I can't be the only one surely?

TV In the event, BBC Three's new Spooks: Code 9 wasn’t as awful as the pre-broadcast previews suggestions. It's not perfect -- the derivative nature of the material and being a pointless spin-off saw to that, but considering its bastard origin, after a few initial hiccups it turned into a half-decent piece of Orwell-lite, Whedon-lite entertainment with a half decent plot arc and some neat characterisation. It didn’t open well -- the too swift description of the catastrophe (which was very ironic in the light of the recent think tank announcement) then smash straight into spy craft with lots of quick cutting and shouting and pop culture reference was particularly dated and Joanne Frogatt seemed unsure how to pitch her performance at the leader Hannah, to the point of being irresistibly annoying.

But once she got the bullet (the unexpected death being a well worn Spooks tradition begun in fine style when Lisa Faulkner saw the wrong end of a chip pan), the mis-en-scene calmed down and set about defining the real ensemble and telling a proper story with long scenes full of acting. This isn’t an awful idea -- recent graduates and their fellow hoodlums working for the security services in a time of crisis and in the end, establishing the status quo up front rather than having an apocalyptic first episode added a much needed sense of mystery as the audience attempted to catch up on the intervening history. If it's possible, the series seems to have an even stronger political agenda than the main channel version, speculating on the lengths the security services would go to in protecting society, with civil libertarians becoming terrorists to get their point across.

It makes a change to have the maths geek in charge rather than at the bottom of the pecking order trying to prove to his boss how clever he is, and smart to make him the opposite of one Harry Pearce who seems to know everyone. As far as we can tell Charlie doesn’t know anyone and has to rely on his more connected deputy Rachel to do some of the dirty work. Some of the best scenes are between these two as the former quietly asks the latter for advise away from the hearing of the rest of the gang. Of course for us Doctor Who fans it’s interesting to see what Georgia Moffat did next after playing the Doctor’s daughter though saddled with a horrifyingly unconvincing character name (Kylie Roman) and bizarre red wig (that not her natural hair colour is it) she’s yet to really shine (apart from offering an admirable right hook at the start of the first episode).

The plots are typical Spooks fare except on a smaller scale -- discover who the shooter/bomber/traitor is and stop them. But because these agents lack experience their mistakes mean that the outcome isn't completely certain and as we saw they may not save the day. This neatly sidesteps the perennial problem of the parent series where the apparently very experienced adults drop a hundred IQ points in order for the plot to move forward. Setting the series in a fiction city and blurring the geography also means the audience is on the back foot even if the place is clearly being filmed in the oh so real Leeds. It’s actually easy enough to assume all this is happening in a different timeline to the other show, simply trading on the name, and format. The trick for the series, just four more episodes to go, will be in keeping the element of surprise and attempting to be different enough from its parent series.

No comments:

Post a comment