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{Review} Spooks – T.V. Series

Lucas North

Lucas North (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just poking my head above the metaphorical parapet (also known as the massive pile of course books, academic journals and interminable vocab. lists) to review a T.V. series I watched for Cultural Buffet Challenge.

Plot
This epic (for a British programme) ten-series show is set deep in the duplicitous world of spies. It follows MI5’s Section D as they tackle terrorism and clash with criminals (and the occasional Cabinet Minister) over a ten-year period.

Review
The element that made the biggest impression on me was the casting… or should that be the characters? Every actor and actress fitted the role perfectly, even if the character was created for just one episode. The level of effort put into each of them was phenomenal. Their motivations were explored and their characters evolved over time, esp. Tom Quinn (more on him in a moment) and Ruth Evershed. (Although admittedly, the Lucas North story seemed over-done by the end, even though it was an innovative way of writing his character out).

Tom Quinn (the main character of the first few series) was particularly good as a spy who desperately wants to have a relationship that allows him to be himself as opposed to being a face with constantly changing identities. Indeed, after Matthew MacFadyen (who played Tom Quinn) left the series, ratings slumped. The series had some wonderfully strong female characters in it too. Ros Myers, a strong, collected woman, always ready with a biting one-liner (seriously, she makes 007 himself look like a buffoon) was also a stand-out character for me.

Which sort of brings me on to the second element that impressed me: the plot. As a life-long fan of crime and spy dramas, (I can still quote bits from The Avengers and the Man from UNCLE) I’ve seen lots of, “Oh noes! Russian = evil”, and “terrorists must have a foreign accent and be brown (any shade)”. Whilst there was a degree of this, especially in the 6th and 7th Series, which have story arcs based around Iran and the Russian Federation, these arcs also include variations (innovations?) on these themes. So white, home-grown terrorists turn up, as do Hindu and Christian extremists. Oh, and the Russians turn out to be less of a threat than their English sympathizers.

In addition, if you compare when the episodes were first broadcast with what was happening at the time, the series becomes quite cutting-edge, with issues such as despicable financial practices and the collapse of a Northern Bank appearing at the same time as Northern Rock crumbled. The series that revolves around Iran’s uranium enrichment programme was broadcast when fears of Iranian nukes were escalating.

The other element I enjoyed was the distinctly English feel of the series: the gestures and turns of phrase that I missed whilst in France took on a whole new level of meaning when coupled with the traditional ‘stiff upper-lip’ attitude of Section D… The romantic tensions hinted at between characters /startspoiler, like when Ruth waltzed into her first meeting and ended in that desperate unfulfilled way that is so heartbreaking typical /endspoiler… The way in which characters tend to ‘keep calm and carry on’ and can only truly unleash their feelings when they’re alone at home.

Overall
Spooks is one of those series that not only restores my faith in British Television, it also makes me want to find more contemporary British television series and watch them! Nonetheless, I’m not sure as to how this series would be received in the States, so opinions from across the Pond would be welcome!

WNI’s Verdict… WIN!

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2012 in 2012 Book Challenges, Films

 

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Just saw The Hunger Games…

Hello over-nineteens!  Did you feel pain when you watched any film from the Twilight Series?  Experience hysterical laughing fits when the Bella-Edward-Werewolf Guy love triangle was really kicking in?  Wish at any point that the main female character was a little more empowered?  Maybe you still wish you could re-write the dialogue or plot?

If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more of the above, you are probably experiencing post-Twilight Syndrome. There is only one cure: go and watch The Hunger Games.

Admittedly, the film does raise several questions that I’m hoping the book series will answer. Firstly, the militia seems to have a fair amount of military power but it seems not to scare the people in the regions as much as I expected (no deutsch Blicke  when Katniss is talking to her sister in the street at the start)

Secondly, issues such as indoctrination haven’t been dwelt on. There is of course the acceptance of the annual Hunger Games, but surely if it had been effective, Primrose would not have publicly expressed fear about being chosen to represent her district and try to win them some food.

Despite this, the film has quite a lot of strong points. The script is strong, the acting is very good and the costumes are outlandish and make quite a beautiful point about our society (as well as the dystopian one, of course). The politics and political message delivered are touched but not dwelt on in depth. I’d like to think that this could entice some people to go away and read more dystopian or political fiction (1984 or 1Q84 spring to mind).

The concept of the Games works well as it shows that Katniss to be not merely a survivor but a heroine in the true sense of the word. She sacrifices herself to save someone she loves and she appears willing to risk everything she has for someone she’s never met.

Basically, she’s one of those people you can’t help but respect, even if you don’t know much about them.

I’m off to read the books now. 😉

What do you think of The Hunger Games? Have you seen the film or read the books? Have you found a YA series that you feel is better than this one? Share it!

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2012 in Films

 

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What to watch this week (if you haven’t already)

I am always on the look-out for new films or TV. series to watch. Once a week, I’ll post my favourite/ two favourite film/s or TV series I’ve seen in the last seven days.

Feel free to comment about your own favourite/s from the part week and/ or post links to reviews (if you’ve written them). 🙂

The format will differ to that of the book reviews: there will probably be links to scenes and I’ll only write three small sections that pick up on:
1) How I came to know of its existence
2) One part of the set-up that blew my socks off
3) Plot (no spoilers if I can help it)
4) Why watch it?

Here is my favourite from the last seven days:


La Mappa Misteriosa

 How I heard about it…
through luck! : I’m trying to learn enough Italian to set me up for a four-day holiday inVenice next month. I found this series and associated revision exercises on the BBC Language Learning Page.

 One thing I loved…
the style:
This takes the ‘language learning TV series’ experience to a whole new level. Whilst nothing can replace immersion techniques (unless one is particularly gifted in learning alone) this series sucks the viewer through the screen and drops them into a rather fun adventure as one of the main protagonists.

 The plot
You stumble upon a long-lost treasure map which leads you to Bolognawhere you embark on an exciting adventure which leads you around the region. With Renata, daughter of the map’s creator and her nephew, you find yourself in a race against the clock to find the lost recipe for la torta di Serretto before it falls into the wrong hands.

 Why watch it?
The language isn’t too hard for a beginner and actually provides an ego-boost as it’s fairly easy to understand from the start. The plot isn’t very complex but it does the trick as I’ve now learnt enough from the series to get me by for most of the holiday. I can’t read Petrach’s sonnets in the original, nor can I keep pace with Eco’s prose but I can express basic ideas, get from place A to place B, buy food and check into my hostel.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2012 in Films

 

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What to watch this week (if you haven’t already)

I am always on the look-out for new films or TV. series to watch. Once a week, I’ll post my favourite/ two favourite film/s or TV series I’ve seen in the last seven days. Feel free to comment about your own favourite/s from the part week and/ or post links to reviews (if you’ve written them).

The format will differ to that of the book reviews: there will probably be links to scenes and I’ll only write three small sections that pick up on:
1) How I came to know of its existence
2) One part of the set-up that blew my socks off
3) Plot (no spoilers if I can help it)
4) Why watch it?

Here is my favourite from the last week:

Game of Thrones (First Series)

How I heard about it…
Through
publicity: The posters were unavoidable at the time. They looked interesting to fantasy fans. Or LoTR fans still in mourning for Boromir as they feature Sean Bean sitting on a curiously shaped throne, holding a sword and looking pensive.

One thing I loved…
The theme tune: (by Ramin Djawadi). It effortlessly sets the stage for the intrigues and twists of the plot to follow. Here is a link to the theme tune and opening credits. Reminiscent of ‘Pillars of the Earth’ , I know but I believe it’s a comparison worth making.

The plot (Nb. Condensing 10 hours of TV into a few paragraphs has forced me to sacrifice the equally brilliant sub-plots and other twists in this tale)

‘Winter is coming’.

The King’s Hand is dead and the court is riding from the comfort of the costal capital to Winterfell, an icy northern land . There is only one explanation for this: King Robert has come to ‘ask’ his old comrade-in-arms and last living person whom he can trust, Ser Eddard Stark to become his Hand, dispensing justice in his name.

Ned goes to the capital with his two daughters only to realize that he has led his family into a dangerous web of political intrigue that is proving far more dangerous than any battlefield.

Meanwhile, in Winterfell, his illegitimate son, Jon Snow has decided to join the Night’s Watch. This order was created to protect the land from legendary creatures that are once again awakening from their centuries-long slumber.

Can the House of Stark survive the Game of Thrones that it has been dragged, unwillingly, into or will its name be buried under the rapidly falling darkness?

Why watch it?
The plot moves steadily and realistically forward, never leaving the viewer thinking ‘What!? But why!?’. The script and acting are superb. Also, the author of the book is one of the co-executive producers which probably means that he’s pretty happy with the ‘artistic vision’ of the other people working on it.

 

Has anyone else watched a fantasy series/ film that they particularly liked or loathed? Which one was it?

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Films

 

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