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Spooks is a BAFTA award-winning British television drama series produced by the independent production company Kudos for BBC One. The title is a popular colloquialism for spies, as the series follows the work of a group of MI5marker Officers based at the service's Thames Housemarker headquarters, in a highly secure suite of offices known as The Grid. In the United States and France, 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.

The programme was created by writer David Wolstencroft and has attracted popular guest actors including Hugh Laurie, Robert Hardy, Tim McInnerny, Bruce Payne, Ian McDiarmid, Jimi Mistry, Andy Serkis, Andrew Tiernan, Anton Lesser, Anupam Kher, Alexander Siddig and Anthony Head.

Series synopses

Series 1

Starring Matthew Macfadyen, Keeley Hawes, David Oyelowo, Jenny Agutter, and Peter Firth, the initial series of six one-hour episodes premiered in the spring of 2002.

The series was a critical and popular success, averaging 7.5 million viewers over its six episodes, due to its combination of glossy high production values with fast-paced action/adventure and spy intrigue storylines.

The show quickly gained an unexpected edge with the violent killing of character Helen Flynn (Lisa Faulkner) in the second episode which drew the largest number of complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Commissionmarker 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 her superior 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. Nevertheless the death of Faulkner's character set the precedent that in Spooks anyone can die at any time.

Series 2

With the success of the first series, a second, longer series of ten episodes was commissioned and subsequently aired in 2003. This series saw the introduction of new main character Ruth Evershed in the second episode. It again drew praise, particularly for the fifth episode and the dramatic cliffhanger ending of the series finale. The series averaged 7.1 million viewers.

Series 3

A third series of again ten episodes was transmitted on BBC One in the autumn of 2004 and concluding 13 December. The first episode saw the introduction of Rupert Penry-Jones as Adam Carter, drafted in from MI6marker to help investigate Tom's disappearance. He later took over Tom's position as Section Chief as over the course of the series all three of the original leading trio (MacFadyen, Hawes, Oyelowo) left the programme, their departures staggered over the second, sixth, and tenth episodes respectively.

In episode six, Zoe is taken to court for misconduct during an operation and forced to leave MI5 and assume a new identity in Chile. She is replaced by Adam's wife Fiona (Olga Sosnovska).

In the episode ten finale, Danny is killed while he and Fiona are being held hostage.

The season garnered varied critical reactions, audience figures also dropping to a series average of 5.8 million viewers. Despite this the BBC commissioned a fourth series.

Series 4

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 10 episodes and averaged 6.05 million viewers, a notable increase on the previous series.

The opening two parter provided the series with two new regulars in Zafar Younis (Raza Jaffrey, whose character had debuted in the final episode of series three) and Juliet Shaw (Anna Chancellor). However it was also a controversial storyline as it featured terrorists (albeit anti-humanity and technology extremists rather than al Qaeda) bombing central London, something that in reality had taken place two months earlier on 7 July after the episodes had already been shot.

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 installments 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.

Episode seven saw the departure of Fiona Carter, as actress Olga Sosnovska was pregnant during filming and elected to leave the programme. In a by-now traditional shocking exit Carter attempted to kill her deranged ex-husband, who she thought had been hanged several years previously. Her ex-husband, however, abducted her and later shot her dead in Adam's presence when she tried to escape (by cutting her own wrists with broken glass to fake a suicide attempt, and thus managing to overpower her guards temporarily). Her character was replaced in the Spooks set-up by Miranda Raison as Jo Portman, a new arrival at MI5 who had been recruited by Adam in the previous episode.

Episode nine also introduced the idea of extraordinary rendition to British television. The episode, entitled The Sting, once again displayed the programme's ability to deal with delicate subjects and hinted at the levels of subterfuge in international politics.

Series 5

Spooks returned for its fifth (10 part) series on 17 September 2006 with the first part of a two-part story, which saw elements in the British Government, MI6 and the UK press conspire in an attempt to over-throw the Parliament and the Prime Minister. These elements had agreed that for Britain to survive the threats posed by modern day terrorism, democracy had to be replaced with rule by committee in the 21st Century. Tactics used included the assassination of members of MI5, notably Colin, an attempt to kill the Home Secretary and kidnap the Prime Minister's son. The second part followed the next day (18 September), marking Spooks' return to BBC One's Monday night schedule.

Its storylines included a fake home-grown Al-Qaeda cell planning an attack on London (they are actually a Mossad team); the British government selling nuclear technology to Saudi Arabiamarker; and the US administration selling arms to African dictators.

The series featured a more stable cast, more 2-part stories allowing for more complex plots and more dramatic use of split-screen. The ratings also remained consistent with those of the previous series, averaging 6 million viewers.

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 markedly different from the previous 5. For the first time, end credits were broadcast and there was less frequent use of the soundtrack composed by Jennie Muskett. The sixth series also attempted to weave a common strand across all ten episodes - the efforts of the MI5 and the British Government to strike a peace deal with the Iranian Government, having been tricked into bombing a chemical weapons train in Tehran by American intelligence. While the US prepared a pre-emptive war against Iran, MI5 attempted to maintain the peace and cover up the evidence of the UK train attack from both the public and Iran. Complicating these matters was Adam Carter's affair with the UK Iranian Ambassador's wife. During the course of the series, the serial arc was moved into and out of individual episodes.

The series ended on a cliff-hanger. Jo and Adam, captured by a terrorist group offering spies to the highest bidder, faced torture and eventual death, the group also being responsible for the torture and death of Zaf who disappeared after the Tehran bombing. Jo asked Adam to kill her rather than let her face a similar end. The final scene was of CO19, (Londonmarker's Metropolitan Police Service Specialist Firearms Command, mounting a rescue by breaking into the house in which they are held captive, just as a limp Jo is shown in the arms of a devastated Adam.

A new website, Spooks Interactive, was published to coincide with the launch. In April 2008, the Spooks production team won the BAFTA Award for Interactivity for their work on Spooks Interactive.

Series 7

Series 7 of Spooks began airing on 27 October 2008 for an eight episode run. Peter Firth returned as Harry Pearce, along with Alex Lanipekun as Ben Kaplan, Hugh Simon as Malcolm Wynn-Jones and Gemma Jones as Connie James.

The first episode saw central character Adam Carter (portrayed by Rupert Penry Jones) die in a car explosion. It also saw the return of Ros Myers (played by Hermione Norris) and Jo Portman (Miranda Raison) as both of their fates were uncertain at the end of series 6. Richard Armitage joined the cast as Lucas North, an agent who has been held in a Russian prison for the past eight years. Following Adam's death, Ros was made the section leader and Lucas replaced her as a Senior Case officer.

In an interview on BBC Radio Five Live, Peter Firth intimated that Harry and Ruth might well be reunited, though this proved to be a red herring with regard to Series 7. He also stated that he was unaware of any potential plans for an eighth series, "like all TV, it depends on ratings...we'll have a good idea after (tonight's episode)". Spooks attracted an average audience of 5.9 million, with roughly 825,000 viewers watching the 10:30 pm showing of Episode Two on BBC Three. The second episode when shown the following day on BBC One drew in 5.6 million (a 22% audience share). The third episode when shown on BBC One on 3 November had an average audience of 5.6 million, once more claiming a 22% audience share. On November 10th, Spooks drew 5.2 million viewers, with a 21% audience share, down from the previous week. On 17 November, it drew an average audience of 4.9 million receiving a 20% share, however, it was broadcast against I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! in the same time slot. The following week, Episode Six averaged 5.4 million, with a 22% share. Interestingly, the penultimate episode of the series which was broadcast on BBC Three at 10:30 pm managed to bring in 1 million viewers, being one of the most watched multi-channel shows of the night, easily beating Sky1's return of 24 which managed just under 400,000 viewers.

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 was 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. Connie was killed defusing the bomb 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 concluded 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.

Series 8

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 9pm on BBC One, with episode 2 being broadcast on Friday 6 November at 9pm on BBC Three. Episode 1 of series 8 drew in 6 million viewers a 25% share of audience numbers between 9pm and 10pm. Episode 2 drew in 4.5 million viewers a 19% share of audience numbers between 9pm and 10pm. Episode 3 drew in 4.6 million viewers 18% of total audience numbers between 9pm and 10pm.


The main recurring characters, listed in order of fictional seniority (and alphabetically therein), include:

Current main characters

Grid based


Former major characters

Grid based

  • Helen Flynn (Lisa Faulkner; 2002) Junior Case Officer, Section D. Tortured and shot by a right-wing terrorist.
  • Jed Kelley (Graeme Mearns; 2002) Administrative Officer. Never seen to leave, but may have moved to a different department.
  • Tessa Phillips (Jenny Agutter; 2002–2003) Senior Case Officer, Section K. Left the Grid after being discovered by Harry running "ghost" agents.
  • Tom Quinn (Matthew Macfadyen; 2002–2004) Chief of Section and Senior Case Officer, Section D. Decommissioned after jeopardising a key mission.
  • Zoe Reynolds (Keeley Hawes; 2002–2004) Junior Case Officer, Section D. Hidden "off-the-books" in Chile after she was caught making a mistake on an undercover mission.
  • Danny Hunter (David Oyelowo; 2002–2004) Junior Case Officer, Section D. Executed during a terrorist hostage situation.
  • Sam Buxton (Shauna Macdonald; 2003–2005) Administrative Officer. Reassigned to GCHQ following Danny's demise.
  • Fiona Carter (Olga Sosnovska; 2004–2005) Seconded MI6 Officer. Shot by ex-husband during an operation.
  • Colin Wells (Rory MacGregor; 2002–2006) Technician and Data Analyst. Hanged by SIS during their attempted coup d'état.
  • Zafar Younis (Raza Jaffrey; 2004–2007) Junior Case Officer, Section D. Killed during torture.
  • Adam Carter (Rupert Penry-Jones; 2004–2008) Chief of Section and Senior Case Officer, Section D. Killed by a car bomb.
  • Ben Kaplan DSO (Alex Lanipekun; 2007–2008) Junior Case Officer, Section D. Throat cut by FSB mole Connie James during the Sugarhorse incident.
  • Connie James (Gemma Jones; 2007–2008) Former Senior Analyst, Section D. Arrested as an FSB mole after the Sugarhorse incident. Killed while defusing a nuclear bomb.
  • Malcolm Wynn-Jones (Hugh Simon; 2002—2009) Technician and Data Analyst, Section D. Retired after a brush with death and many years of service.
  • Jo Portman (Miranda Raison; 2005—2009) Junior Case Officer, Section D. Shot by Ros Myers while restraining a terrorist during a hostage situation.


  • Jools Siviter (Hugh Laurie; 2002) MI6 Section Chief.
  • Christine Dale (Megan Dodds; 2002-2004) CIA agent and MI5 liaison officer. Resigned after following her involvement in Tom's investigation and apprehension.
  • Oliver Mace (Tim McInnerny; 2004, 2006) Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Forced to resign after being exposed as the mastermind behind illegal torture of terror suspects.
  • Wes Carter (James Dicker; 2004–2008) Son of Adam and Fiona. Sent to live with his grandmother after being orphaned following his father's death.
  • Juliet Shaw (Anna Chancellor; 2005–2007) Former National Security Co-ordinator, later Head of Yalta; status uncertain
  • Dariush Bakhshi (Simon Abkarian; 2007) Iranian Special Consul.
  • Bob Hogan (Matthew Marsh; 2007) High-ranking CIA agent. Dismissed from CIA for working with mercenaries against MI5.
  • Sir Richard Dolby (Robert East; 2008) Director General of MI5


To date the show consists of 67 episodes. Spooks eighth series is now airing in the UK on BBC One as of 4 November 2009.

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 the finale, a trailer for the next episode is shown, followed by the Kudos and BBC logos. The series airs with no credits on BBC One, to maintain an atmosphere of the anonymity of real-life spies and the drama of each episode.

The subsequent episode is aired on BBC Three, one week ahead of its BBC One showing (the first and last episode are only shown on BBC One). BBC Three airings include a brief credit sequence following the trailer and before the Kudos and BBC logos. Full credits are also available online.



Many scenes are filmed in and around the Docklands, especially Canary Wharfmarker, Rotherhithemarker and the London Bridgemarker area as well as the new More Londonmarker development.

Single episodes

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).

DVD releases

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.
Series Two 11 January 2005 20 September 2004 21 March 2004 Outtakes, cast interviews and commentaries, and featurettes.
Series Three 31 January 2006 5 September 2005 23 May 2005 Audio commentaries, 'behind the scenes' featurettes, deleted scenes and DVDROM content, including 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


  • Sangster, Jim: Spooks Confidential: The Official Handbook (2003), Contender Books (London). ISBN 1-84357-069-6.
    • Episode guide of the first two seasons, and background information on MI5 and the making of the series.
  • Spooks: The Personnel Files (2007), Headling Publishing Group (London). ISBN 978-0-7553-3397-4.
    • Detailed MI5 personnel files of eight of the show's main characters: Adam Carter, Danny Hunter, Zoe Reynolds, Tom Quinn, Ruth Evershed, Harry Pearce, Zafar Younis and Malcolm Wynn-Jones.
  • Spooks: Behind the Scenes (2006), Orion Books (London). ISBN 0-75287-610-4.
    • Background information on British intelligence and episode guides for the first four series.
  • Spooks: Harry's Diary: Top Secret (2007), Headling Publishing Group (London). ISBN 978-0-7553-3398-1.
    • The untold stories of Spooks, and MI5, as seen from the perspective of Harry Pearce, the Spooks team leader.

International broadcasts and DVD sales

In the United Statesmarker, the commercial-free and viewer-supported Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) began airing MI-5 from the beginning in January 2009. For the first time, the episodes are being broadcast full-length and in widescreen (1.78:1) format. This is the third network to attempt a successful airing of the show. Series 1 - 4 were broadcast on cable channel A&E, however ratings were poor, and after a marathon showing of Series 4, the show was removed from the schedule. In 2007, BBC America began broadcasting MI-5, withdrawing the show from its schedule mid-Series 4, again a victim of ratings. Due to the need to insert commercial breaks, the episodes broadcast on commercial stations (A&E and BBC America) in the U.S. were edited for time, with each 59-minute installment edited down to roughly 45 minutes, and were presented in full screen (1.33:1) format. The full-length episodes were broadcast on some cable "On Demand" services and are available on DVD.

In Canadamarker, the series was also screened uncut and unedited on BBC Canada, a speciality digital cable channel, under its original BBC title Spooks, however, this was stopped after Series 3 because the U.S. A&E channel had exclusive rights to future viewings in Canada and was showing the episodes as well. However, BBC Canada has resumed showing the series and began showing Series 5 to Canadian viewers on 26 August 2007. BBC also shows Spooks on its entertainment channel BBC Prime in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

The programme is also aired as Spooks in Australia and New Zealandmarker on ABCmarker and TVNZ respectively. It is also syndicated on the Foxtel Pay-TV channel UKTV.

In Swedenmarker it airs as Spooks on SVT1.

In Francemarker the programme is called MI-5 and broadcast on Canal Plus, France 2 and France 4.

In Denmarkmarker several series have been aired on the DR2 public channel, under its original name, Spooks.

In Finlandmarker the show is called Erikoisjoukkue and it was first aired on YLE TV1 (Series 1 and 2) and then MTV3 started airing the programme from Series 1.

In Belgiummarker Spooks was broadcast on the Flemish public channel Canvas and on the French Belgian channel RTBF.

In the Czech Republicmarker, it is called MI5 and is aired on ČT1marker. In Israelmarker it was aired under two different names (MI-5 and Spooks) on the Arutz 2 Channel 2 and on cable. In Sloveniamarker it was aired on Kanal A as Tajni agenti.

In Southeast Asia Spooks is aired through the Hallmark Channel.

In the Netherlandsmarker, Spooks is aired on the channel Nederland 3.

In Croatiamarker on HRT 2marker as Obavještajci, (Intelligence Agents). It is broadcast in English with Croatian subtitles as opposed to being dubbed.

In Indiamarker Spooks is aired on the channel BBC Entertainment.

In Brazilmarker, the series is screened on People + Arts, cable channel, under the title Dupla Identidade (Double Identity). In Argentina the same channel screens it as Doble Identidad (also Double Identity).

In Icelandmarker the series is shown on RUV (The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service) on Tuesdays at 22:25 as Spooks.

In New Zealandmarker Spooks is currently broadcast on TV ONE at 21:30 every Monday night.

Spooks is shown in Hungarymarker under Titkosszolgálat - MI5 (Secret Service - MI5) on Hungarian Television (channel: M1marker).

In Germanymarker the series began airing under the title Spooks – Im Visier des MI5 in pay television on the german Fox Channel on September 3, 2008 with new episodes Thursdays and repeats through the following days. On September 2, 2009 the new digital free-to-air channel ZDFneomarker began airing the series on Monday night with a repeat on Tuesday night on the parent channel ZDFmarker.


Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result
2003 BAFTA Television Awards Best Drama Series
Original Television Music Jennie Muskett
Editing in Entertainment Colin Green
Royal Television Society Awards Best Drama Series
Broadcast Awards Best Drama Series
BBC Drama Awards Best Drama
Best Drama Website
2005 BAFTA Television Awards Best Drama Series
2006 BAFTA Television Awards Best Drama Series
2008 BAFTA Television Awards Interactivity
Crime Thriller Awards Best Actor Rupert Penry Jones
Best Actress Hermione Norris
Crime Drama
2009 BAFTA Television Awards Best Drama Series
Original Television Music Paul Leonard-Morgan
Crime Thriller Awards The TV Dagger
Best Actress Hermione Norris


  1. Exact figure: 7.491666667, calculated from BARB figures for week ending 19/05/2002 and all subsequent weeks until 23/06/2002 which can be found here
  2. BBC - Spooks - Series 1 Episode Guide
  3. The Broadcasting Standards Commission receives 154 complaints after Helen Flynn's killing, as reported by BBC News.
  4. BBC - Spooks - Series 2 Episode Guide
  5. Exact figure: 7.097, calculated from BARB figures for week ending 08/06/2003 and all subsequent weeks until 17/08/2003 which can be found here
  6. BBC - Spooks - Episode Guide
  7. Exact figure: 5.771, calculated from BARB figures for week ending 17/10/2004 and all subsequent weeks until 19/12/2004 which can be found here
  8. Exact figure: 6.045, calculated from BARB figures for week ending 18/09/2005 and all subsequent weeks until 13/11/2005 which can be found here
  9. Gibson, Owen. Spooky coincidences. "The Guardian". Monday 12 September 2005 (requires registration).
  10. BBC - Spooks - Episode Guide
  11. Exact figure: 5.968, calculated from BARB figures for week ending 17/09/2006 and all subsequent weeks until 19/11/2006 which can be found here
  12. BBC Spooks Site
  13. Series 6 Episode Guide
  14. Calculated from BARB figures for week ending 21/10/2007 and all subsequent weeks until 23/12/2007 which can be found here
  15. Spooks website
  19. BBC Spooks Personnel – Harry Pearce
  20. Series 7, Episode 2
  21. BBC Spooks Personnel – Ros Myers
  22. BBC Spooks Personnel – Lucas North
  23. BBC Spooks Personnel – Ruth Evershed
  24. BBC Spooks Personnel – Tariq Masood
  25. Spooks Expert on Jed's departure.
  26. Harry's Diary, p. 311
  27. BBC Spooks Personnel – Ben Kaplan
  28. BBC Spooks Personnel – Connie James
  29. BBC Spooks Personnel – Jo Portman
  30. * Sam Walker Director of the CIA's London branch. Murdered by Sarah Caulfield for investigating the mysterious conspiracy. BBC Press Office – 2008,2009 Week 49
  33. BAFTA award list 2000 to 2005
  34. BAFTA Awards 2003. IMDB. Retrieved on 29 June 2008.
  35. RTS Award page
  36. Kudos - Spooks information page
  37. BBC Drama - Best of 2003

  1. "Spooks spark" from The Northern Echo (September 2006)

External links

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