Downing Street look upon the recovery of little Alfie as vital to national security
Oh dear. Just for the record, we watched the only ever bad episode of Spooks on DVD last night: series three, episode eight – episode 3.8 as they pretentiously have it – the one where our heroes from MI5 are assigned to the kidnapping of a rock star’s baby. It’s almost as if it was a Christmas special, played – certainly initially – for cheap laughs, because, hey, it’s set in the stupid old world of the music business. Why does drama so seldomly do rock music right? Although the programme never shows any credits, for writers, actors, anybody, in an effort to keep up its secret-service veneer, we watched the featurette about the episode afterwards and discovered that it was written by Howard Brenton, who looks to be in his late fifties, hence the outdated, embarrassing portrayal of a modern rock star, played by Andy Serkis, called Riff, or Sir Riff, as he is seen being knighted at Buckingham Palace in the opening sequence, with his wasted wife, the supermodel Miss B. Did nobody on the production team check to see which rock stars have actually been knighted before launching into this? Riff is supposed to be a British grunge icon from the mid-90s, a borderline alchoholic who looks like Kurt Cobain and whose wife takes coke, openly, in front of MI5. Are these the kind of people who would be knighted? They’re clearly supposed to resemble Posh and Becks, in terms of their celebrity-couple status and well-being as a matter of national morale, and yet Posh and Becks would be laid low by a drugs story.
Naturally, when a character offered another one coke, they called it “the finest Bolivian”. Does anybody actually say this any more? And if this Riff bloke had sold, as stated, 15 million copies of his last album, why is he living in London in an admittedly large house but one that handily backs onto the street for ease of kidnapping? Surely he’d live in a country estate, or in Ireland? The other area where it fell down was the involvement of the media, and an obvious substitute for Heat magazine, called, ahem, Mega. Arabella Weir played the editor of this magazine, which somehow had an exclusive about MI5’s involvement in the “Riff and B” kidnap. This rang rather false. It was as if they wanted her to be a powerful tabloid editor who lunched with spies, but also wanted to cleverly reflect – and satirise – celeb culture, so hedged their bets. Heat don’t really do cover stories, as such, they gather together long-lens photos of ladies who are too fat or too thin. Mega was a classic case of a mocked-up magazine.
I’m not going to go on about it. Spooks is one of my favourite dramas on telly – which is why I was so crestfallen by this naff episode. In the interviews on the featurette with the producers and writer, they all sounded very unsure about it, pedalling wildly to convince themselves it was a good idea. It wasn’t.