‘Spooks’: Series 9 Episode 1 review

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The return of the Spooks team for an impressive ninth year demonstrates little sign of the flagship BBC spy show abating from the breathless speed with which it ended the 2009 finale.

The headline news is the pretty inevitable confirmation that a certain major character bought the farm in the climatic moments of Series 8. With the ever reliable Sir Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) at the helm, the team pushes forward and we’re thrown into a world of inquests and accusations from the start as we come to terms with the enforced staff changes.

One of the highlights of the new series will undoubtedly be the new Home Secretary, played by stage stalwart Simon Russell-Beale (currently appearing in the West End revival of Deathtrap). Criminally under-used in television and film (perhaps due to his punishing nightly timetable), Russel-Beale brings an effortless class to the show which will hopefully be exploited to the full. Two new staff members are introduced as well in the shape of Beth Bailey (Sophia Myles) and Dimitri Levendis (Max Brown) – the latter, fresh from Foyle’s War and The Tudors, will undoubtedly fill the hunk-factor shoes of Rupert Penry-Jones, although viewers will be similarly relieved at the return of former Robin Hood star Richard Armitage as Lucas North.

If there’s any criticism to be leveled at the show, it is the gradual transformation from the home-grown, relatively believable world of MI5 becoming more and more like 24’s far-fetched CTU. This is especially heightened with the choice of “enemy” in this opening episode: a ship out of Tangiers (already infiltrated by the spooks) houses a pirate crew spear-headed by Al Qaeda terrorist Abib (Peter Bankole), who are headed to the UK to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

Entertaining, though a little shallow, the evolution of Spooks should at least ensure it stays with us for some time to come, though why Kudos have again refused to shoot the show in HD is a mystery that even the eponymous spies seem unable to unravel.

Airs at 9pm on Monday 20th September 2010 on BBC One.