Death, double-crosses and betrayal: Spooks to end after 10 years

The BBC series drew criticism for its violence and convoluted plots, but also helped MI5's recruitment

Agents frantically "raced against time" to prevent bombings, assassinations and kidnappings by terrorists. Back at headquarters, their colleagues tracked the unfolding dramas on electronic gadgets with stern faces, occasionally breaking into twitches of emotion. The twists and turns of every plot involved double if not triple or quadruple crossings, and multiple betrayals.

Click HERE to view graphic (194k jpg)

After a decade on air, Spooks, it was announced yesterday, is being retired by the BBC at the end of its next series starting in September. The programme's maker, the production company Kudos, said it had reached a natural end and was being concluded to reflect "the changing world around us".

Spooks, of course, has little to do with real life, and the storyline behind many of the episodes is often risible. But visits to MI5's website triple from 500 to 1,500 an hour every Monday night when the show is on, and the rising number of applications to join the service is at least partly credited to the series.

Spooks came at just the right time for MI5. The end of the Cold War had resulted in a scramble for curtailed resources among the various agencies, with turf war skirmishes breaking out. The 9/11 attacks announced the arrival of Islamist terror to the public, and the security service could be shown to be in the forefront of countering the threat.

Those in the other arms of the security field, MI6 and GCHQ, were at first dismissive of the series. But as its popularity continued to rise, there were mutterings that they, too, should get in on the act. Scriptwriters were sounded out and projects embarked on, but Spooks sailed on from strength to strength.

Part of the draw of the show has been its portrayal of action, often of a fatal kind. In the very first series agent Helen Flynn, played by Lisa Faulkner, died by having her head plunged into boiling fat. In another episode Ros Myers (Hermione Norris) was blown up while trying to rescue a drugged Home Secretary, but not before she had shot Jo Portman (Miranda Raison) while she was restraining a terrorist.

Some of the scenes led to complaints from viewers, but also to publicity for MI5. Some media suggested the mayhem was making women worried about joining up, creating a staff ratio of 41 per cent female to 59 per cent male.

A "senior Whitehall source" told one newspaper: "Spooks is a great TV show, but the violence can put women off applying for jobs at MI5... A career in the Service is about brains, not brawn." The Service, meanwhile, let it be known that one recurring question on its website was, "How realistic is Spooks?"

MI5 has, of course, had a number of women in senior positions, including two high-profile director generals, Dame Stella Rimington and Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller. The latter, in particular, has attracted controversy and at the same time gained kudos for helping to expose the falsehoods propagated by the Blair government over Iraq, and for speaking out about the torture of terror suspects by US authorities.

An indication of how spy drama has become interwoven with real-life spying came in Dame Eliza's critique of America's conduct, in which she implied that the leadership in Washington was inspired by the macho Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland in the series 24.

Two of the longest-serving characters in Spooks, Ruth Evershed (Nicola Walker) and Harry Pearce (Peter Firth), will have central roles in the final series. The two spies are involved in an unrequited romance which may finally be resolved. But this is Spooks, after all, and the BBC's controller of drama, Ben Stephenson, said it would bow out with "a fittingly high-octane, thrilling finale". Firth said gloomily: "They could kill me at some point. I wouldn't rule it out."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas
footballChelsea vs West Ham live kicks off coverage of all 10 of Boxing Day matches
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Brand Marketing Manager - Essex - £45,000 + £5000 car allowance

£40000 - £45000 per annum + car allowance: Ashdown Group: Senior Brand Manager...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer /.NET Software Developer

£26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer /.NET Software ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

Guru Careers: Technical Operations Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical Ope...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all