portrayed by Rupert Penry-Jones, who is in
a very different place from Tom Quinn.
"Recruited from MI6, he's a husband and a father
with a wife (Fiona, played by Olga Sosnovska), also in the intelligence
services, and a child, who doesn't know what his parents do for a living.
"Because it's such a difficult
life, a large number of people in the services are married to others
in the job. It's a hugely incestuous environment and rich territory
to explore: how can you work with a partner in a world full of secrets,
lies and danger?"
Producer Andrew Woodhead adds: "It was
important that we found an actor of great stature with a commanding
screen presence, and someone you could believe would have the same toughness
to exist in the world of MI5.
"At the same time, he needed to convey a susceptibility
to the moral complexities of the job. In Rupert we found all these qualities
Key to the enduring appeal of Spooks is its writing
Featherstone and Crawford Collins comment: "We
have the most staggering group of writers of the highest calibre.
"David Wolstencroft, the series creator, is still
involved and writing at his peak.
"Howard Brenton has returned to write the opening
two episodes. He represents everything that Spooks is about, and the
rounding-up of the previous series flows perfectly into the new one.
"We have also established
a new generation of Spooks writers who are absolutely in the same world:
Ben Richards, a novelist who wrote his first broadcast screenplay ever
for the last series; Rupert Walters, whose feature film credits include
Restoration and Oxford Blues; and Raymond Khoury, writing for UK television
for the first time after working in the US."
Series creator David Wolstencroft says: "The
way we continue with Spooks is the way we started with it trying
to break the speed limit, trying to do things that no one else is doing,
taking stories in directions you couldn't with other TV dramas.
"And of course we have to
stay true to the characters we all love. They're so real to us that
any changes in their circumstances are upsetting... you feel so responsible.
"Spooks has also evolved
in the real world, of course, and as our world has become more dangerous
and fractured, the show has followed these contours quite closely.
"The change in a third series is that we are familiar
with what our team's psychological make-up is, what their boundaries
are, so we've decided to throw a large number of rocks at them and see
"Adding or subtracting to
the team takes a lot of thought, we want any new addition to be shining
from a different part of the sky.
"But it's not like we want to create conflict in
an obvious way. It's just the natural progress of any person arriving
in an established group there's always an adjustment reaction.
"We have such an amazing group of actors that simply
contrasting them isn't bringing their talents to the fore. We want to
see the whole rainbow of complexities when the Spooks team changes."
Spooks is produced by Kudos productions, led by joint Managing Directors
Stephen Garrett and Jane Featherstone, which has a rich history of investment
in new talent, producing distinctive and award-winning film and drama.
Past productions include International Emmy award-winning
The Magician's House and, for Channel 4, Psychos, Pleasureland and Comfortably
Critically-acclaimed drama Hustle, following the fortunes
of a group of London con artists, aired on BBC ONE in the spring, and
a second series is currently in production.
Kudos' first feature film was Among Giants and its second
film, Pure, completed a successful UK run at the end of last year.
Spooks has also been sold to numerous other territories
including Australia, Russia, Israel, Iran, Japan and Latin America.