Spooks: Goodbye

(Spoiler alert: Do not read further if you have yet to watch the final episode)

“HARRY Pearce…”

The poignant last ever episode of Spooks has just finished.

There will be no more.

Nicola Walker summed up my feelings in an interview this week when she said:

“The storyline for this last series is the right ending for the show.

“I don’t know if it’s going to please everybody but it’s a very clever and grown up end point.”

I know some wanted a happy ending for Harry and Ruth.

In a house by the seaside.

But as Nicola said herself, that – sadly – wouldn’t have been fitting for Spooks.

Ruth’s last words:

“Harry. We were never meant to have those things.”

In the end, she sacrificed her own life to save Harry’s.

There can be no greater love.


I’d like to say thank you to every single person who has read my Spooks’ blogs and coverage over the years.

Spooks fans are among the best people I’ve ever encountered online.

My thanks also to the casts, writers and production teams.

In the spirit of MI5, they never received an on screen credit.

But all played an invaluable role in making Spooks what it was.

With an extra special mention for Peter Firth and Nicola’s Walker’s superb performances in the finale.

I know we’re all sad this wonderful drama is now at an end.

But we’ll always have the box sets.

And should you ever find yourself anywhere near Thames House, keep a corner of your eye out for Sir Harry Pearce.

He’ll be there somewhere, ploughing his lonely furrow.

For as Calum reminded us when Harry returned to his desk tonight:

“Bad people want to kill us.”


My invite to the launch of Spooks series one.

BAFTA, Piccadilly, London W1. 6pm for 7pm Wednesday April 24 2002:

An invitation to view the first two episodes of new BBC spy drama Spooks and interview the cast.

I arrived earlier in the afternoon to speak to cast members before the screening, as well as some afterwards.

Including Keeley Hawes and Lisa Faulkner giggling over a few glasses of white wine.

Spooks series one production release.

Peter Firth’s Harry Pearce was there from the start.

But he wasn’t the main focus of the media’s attention.

There was, of course, a good reason for showing us the first two episodes in advance, rather than just the first.

We were sworn to secrecy about Lisa Faulkner’s fate.

One of many secrets Spooks asked us to keep over 10 series.

Peter Firth / Harry Pearce series one press information

I was lucky enough to interview the cast every year and go on set for series after series.

So as we say goodbye to Spooks, I thought it might be of interest to some to post my series one Manchester Evening News’ coverage online.

Plus my TV pick of the day for Monday May 13 2002.

Series one cast information.

Much has changed on and off screen since then.

As you’ll get a flavour of below:


The Grid: Class of 2002.

Published Wednesday May 1 2002:

STEAM swirls across a deserted station platform as a young girl shouts out: “Daddy, oh my daddy.”

It’s hard to believe that Jenny Agutter – forever remembered as Roberta in The Railway Children – is 50 in December. “I’m staggered too,” she laughs. “I’ll be out of the country.”

She returned to Britain from Los Angeles twelve years ago to marry Swiss hotelier Johan Tham. The couple have one son – Jonathan, now 11.

“When I turned 40 I had so many new things in my life. I’d given birth at 38, married very late, come back to England and there was new work. And someone called me up and said: ‘So what’s it like to be middle-aged?’

“The fact is, middle age moves on and, fortunately, I look round at my girlfriends and we all look all right, actually. It’s okay, it’s not so bad. I don’t feel any different from when I was thirty. I just don’t leave mirrors around.”

Reflecting with Jenny on a sunny spring evening, she has no need to worry about her looks, or her latest TV role as senior MI5 case officer Tessa Phillips in a new BBC1 series called Spooks.

“I wouldn’t make a good spy because I can’t keep a secret. I’d be excited about it and want to tell people what I was doing. On the whole I go beetroot red when I lie.”

Due on screen later this month, the writers and cast of Spooks were advised by ex-MI5 officers. “The work they do against terrorist organisations has, of course, been in the forefront recently,” she explains. “They’re not going to give a lot away, but I did get the sense that what they come across is shocking.

“There are similarities with acting. I did meet people who were ex-MI5 and KGB and, clearly, they are performers. A big part of being a spy is being able to take parts and play them fully. I couldn’t tell whether they were telling the truth or not. And as an actor, you conceal some part of yourself as well to become lots of different people.”

Have Her Majesty’s Secret Service seen the completed series yet? “Oh yes,” she smiles. “I’m sure it’s been seen – but we won’t know.”

After her early roles, including the Aussie outback film Walkabout, Jenny was just 21 when she went to Hollywood, landing a role in the movie Logan’s Run within a matter of weeks.

“I enjoyed living there and made some very good friends. But when I met my husband, there was no way he was going to live over there. It was sunny and I loved making movies. I couldn’t see myself ending up at the Golden Crest retirement centre, though. I felt very comfortable about coming back.

“In America success is equated with the amount of money the last film made. I remember a friend – who was an extremely well-educated man in the States – saying to another friend of mine from the Royal Shakespeare Company: ‘Don’t you wish you were more successful?’

“And I thought: ‘This person never stops working and they’re playing all these extraordinary roles.’ But what he meant was: ‘Don’t you wish you made more money?’”

Incredibly, it’s 32 years since that steam first misted up more than the station platform for Roberta’s emotional reunion with her daddy. Last year Jenny came full circle as she took on the role of “Bobbie’s” mother in a new ITV1 adaptation.

“It’s funny,” she smiles. “People always ask if I went to America to escape The Railway Children. But I only became aware of the huge affection for it when I came back.

“People treasure it because it’s so innocent and Bobby reminds them of their lost youth…which is pretty perverse, when you consider I’m going to be 50 this year!”


Published in Sunday TV Supplement May 5:

FORMER Holby City star Lisa Faulkner failed to shake or stir when she tried to become a Bond girl.

“I did the worst audition of my life,” confesses Lisa, who had dreams of joining Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry in the new 007 film Die Another Day.

She explains: “I was really excited to be going for a Bond film and I went in trying to look all ‘hot’ and confident. But I just went to bits and screwed it up.

“I’m not sure who got the part in the end – I think it was someone unknown. I was gutted.”

But there was some consolation for the 30-year-old actress, who played Dr Victoria Merrick in Holby City before spending time out in America.

Lisa guest stars as frustrated MI5 office clerk Helen Flynn in BBC1’s new spy drama series Spooks, on screen later this month.

“She so desperately wants to be a spy and then, finally, gets to go undercover. It’s one of the most exciting roles I’ve had to do for a long time.”

Although you’ll have to wait to find out her fate, Lisa reckons she’d do a pretty good job if a career change ever came her way.

“I would like to think I’d be a fantastic spy in real life – but I think all my friends would disagree with me, because they say they know exactly when I’m lying.

“If I was going undercover, then I’d always want to have a beret, dark glasses, a wig and long raincoat…like a gorgeous Russian spy.”

During her Brookside days, Lisa dated fellow soap actor Sean Maguire. Towards the end of her long Holby shift, she went out with South Park creator Trey Parker – part of the reason for her move to America. Sadly, it ended in tears. “It was real heartbreak. Never go out with a genius.”

Then, last summer, she hooked up with Trainspotting actor Jonny Lee Miller, but kept the relationship under wraps. “Eventually we held hands at one of Sadie Frost’s parties and, bang, it was all over the press the next day.”

A few weeks ago Jonny, 29, proposed and a tearful Lisa accepted. The couple hope to marry some time next summer. “I would love a fairy tale wedding,” she says.

Former Holby City pals Angela Griffin – currently starring in Manchester’s Cutting It – and Oldham-born Nicola Stephenson were among the first to congratulate her. The three hope to work together again in future. “We see each other every day still, so it’s not a problem.”

The trio – labelled “the three witches” – won a reputation as party animals. “We didn’t go out that often,” protests Lisa, “but if we did we got photographed every time. It was a nightmare waking up and seeing pictures of yourself drunk in the back of a cab.”


Published Monday May 13 2002:

THE naked truth was supposed to be for your eyes only.

But actor Matthew Macfadyen knows nothing is that simple when you’re employed on Her Majesty’s secret service.

Spooks (BBC1, 9pm tonight) is a new drama series about the men and women of MI5. Matthew plays Tom Quinn, one of their brightest officers.

Filming for the sixth and final episode – to be screened next month – involved The Way We Live Now star stripping off in a field along with Lorcan Cranitch, who plays the leader of an Irish terrorist group.

“That’s what they do,” explains Matthew. “To check there are no bugs located on our persons, you have to take everything off.

“And what would really happen is that they would leave everything off for the entire time they were together. Thankfully we didn’t have to do that. But it was very cold, so we weren’t at our best.”

The location was a field in Berkshire which was supposed to be deserted. Then cast and crew noticed several people with a possible view to a thrill. “We were by this lake and there were rowers going back and forth, so we had to stop every five seconds!”

Tonight’s first story begins with a car bomb which kills a female doctor and fatally injures her daughter as they set off on the school run. Soon MI5 begin looking at the possibility of a pro-life terrorist campaign.

There’s plenty of action in a glossy series with a cast including Keeley Hawes, Jenny Agutter, Lisa Faulkner, David Oyelowo and Peter Firth. Later guest stars include Hugh Laurie, Debra Stephenson and Tim Pigott-Smith.

Tom’s life is complicated when he falls for restaurant owner Ellie, who only knows him by his alias Matthew Archer. She has to be fully checked out by MI5 before he can tell her the truth about who he is.

Tom is eventually forced to reveal his real identity to Ellie when he is wounded. “I get battered a lot all the way through. There were lots of bruises,” he smiles.

Matthew met real life ex-KGB, CIA and MI5 officers as part of his research for the role.

Former CIA man Mike Baker, who acted as a consultant on the series, revealed that for the first six months that he dated his wife, she thought he was someone else entirely.

“There’s the added complication that your job could put your loved ones at risk,” says Macfadyen. “It must be a complete nightmare.

“I also met a couple of people from the SAS. They were very still, very unruffled and very unflappable. There’s something in the eyes which is a little bit daunting, really – but not aggressive at all.”

“I certainly wouldn’t want to be a spy,” adds Matthew, who also starred in Warriors and Perfect Strangers. “I couldn’t live that lie 24 hours a day.”

But how would he feel if film producers approached him about filling 007’s shoes? “I’d have a little giggle. I don’t have any burning desire to play James Bond. But I suppose you’d never have to buy a car again.”

Although devised and largely written before the terrorist attacks on America, the Spooks team realised their drama had an extra resonance when filming began last November.

Yet Matthew reveals not everyone saw the potential of the series. “It was turned down by another channel and thought not pertinent enough before September 11…which is odd, because it’s always relevant, isn’t it?”

Executive producer Stephen Garrett says things are often not what they seem. A Spooks researcher doing some initial groundwork discovered that, unknown to him, both his aunt and his father has been employed by MI5.

“It changes the way you look at the world,” adds Stephen. “Anyone you know or come across in daily life could be an agent or a spy. If you think about it, do any of us know what all our friends and family actually do for a living?”


Published Monday May 27 2002:

KEELEY Hawes was engaged on a very special mission while filming the new MI5 drama Spooks.

“I had four days off, so I got married,” laughs the actress, who plays secret agent Zoe Reynolds. “We went on honeymoon to Amsterdam for a few days and then I went back to work.”

London cabby’s daughter Keeley had scheduled the break to get hitched to partner Spencer. The couple have one son, Myles, who is almost two. “I mean, how long do you need? It only takes half an hour to get married.”

Rising MI5 officer Zoe is at the centre of the action in tonight’s episode. Working undercover, she becomes trapped when armed Kurdish rebels lay siege to the Turkish Embassy (BBC1, 9pm).

Keeley – last seen co-starring with Salford’s Chris Eccleston in ITV1’s Othello – admits she’d be a hopeless spy in real life. “It’s that thing of not being able to tell anybody what you do. One glass of wine in the pub and I’d have to tell someone. How could you not?

“A spy has to be brilliant at improvising and picking up on other people’s behaviour. But unlike acting, your life depends on it. I’m sure some MI5 officers become compulsive liars.”

Spooks has been a big hit and a second series is certain, even if over 100 viewers called in to complain about last week’s episode where young office clerk Helen (Lisa Faulkner) was murdered. They saw her hand being plunged into a deep fat fryer, before her head was forced into a vat of boiling oil.

The BBC insisted the violence was implied, rather than shown, and a warning was broadcast before the post-watershed drama, better known for its glossy look and slick scripts.

Keeley in the later 2004 series.

David Oyelowo, who plays MI5 surveillance expert Danny Hunter, has fond memories of a less controversial scene. “I actually got to run around Trafalgar Square with a gun. It’s classic playground stuff – muttering into your imaginary lapel microphone or wearing a headset pretending you’re on surveillance.

“It was absolutely fantastic. I had to bite my lip and pretend I wasn’t having the best time of my life. We had all these guys, who had actually been in the SAS, following us around with these huge machine guns. It was the middle of the afternoon and we gathered a huge crowd. Then you go home and there’s a pay cheque waiting for you. I can’t believe it!.”

Born in Oxford to Nigerian parents, David, 25, points out that Spooks isn’t a documentary. “I met a real life surveillance guy and he said that 23 and a half hours out of every 24 is really boring, sitting around. And then, all of a sudden, it just goes off – and it’s those moments that you see in the series.

“Once someone’s suspected of a security breach – even if they just type certain words into the internet – MI5 officers have carte blanche to check you out. They can tap your phone remotely, send someone round to bug the place, look at your emails, whatever.

“We actually discovered how much weirder fact is than fiction. There were things that we wanted to put in the series, but no-one would have believed them.”

Keeley, 26, didn’t get many “toys”, but had fun with some very powerful binoculars. “You could look into offices opposite where we were filming and see what was written on paper on people’s desks.”

She’s now gone on to film a role in a new “provocative and shocking” BBC2 drama called Tipping The Velvet, playing Kitty, a lesbian who works as a music hall male impersonator.

Adapted for TV by Andrew Davies and set in the late 1890’s, actress Rachael Stirling stars as Nan Astley, who grows up realising she is attracted to women. Her first love affair is with Kitty. They become a double act both on and off stage, but their manager Walter – ex-Corrie star John Bowe – eventually wins Kitty’s hand.

Has she filmed her first same-sex on screen kiss? “Yes,” smiles Keeley. “It’s all the same in the dark.”

(BBC1, 9pm Monday)
THE trailers have already told us that this glossy new drama series is about MI5, not nine to five, so don’t go thinking it’s a 2002 version of Bugs with lots more money. Good cast, topical storylines and secret agents out to save the nation from disaster. How can you resist?

At the end of 10 series, I’m glad we didn’t.

The Outside Agency: Tom Quinn

Spooks Episodes and Credits

Spooks BBC Site

Spooks:The End

Spooks Blogs

Spooks Information Central Fan Forum

Spooks Fan Forum

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