Anne Penketh: Life without terror threats, serial betrayal and Harry

Sunday 23 October 2011 08:44

I got the call only minutes after I purchased the DVD of series nine to take back to America with me. The BBC had canned my favourite TV series. Spooks is dead.

Goodbye Harry Pearce. The MI5 chief was practically the only survivor of the series that kept me on the edge of my seat for a decade, from the moment of its pulsating theme tune, and I can't believe that the next one will be his last.

Spooks was beyond gripping. Its adrenaline rush provided water-cooler fodder and telephone conversations that led from one episode to the next.

For me, Spooks had three key ingredients. Firstly, it was bang up to date with modern threats, be they Islamic terrorism, the Ruskies up to their old tricks, or the Iranians bent on building a bomb. One episode in which Iran had acquired a nuclear trigger seemed almost prescient. There were inevitable tensions between Harry and his political masters in the Home Office.

Secondly, in my limited experience, there has never been a TV series which has been prepared to kill off its protagonists with such nonchalant ease: take the woman whose head was boiled in oil in the second episode, which provoked protests from disgusted of Tunbridge Wells, for instance.

The most memorable moments for me since 2002 were the tragic death of Adam's wife in his arms, and the horrible but deserved end of Connie, Harry's most trusted aide-turned traitor.

The characters were believable, and rounded, despite the dizzying number of subplots and new characters that tested our memories. Lucas North, for example, returned after an absence lasting for several series. Ros literally came back from the dead.

But despite losing so many of its characters, Spooks never ran out of steam. It had a stable of writers who remained true to the tightly written brand. Several of the actors said the show was bigger than the characters, and that was a hallmark of its success.

Its best episodes mixed betrayal (amongst colleagues, of course), suspense and pathos. I gather from the writers that former spies were consulted on the background, although even I can see that this was a series of entertainment that we were not necessarily supposed to take seriously.

So now I am contemplating a life without Spooks. I will soon enter the netherworld of a recovering Spooks addict. The only cure will be a return of the series I crave. Harry, are you listening?

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