|Also known as||MI-5|
|Created by||David Wolstencroft|
|Theme music composer||Jennie Muskett|
|Composers||Jennie Muskett (Series 1–4)|
Paul Leonard-Morgan (Series 5–10)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||10|
|No. of episodes||86 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Picture format||576i (16:9)|
|Original release||13 May 2002 –|
23 October 2011
Spooks (known as MI-5 in some countries) is a British television spy drama series that originally aired on BBC One from 13 May 2002 to 23 October 2011, consisting of 10 series. The title is a colloquialism for spies, and the series follows the work of a group of MI5 officers based at the service's Thames House headquarters, in a highly secure suite of offices known as The Grid. In the United States, the show is broadcast under the title MI-5. In Canada, the programme originally aired as MI-5 but later aired on BBC Canada as Spooks.
The series continued with a film, Spooks: The Greater Good, which was released on 8 May 2015.
Main article: List of Spooks episodes
The show consists of 86 episodes, beginning in May 2002 and ending in October 2011. Most episodes end with the final scene freezing and changing to a black-and-white negative image that then compresses with a distinctive sound effect into a flat white line against a black screen.
Main article: Spooks (series 1)
Starring Matthew Macfadyen, Keeley Hawes, David Oyelowo, Jenny Agutter, and Peter Firth, the initial series of six one-hour episodes premiered 13 May 2002.
Due to its combination of stylistic photography with fast-paced storylines, the series was a critical and popular success, averaging 7.5 million viewers over its six episodes.
The second episode gained notoriety for the violent killing of character Helen Flynn (Lisa Faulkner), which drew the largest number of complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Commission in 2002. During an undercover operation Helen and Tom were captured by race riot instigator Robert Osborne, played by Kevin McNally, who tortured Helen with a deep fryer in an attempt to make Tom reveal classified information. He refused and she was killed. This provoked an angry reaction from many viewers who jammed BBC phone switchboards with complaints, despite the show airing after the 9 pm watershed.
Main article: Spooks (series 2)
With the success of the first series, a second, longer series of ten episodes was commissioned and subsequently aired in 2003. New regular characters Sam Buxton (Shauna Macdonald) and Ruth Evershed (Nicola Walker), were introduced in the first and second episodes respectively, while the series finale ended with a dramatic cliffhanger. The series averaged 7.1 million viewers.
Main article: Spooks (series 3)
A third series of ten episodes was transmitted on BBC One in the autumn of 2004 and concluded on 13 December. The first episode features Rupert Penry-Jones as Adam Carter, who was drafted in from MI6 to help investigate Tom's disappearance. He later takes over Tom's position as Section Chief after the latter jeopardised an important operation.
In episode six, Zoe is taken to court for misconduct during an operation and is forced to leave MI5 and assume a new identity in Chile. She is replaced by Adam's wife, Fiona (Olga Sosnovska). In the series finale, Danny is killed while he and Fiona are being held hostage. Audience figures dropped to a series average of 5.8 million viewers.
Main article: Spooks (series 4)
The fourth series of Spooks began airing on Monday 12 September 2005 on BBC One at 9 pm with the first installment of a two-part story. The next day (Tuesday 13 September) the second episode was shown. The following week Spooks began airing in the Thursday 9 pm slot, a change from the Monday 9 pm slot that the previous three series had occupied. Once again, the series ran for ten episodes. It averaged 6.05 million viewers per episode, notably more than the previous series.
The opening two-part episode introduces two new characters to the series, Zafar Younis (Raza Jaffrey, whose character had first appeared in the final episode of series three), and Juliet Shaw (Anna Chancellor). The storyline involves a terrorist bombing in central London, something that, in reality, took place on 7 July, two months before the episode was due to air, but after it had already been filmed.
According to The Guardian newspaper, the day the first episode aired, "The similarities were sufficient to cause head of drama, Jane Tranter and new BBC One controller Peter Fincham to agonise over whether to drop the episodes." The episodes were eventually aired unedited, although before both instalments of the two-parter the BBC One continuity announcer warned viewers that they featured scenes of terrorist bombing in London which some viewers might find disturbing.
In episode seven, the character Fiona Carter gets killed because the actress portraying her, Olga Sosnovska, was pregnant during filming and chose to leave the programme. In that story arc, Fiona attempts to kill her deranged ex-husband, who she thought had been hanged several years earlier. However, her ex-husband ultimately abducts her and later shoots her dead in Adam's presence during her attempted escape. Fiona Carter is replaced at MI5 by Jo Portman (played by Miranda Raison), a character who had been recruited by Adam Carter in a previous episode.
Main article: Spooks (series 5)
The fifth (ten-part) series of Spooks aired its first episode in two parts, the first appearing on 17 September 2006. In it, elements within the British Government, MI6 and the UK press conspire in an attempt to overthrow the Parliament and the Prime Minister. These elements agree that for Britain to survive the threats posed by modern-day terrorism, democracy had to be replaced with rule by committee. The second part followed the next day (18 September), marking Spooks's return to BBC One's Monday night schedule. These episodes introduced Ros Myers (Hermione Norris).
This series's storylines include a fake home-grown Al-Qaeda cell that plans an attack on London; the British government selling nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia; and the US administration selling arms to African dictators.
The ratings for this series remained consistent with those of the previous series, averaging six million viewers.
Main article: Spooks (series 6)
The sixth series was commissioned by Jane Tranter, Head of Drama Commissioning at the BBC, by the time series 5 was announced. The series returned on 16 October 2007 at 9 pm on BBC One, and concluded on 18 December. The series averaged 5.68 million viewers (the lowest to date) The sixth series was different in certain respects from the previous five because it had a dominant storyline running through the entire season and the show contained end credits for the first time. There was also a less frequent use of the soundtrack composed by Jennie Muskett.
The primary storyline of Series 6 follows Iran seeking the ability to manufacture its own nuclear weapons and searching for sellers of nuclear armaments components. The governments of several nations (principally the United States and its CIA, Russia's FSB, and a shadowy third organisation composed of disenfranchised members of other agencies, including MI5) are woven throughout the plot. Simon Abkarian plays the Iranian Special Consul liaising with the various governments. Agni Scott as his wife, Matthew Marsh as the CIA station chief, and Robert Glenister as the British Home Secretary, all have recurring roles throughout the series.
A new website called "Spooks Interactive" was created to coincide with the launch of the series. In April 2008, the Spooks production team won the BAFTA Award for Interactivity for their work on Spooks Interactive.
Main article: Spooks (series 7)
Series seven of Spooks began airing on 27 October 2008 for an eight-episode run. Peter Firth returns as Harry Pearce, along with Alex Lanipekun as Ben Kaplan, Hugh Simon as Malcolm Wynn-Jones, Miranda Raison as Jo Portman and Gemma Jones as Connie James.
In the first episode, central character Adam Carter (portrayed by Rupert Penry-Jones) dies in a car explosion set by terrorists, and the character Ros Myers (played by Hermione Norris) returns to the show as a deep-cover agent in Moscow. Richard Armitage joins the cast as Lucas North, an agent who has been held in a Russian prison for the past eight years and released as part of a spy exchange. Following Adam's death, Ros is made the section leader and Lucas assumes Ros’s previous position as senior case officer.
The series eight recommission press release announced that there would be a twist in the final episode of series 7. In that episode, a nuclear bomb is set to explode, triggered by a Russian sleeper agent who is part of Operation Tiresias. As Parliament and the Royal Family are evacuated, the nuclear threat to London is eliminated when Ros and Lucas are able to turn Connie James and elude an FSB kill squad. While defusing the bomb, Connie is killed by its conventional explosives. Seconds before the bomb explodes, Connie reveals it had not been Harry who sold Lucas North out to the Russians as Lucas had always believed but, rather, herself. The episode concludes with Harry, conscious but with his mouth taped shut, in the boot of a car being zipped up in a body bag by Viktor Sarkisian, head of the FSB's London station.
Main article: Spooks (series 8)
In December 2008, the BBC announced that series 8 would start filming in March 2009 and air in late 2009, And that both Hermione Norris (Ros) and Richard Armitage (Lucas) would be returning. Series 8 started on Wednesday 4 November 2009, at 9 pm on BBC One, with episode 2 broadcast on Friday 6 November at 9 pm on BBC Three. The opening episode of series 8 drew 6 million viewers, a 25% share of audience numbers between 9 pm and 10 pm.
The first episode of the series picks up the story from where it left off in a cliffhanger at the end of series 7, with Harry Pearce being held captive by the Russians. During this episode, Ruth Evershed is reintroduced, having spent her time since series 5 in Cyprus. The only character other than Harry who has been in the programme since its inception, Malcolm Wynn-Jones, departs, stating simply that he is "too old". His replacement comes in the form of much a younger technician, Tariq Masood (Shazad Latif).
The series again revolves around one major plot arc, focused on a mysterious organisation known only as "Nightingale". Over the course of the series, Lucas North's loyalty is continually called into question, for the most part because of his ongoing relationship with CIA agent Sarah Caulfield, who is connected to Nightingale.
Jo Portman also briefly returns, but is killed by Ros in a dramatic act of martyrdom after being captured by a terrorist. Ros is haunted by the memory of this event for the remainder of this series.
At the end of the series, Section D does not appear to have made much progress in tackling Nightingale, and Ros Myers is killed in an explosion, along with the new Home Secretary, Andrew Lawrence.
Main article: Spooks (series 9)
Spooks returned for a ninth series on Monday 20 September 2010 for an eight-episode run.
New cast members in this series include Sophia Myles and Max Brown as MI5 officers and Simon Russell Beale as the Home Secretary. Iain Glen and Laila Rouass also joined the series, playing Vaughn Edwards and Maya Lahan – figures from Lucas's mysterious past.
The series ends with the death of Lucas's lover Maya Lahan, following the death of Lucas's blackmailer, Vaughn, at the climactic end of the penultimate episode. Lucas had kidnapped Ruth, binding and gagging her, and was attempting to get a top-secret computer file for the Chinese. The climactic scene is a showdown between Harry and Lucas on top of a tower block in London. After Harry reveals that the file never actually worked, and that Lucas had apparently betrayed his MI5 colleagues and stolen another man's identity, "Lucas" (whose "real" name is apparently John Bateman) orders Harry to turn around. Harry anticipates execution, but no shots come. Hearing a car alarm and screams from the ground many seconds later, Harry turns around to find Lucas no longer on the roof. Forty-eight hours later, the Home Secretary calls Harry to inform him that a full investigation will be made into his actions at MI5 and to "prepare for life after MI5". The series ends with Harry looking out over the London skyline at night. A caption reveals that a 10th series is planned for 2011.
Main article: Spooks (series 10)
Production on the six-episode series reportedly began during March 2011, with Lara Pulver joining the series as an "ambitious, hungry" new spook "determined to make her mark". Also joining the series were Geoffrey Streatfeild, Alice Krige and Jonathan Hyde, while Peter Firth, Nicola Walker, Max Brown, Shazad Latif and Simon Russell Beale reprised their roles, as did Matthew Macfadyen in a cameo appearance in the final episode. Sophia Myles did not return as Beth Bailey.
This series concludes with the revelation of a plot to force Britain and Russia into war. Harry manages to thwart the plot and decides to leave the service to live a normal life with Ruth Evershed. But when a vengeful Sasha Gavrik attempts to take revenge on him, Ruth takes the blow for Harry and dying in his arms. Harry then decides to return to MI5, since the prospect of a normal life, whatever that would mean without Ruth, no longer appeals to him.
Kudos and the BBC announced in a joint statement in August 2011 that Series 10 would be the last series. It began airing on BBC One on Sunday 18 September 2011 at 9:00 pm, moving from its former weekday evening slot, with the final episode airing on 23 October 2011.
Main article: Spooks: The Greater Good
A feature-length film, Spooks: The Greater Good, known in the US as MI-5, was released in May 2015. Peter Firth reprises his role as Harry Pearce. Also returning from the TV series are Tim McInnerny as Oliver Mace, Lara Pulver as Erin Watts, Hugh Simon as Malcolm Wynn-Jones, and Geoffrey Streatfeild as Calum Reed. Kit Harington and Jennifer Ehle star as new characters in leading roles.
Main article: List of Spooks characters
Arranged in approximate order of seniority and, among equals, most recent last.
The programme was created by writer David Wolstencroft, and produced by Kudos for the BBC. A trademark style, coupled with the series' popularity, attracted a large number of high-profile guest stars. These included Martine McCutcheon, Hugh Laurie, Haluk Bilginer, Robert Hardy, Tim McInnerny, Bruce Payne, Reece Dinsdale, Ian McDiarmid, Ewen Bremner, Jimi Mistry, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin McNally, Rupert Graves, Andrew Tiernan, Anton Lesser, Anupam Kher, Alexander Siddig, and Anthony Head.
The availability and iconic status of certain London landmarks made them popular locations throughout production. Exterior shots of Thames House, the headquarters of MI5 were used in many episodes to establish the location of scenes. However, due to the security risks involved with filming such a location, London's Freemasons' Hall was used for scenes where actors were entering or leaving the building, and for some internal locations. This same location was later used as Thames House in Torchwood: Children of Earth. Establishing shots of the SIS Building were also used for scenes involving members of the Secret Intelligence Service or MI6. Other landmarks commonly used included the London Underground, and the Millennium Bridge. Many scenes are filmed in and around the Docklands, especially Canary Wharf, Rotherhithe, London Bridge and Greenwich (including The Old Royal Naval College) area as well as the More London development. Some of the army barracks were filmed at Merchant Taylors' School, Northwood.
The series was filmed on Super 16, rather than the more commonly used digital alternatives. Episodes were originally aired with no credits on BBC One, a choice made to maintain an atmosphere of the anonymity of real-life spies and the drama of each episode. Prior to series nine, the subsequent episode was aired on BBC Three one week ahead of its BBC One showing (the first and last episode were only shown on BBC One). BBC Three airings included a brief credit sequence following the trailer and before the Kudos and BBC logos. The entire 86 episodes were made available free-to-view on the BBC iPlayer in April 2020, during the Coronavirus "stay at home" period.
The series is a popular export, syndicated to more than 26 countries. However, it has struggled for popularity in some areas, notably the United States; two of the three channels to have broadcast Spooks in the US pulled the show during the fourth series due to low viewing figures. Due to the racist connotations of the term Spooks in some countries, international broadcasts are often renamed.
|Series||Region 1||Region 2||Region 4||Extras|
|Series One||13 January 2004||16 June 2003||18 August 2003
|Deleted scenes, a guide to Spooks terminology, character biographies, image galleries, interviews and commentaries with the cast and crew, PDF scripts.|
|Series Two||11 January 2005||20 September 2004||21 March 2004
21 March 2005 (Collector's Edition)
|Outtakes, cast interviews and commentaries, featurettes, including PDF scripts.|
|Series Three||31 January 2006||5 September 2005||23 May 2005||Audio commentaries, "behind the scenes" featurettes, deleted scenes and DVD ROM content, including PDF scripts, wallpapers and image gallery.|
|Series Four||9 January 2007||4 September 2006||19 May 2007||Audio commentaries, a "behind the scenes" documentary and interviews with the series producer and the director of episodes 9 and 10.|
|Series Five||8 January 2008||10 September 2007||19 May 2008||2 audio commentaries, cast interviews and Miranda Raison's video diary for series 6.|
|Series Six||20 January 2009||6 October 2008||2 August 2008||2 audio commentaries from the location managers, 2 audio commentaries with the producer and writer, a "behind the scenes" documentary on episode 6.8, series 6 trailers, 4 cast interviews and Miranda's video diary.|
|Series Seven||26 January 2010||12 October 2009||18 March 2009||2 audio commentaries, a "behind the scenes" in Russia with Richard Armitage and Hermione Norris, cast interviews.|
|Series Eight||25 January 2011||20 September 2010||3 November 2010||2 audio commentaries with the producer and director, two brief featurettes of the Colleville explosion and Walker's murder. This DVD set does not include a Dolby Digital 5.1 which all other sets have. Only a 2.0 soundtrack was included.|
|Series Nine||12 July 2011||28 February 2011||1 June 2011||2 audio commentaries, and two mini-featurettes, "The Cost of Being a Spy" and "The Downfall of Lucas North".|
|Series Ten||6 March 2012||28 November 2011||4 April 2012||Harry's Game – Feature, Top Ten Spooks Moments|
|The Complete Collection||N/A||N/A||31 October 2012||Same as individual seasons.|
All series of Spooks (most episodes cut down to 50 minutes) are available on iTunes, with series 7, 8, 9 and 10 becoming available to download one week after original broadcast. Series 1–8 have been released on DVD by Contender Home Entertainment with its successor Entertainment One then taking over; series 9 was released by Universal Playback.
|2002||Royal Television Society Craft & Design Awards||Sound - Drama||Julian Slater, Nigel Heath, Michael Fentum, Dan Morgan||Nominated|
|2003||British Academy Television Awards||Best Drama Series||Won|
|Original Television Music||Jennie Muskett||Nominated|
|Editing in Entertainment||Colin Green||Nominated|
|Broadcast Awards||Best Drama Series||Won|
|Royal Television Society Awards||Best Drama Series||Nominated|
|Best Writing||David Wolstencroft and Howard Brenton||Nominated|
|BBC Drama Awards||Best Drama||Won|
|Best Drama Website||Won|
|2004||Royal Television Society Awards||Best Drama Series||Won|
|2005||British Academy Television Awards||Best Drama Series||Nominated|
|2006||British Academy Television Awards||Best Drama Series||Nominated|
|2007||Royal Television Society Craft & Design Awards||Photography - Drama||Damian Bromley||Nominated|
|Sound - Drama||Rudi Buckle, James Feltham, Darren Banks||Nominated|
|2008||British Academy Television Awards||Interactivity||Won|
|Crime Thriller Awards||Best Actor||Rupert Penry Jones||Won|
|Best Actress||Hermione Norris||Won|
|Royal Television Society Craft & Design Awards||Lighting, Photography & Camera - Photography - Drama||Damian Bromley||Won|
|Tape & Film Editing - Drama||Jamie Pearson||Nominated|
|2009||British Academy Television Awards||Best Drama Series||Nominated|
|Original Television Music||Paul Leonard-Morgan||Nominated|
|Crime Thriller Awards||The TV Dagger||Nominated|
|Best Actress||Hermione Norris||Nominated|
|2010||British Academy Television Awards||Best Drama Series||Nominated|
|2011||Royal Television Society Craft & Design Awards||Judges' Award||Won|
|2012||British Academy Television Awards||Best Drama Series||Nominated|
The music for series one to four and theme tune was composed by Jennie Muskett. Music for series five to ten was composed by Paul Leonard-Morgan. Four soundtracks have been released for the show, the first includes music from series one and two, the second (currently and perhaps only ever available on iTunes) featuring music from series five and six (Two additional tracks are available on the composer's website). The third and fourth soundtracks (containing tracks from series seven & eight, and nine & ten respectively) were released on iTunes in November 2011. The track listings contain spoilers to the episode content.
Broadcast editions of the episodes have been known to feature alternate music to that found on the commercially available DVD releases. In the final episode of Series two, music from the film score Spy Game was used—composed by Harry Gregson-Williams. The tracks used are "Beirut, a War Zone" and "Operation Dinner Out". Both are available on the official soundtrack release for the film.
Main article: Spooks: Code 9
Following the success of Torchwood (the BBC Three Doctor Who spin-off series) the controller of BBC Three, Julian Bellamy, announced in December 2006 a Spooks spin-off entitled Spooks: Code 9 (working titles: Rogue Spooks and Spooks: Liberty). The show started filming in Bradford in 2008 and the first and second episodes were broadcast on 10 August 2008. It was not well received by critics, who said "the script is poor and the acting little better" (The Sunday Times) and the production "utterly uninspired and stale" (Digital Spy), "daft and unconvincing" (The Telegraph), "an utterly cynical venture" that "given its patronising awfulness ... actually damages the Spooks brand" (The Guardian).
Video games based on the show were created by Preloaded for promotional purposes. In 2005, the video game The Grid (a promotion for Spooks series 3) was nominated for a Webby Award under the category of Best Game.
On 19 February 2004, BBC Worldwide announced that a video game based on the show would be released for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and Microsoft Windows for a fall 2004 release, developed by their in-house video game development studio Gamezlab. and would have run on a new game engine. It was not released, after BBC Worldwide closed Gamezlab and exited the video game publishing market.
In April 2020, David Wolstencroft has said that he supports reviving the show to explore topics like cybercrimes and cyberterrorism while having a racially diverse cast and crew. He also supports the idea of more women in the cast and production crew.