MI-5 Volume 9 originally debuted on the BBC in 2002 (as Spooks, which is how it is still known in the UK and Canada), and it almost immediately became internationally successful for its fast-paced, heart-pounding, well-written, and timely tales of anti-terrorist efforts carried out by agents working for the titular branch of British Intelligence.
On the surface, that description might lead you to believe that MI:5 is just the UK’s version of 24, and superficially, that’s a fair comparison. After all, it’s a show about a shadowy, secretive, government agency where highly-trained spies, ex-soldiers, and communications experts foil international plots, take down terrorist cells, and save the world from bombs and toxic epidemics on a daily basis. There is one obvious and very important difference between the shows, however, and it’s that MI:5 is much more of a collective, the assignments and missions are clearly group efforts—there’s no Jack Bauer playing lone cowboy hero here. It’s one of the truly brilliant things about MI:5, and it makes for more compelling viewing. A show where no one character is always the lead in a story means that no character is ever safe.
Nearly every season of MI:5 introduces several new main characters and this one is no exception. This time the additions are ex-British Special Forces operative Dimitri Levendis (Max Brown, The Tudors), brought in for his expertise in combating terrorist threats in the field; Tariq Masood (Shazad Latif), the young data analyst who makes up for his inexperience with flashes of genius, and Beth Bailey (played by the stunning Sophia Myles, Moonlight), who is initially presented as an Eastern European prostitute aboard a ship on which agent Lucas North (Richard Armitage) and Dimitri are attempting to apprehend a senior member of Al Qaeda. She’s later revealed to be a talented ex-mercenary and private contractor who once applied for MI:5 and eventually joins the team when her skills prove invaluable on this mission.
Returning from previous seasons are Ruth Evershed (Nicola Walker) and Harry Pearce (Peter Firth), who’s the only principle character to have survived all nine seasons. Harry spends much of this go ‘round seeing his dreams of retirement repeatedly dashed, along with his hopes for a relationship with Ruth. Though much of the action and adventure takes place around other characters, it’s Harry who creates the center of the show. He is the one who makes all the tough decisions, he is the one held responsible when things go wrong, and he’s the one who uncovers the horrible secrets in the past of his most trusted agent.
MI-5 Volume 9 might not be the best season of the series so far, and some fans might complain of too much misdirection where certain characters are concerned, but it does provide plenty of exciting, edge-of-your-seat action sequences as it simultaneously maintains a high level of intriguing interpersonal drama and engaging dialogue. And, let’s be honest, if the characters and plots didn’t throw viewers a twist every once in a while, we wouldn’t watch.
For now, MI:5 is still well worth watching. Unlike the UK versions from the series, this DVD release doesn’t include any of the bonus featurettes or commentary tracks. That’s not a huge drawback, because MI-5 Volume 9 is great television on its own, but extra features would have been nice.