Spooks: Code 9.

TV The announcement of Spooks: Code 9 was greeted with the kind of collective internet sigh last heard through every episode of ’90s flop Attachments. The trailers looked like something someone might have knocked up for YouTube using clips from that failure to tap into the web zeitgeist, the main complaint being that this spin-off (then called Threat Level) made a nonsense of the parent programme because it showed everyone in London being wiped out, making the actions of the more familiar characters entirely pointless.

The first episode didn’t open well – the too swift description of the catastrophe, then smash straight into spy craft with lots of quick cutting and shouting and pop culture references was particularly dated and Joanne Froggatt seemed unsure how to pitch her performance as leader Hannah, to the point of being irresistibly annoying. Once she got the bullet (the unexpected death carrying on a well worn Spooks tradition begun in fine style when Lisa Faulkner saw the wrong end of a chip pan in the second episode of the parent series), the mis-en-scene calmed down and set about defining the real ensemble and telling a proper story with long scenes full of acting.

On reflection, establishing the status-quo up front rather than having an apocalyptic Survivors-lite first episode added a much needed sense of mystery as the audience attempted to catch up on the intervening history. The plots are typical Spooks fare except, presumably for budget reasons, on a smaller scale – discover who the shooter/bomber/traitor is and stop them. 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.

Doctor Who fans tuning in to see what Georgia Moffat did next after playing the Doctor’s daughter would be disappointed – saddled with a horrifyingly unconvincing character name (Kylie Roman) and bizarre red wig (that can’t possibly be her natural hair colour) she’s yet to really shine. Better was the decision to have the maths geek Charlie (Liam Boyle) in charge rather than at the bottom of the pecking order trying to prove to his boss how clever he is, and even smarter to make him the opposite of the omnipotent Harry Pearce. He’s forever asking his longer serving deputy Rachel (Ruta Gedmintas) for advice, offering her in turn the opportunity to be far more ruthless than her exterior would suggest.

Having these generally less knowledgeable agents also 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 too that all this is happening in a different timeline to the other show, simply trading on the name, and format. Despite it’s bastard origins this is turning out to be a neat bit of Orwell-lite, Whedon-lite entertainment.

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