Dozens protest to BBC over horrific death scene in 'Spooks'

Paul Peachey
Wednesday 22 May 2002 00:00

More than 100 viewers have complained to the BBC about the new spy drama Spooks because of a scene in which an MI5 agent was tortured in an industrial deep fat fryer.

In the programme shown on Monday night, far-right extremists forced the hand of Helen, a trainee with the intelligence agency, into the fryer, then pushed her head into the bubbling oil when her colleague refused to give details about other MI5 operatives.

Helen, played by Lisa Faulkner, was captured after an undercover operation went wrong. She was finally shot in the head by her captives as she lay injured. The BBC defended the scene, saying it was shown at about 10pm, well after the watershed. A warning about the nature of the scenes was screened beforehand.

Although the death of the character was gruesome, the camera panned away for the most graphic moments of her suffering. Viewers saw Helen's head being forced near the fryer but did not see it pushed inside.

Instead the horror was played out through the reaction of the other characters, including her partner, played by Matthew Macfadyen. A BBC spokeswoman said: "The complaints were within the context of the dangers that anyone working for MI5 have to face. The drama was implied rather than shown."

Spooks, watched by eight million people, has been heavily promoted by the corporation. Viewing figures were down by one million from the opening episode last week but were still higher than those for Helen West on ITV1.

Last month, the Broadcasting Standards Commission warned programme makers of the unacceptability of surprising viewers with violent scenes.

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