Monday, June 9, 2003 by

“One day England will become the House of Islam …”

Spooks explosively returned last week with a bomb going off and a shower of ropey-looking CGI rubble in a tale of evil Serbians. This week, the featured baddies are evil Muslims (or, as they are described by their leader in the episode “a nest of angels”). The subject of Islamic terrorists has been everywhere in the news since the Twin Towers fell and it was surely only a matter of time before the Spooks team got around to dealing with the theme. Fortuitously, the real life story surrounding Abu Hamza and the Finsbury Park Mosque broke not long after this episode was made, ensuring that due to this (and the episode’s other main theme of immigration) the show has remained topical.

Interestingly, BBCi list Spooks in their Drama, rather than their Cult section of the website, and while Spooks is a completely different kind of programme from most of the drama output that the corporation produces, for some reason it has me continually hooked. Spooks isn’t a deadly serious political thriller a la State of Play, but as good as that particular programme is, who isn’t in need of something a little less taxing and a little more dynamic from time to time? It’s never going to be the most complex or challenging of programmes, but I welcome this. It doesn’t need to be anything more than it is. Spooks is set in a completely different world to any of the usual stuff and is a huge cut above the last show that tried to do something similar – Bugs. Everybody should just sit back, watch it, and enjoy Spooks for what it is: a great piece of entertainment.

Afghan Mullah Mohammed Rachid is deadly serious in his plan to Islamicise his adopted nation from the apparent safety of a Birmingham mosque, and MI5 deploy an Algerian dissident to infiltrate the establishment. Is the dissident genuinely willing to help, or is he a double agent? Alexander Siddig is very good: his character Khaldun is presented very much as the hero here, giving his life at the end in a vain attempt to prevent a 16-year old suicide bomber (complete with his “martyr’s shroud”) from blowing himself up. Doing its bit for race relations, the simple message of the episode is that not all Muslims are bad, which is shown through the contrasting actions of Khaldun (“suicide is a bit extreme even for a Villa supporter”), and Rachid (“the best martyrs are disposable”).

One of the only things that I have not been keen on in this new series so far has been the disappearance of Quinn’s girlfriend Ellie and her daughter. After narrowly escaping death in the first episode I had expected them to play a main part in subsequent ones: they were such an integral part of the first series and they appear to have fled rather quickly in the new run. Considering this, it didn’t take Quinn long to jump into bed with another woman, which surprised me due to his apparent depth of feeling for Ellie. Is his new relationship with Natasha Little’s Vicki Westbrook merely a case of being on the rebound? Is she more than she seems? Somehow, I can’t see the new relationship lasting, and have a sneaking suspicion that Tom’s family will be making a further appearance later in the run. We get a brief glimpse of new character Ruth Evershed in the episode, and I suspect that she will come to the fore fairly quickly in upcoming tales, while something is clearly being set up for the future in the shape of Zoe’s new friend Carlo. Who exactly is he and what is he after? Season one regular Jenny Agutter gives a spit and cough performance here too, and it seems likely that Tom will be paying her private agency another visit before too long. I have an inkling that MI5 are going to need her for something at some point …

I don’t know how accurate all of the technical detail is, or even how near the truth the workings of MI5 that are presented in Spooks are, but it seems from the webpages that the production team have certainly done their homework. Barring another David Shayler making an appearance and spilling beans that are not meant to be spilt, Spooks is as close as we, the public, are likely to get. And with a story centred on suicide bombers in the UK, we can only hope that Spooks is not as accurate at predicting things to come as it is in mirroring things that have been…


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