First episode date
13 May 2002
BBC, BBC One, BBC Three
Also known as
Theme music composer
Spooks: Code 9
Peter Firth Matthew Macfadyen Keeley Hawes David Oyelowo Hugh Simon Rory MacGregor Nicola Walker Rupert Penry Jones Olga Sosnovska Raza Jaffrey Miranda Raison Hermione Norris Gemma Jones Richard Armitage Shazad Latif Sophia Myles Max Brown Lara Pulver Geoffrey Streatfeild William Hope
Jennie Muskett (Series 1–4) Paul Leonard-Morgan (Series 5–10)
Richard Armitage, Peter Firth, Matthew Macfadyen, Rupert Penry‑Jones, Nicola Walker
Spooks (known as MI-5 in some countries) is a British television drama series that originally aired on BBC One from 13 May 2002 to 23 October 2011, consisting of 10 series. The title is a popular 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. It is notable for various stylistic touches, and its use of popular guest actors. In the United States, the show is broadcast under the title MI-5. In Canada, the programme originally aired as MI5 but now airs on BBC Canada as Spooks.
- Series 1
- Series 2
- Series 3
- Series 4
- Series 5
- Series 6
- Series 7
- Series 8
- Series 9
- Series 10
- Spooks The Greater Good
- The Grid Surviving
- The Grid Status unknown
- The Grid Deceased
- Other Surviving
- Other Status unknown
- Other Deceased
- Broadcast and release
- International broadcast
- Home media
- Spooks Code 9
- Video games
The series continued with a film, Spooks: The Greater Good, which was released on 8 May 2015.
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 action/adventure and spy intrigue 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.
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.
A third series of ten episodes was transmitted on BBC One in the spring 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.
The fourth series of Spooks began transmission on Monday 12 September 2005 on BBC One at 9 pm with the first of a two-part story. The next day (13 September) the second episode was shown. The following week Spooks assumed a 9 pm Thursday slot, a break from the Monday 9 pm slot the previous series had traditionally occupied. Once again, the series ran for ten episodes and averaged 6.05 million viewers, a notable increase on the previous series.
The opening two-part episode introduces two new characters to the series, Zafar Younis (Raza Jaffrey, whose character made his debut in the final episode of series three), and Juliet Shaw (Anna Chancellor). The storyline involves a terrorist bombing central London, something that, in reality, took place on 7 July, two months prior to the airing but after the filming was already complete.
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 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, Fiona Carter leaves 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, whom she thought was hanged several years earlier. However, her ex-husband ultimately abducts her and later shoots her dead in Adam's presence during her attempted escape. Her character is replaced by Jo Portman (played by Miranda Raison), a new arrival at MI5 who was recruited by Adam in a previous episode.
The fifth (10-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' return to BBC One's Monday night schedule. These episodes introduced Ros Myers (Hermione Norris).
This series' 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 6 million viewers.
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 Counsel 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.
Series 7 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 replaces her as a Senior Case officer.
The series 8 recommission press release stated there would be a twist in the final episode of series 7. In this 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 exploded, Connie revealed that 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.
In December 2008, the BBC announced that series 8 would start filming in March 2009 and air late 2009, with both Hermione Norris (Ros) and Richard Armitage (Lucas) returning for series 8. 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 in 6 million viewers a 25% share of audience numbers between 9 pm and 10 pm.
The first episode of the series continues from the 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 younger technician Tariq Masood (Shazad Latif).
The series again revolves around one major plot-arc, which is a mysterious organisation known only as "Nightingale". During 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 had also briefly returned, but she was killed by Ros in a dramatic act of martyrdom when awkwardly captured by a terrorist, after which Ros couldn't forget about all this during 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 with the new Home Secretary Andrew Lawrence.
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 season ends with the deaths of Lucas' lover Maya Lahan, following the death of Lucas' blackmailer, Vaughn, in 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 was 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" (apparently "real" name 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 would be shown in 2011.
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 well as Matthew Macfadyen in a cameo role in the final episode. Sophia Myles did not return as Beth Bailey.
The season 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 before dying in his arms. Harry then decides to return to MI5, the prospect of a normal life, whatever that would mean without Ruth, no longer appealing 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 traditional weekday evening slot, with the final episode airing on 23 October 2011.
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.
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, 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 new More London development.
The Grid (Surviving)
The Grid (Status unknown)
The Grid (Deceased)
Arranged in approximate order of seniority and, among equals, most recent last.
Other (Status unknown)
The show consists of 86 episodes, beginning in May 2002 and ending in October 2011. Each episode begins with a "previously" sequence, recapping recent events. Following a teaser, setting up the episode's narrative, a title sequence runs, featuring the main characters but no actor credits, and ends with the name of the series. Each episode ends 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. With the exception of each season finale, a trailer for the next episode is shown, followed by the Kudos and BBC logos.
Broadcast and release
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 9, 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 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 territories, international broadcasts are often renamed.
All series of Spooks (most episodes edited) 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.
The music for series 1 to 4 and theme tune was composed by Jennie Muskett. Music for series 5 to 10 was composed by Paul Leonard-Morgan. Four soundtracks have been released for the show, the first includes music from series 1 & 2, the second (currently and perhaps only ever available on iTunes) featuring music from series 5 & 6 (Two additional tracks are available on the composer's website). The third and fourth soundtracks (containing tracks from series 7 & 8, and 9 & 10 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 2, 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.
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.