TV Review: Spooks: Code 9, BBC Three, Sunday 10 August, 9pm


One of the strengths of Spooks is that it’s never afraid to re-invent itself, sometimes to the extent of killing off major characters to keep things fresh. Well, with Spooks: Code 9 it certainly looks as though the franchise (it’s now a franchise, let’s face it) has really tried to re-invent itself by producing a yoof version for BBC Three. But, as I watched the fast-moving series opener (and despite all the flashy camera techniques and paired-down, dystopian view of the future of Britain), it seemed to me it was pretty much a carbon copy of the original, adult version.

So welcome to Great Dystopia. You can tell it’s a dystopian future because a lot of the early action took place in streets where there were lots of graffiti. Britain is on its knees – a bomb has wiped out pretty much all of London and now the north of England is the new power base. Much of the population that survived the bomb have now been placed in relocation camps, with many still searching for lost relatives.

The security forces have been decimated, but small Field Offices are still functioning, but with inexperienced staff fresh from universities.

One such Office is Field Office 19. This is where Hannah (played by the woman (Joanne Froggatt) who played Sam Tyler’s mum in Life On Mars), and bona fide spook, operates. She’s trying to train up a bunch of young operatives, each with their own skills.

And bang… we were into the action. There were jumpy cameras, weird camera angles and lots of graffitied streets as two of the team tried to take down an arms dealer in a dingy nightclub. Another couple of operatives tried to nail a broker in a vegetable wholesaler warehouse. Both take-downs were nip and tuck.

Hannah was watching over Rachel (Ruta Gedmintas… she had a touch of the Keeley Hawes about her), who was handling her first mission. In the nightclub there was Rob and Kylie (Georgia Moffett). Rob seemed to be the Adam-style character (strong and all-action), while Kylie was very definitely a frisky redhead. On the warehouse mission was Vik and Jez. Jez seemed to be a bit mean and moody, while Vik was a bit dull. Joining them on that mission was Charlie who, as the episode went on, assumed more of a leading role. Charlie was a self-confessed geek and was hired because of his skills in maths and predictions.

This was the Field Office 19 team. They all lived together and got drunk together and shagged together (Rob and Hannah were seeing each other, but Hannah seemed to take a shine to Charlie). They all got drunk while initiating Charlie and we got glimpses of each of the team’s back stories – we saw Kylie taking pills, while Jez went off to ask about his missing mum and dad at some sort of information point.

But anyway, the team was under the cosh from bitch Lisa (the boss) – the Prime Minister was due to visit town and it was up to FO 19 to guarantee his safety. But things were afoot – a smarmy bloke came in and warned Hannah that she was in over her head.

In the end, they found out that a hitman was hired to take out the prime minister and when they had finally cornered him on a dry run, something unexpected happened - the hitman (a 15-year-old hoodie, no less) shot and killed Hannah. She had been the intended target all along. Like its adult big brother, SC9 is pretty indiscriminate about killing off main characters.

And then there was more fast-paced action and the revelation of a back story which, I’m guessing, will underpin the rest of the series - Hannah left a memory stick in Charlie’s hands, and on it a piece of video explained that she thinks there’s a traitor in the ranks.

So that was the first episode. The next episode followed next, which is never a sign of confidence from a broadcaster. Perhaps the BBC wasn’t too happy with the acting (stilted to say the least) and the staccato dialogue (sentences almost as short and snappy as the edits). But, like Spooks, the sheer momentum and pace of it carried you along and made you watch until the end. Another Spooks mirror tactic were he characters. There was a Harry equivalent (Charlie), a Tom/Adam equivalent (Rob), a Jo equivalent (Kylie). I’m not quite sure what other functions the other members of the team fulfill just yet.

One commenter to these pages speculated that the series would be a mixture of Spooks and Skins. That was more accurate than I wanted to believe. It was Spooks, but urban. They should have just called it Spookz.

For all our Spooks stuff, go here.

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