BBC [spooks] code 9 - aargh !

[spooks] code 9 is a new spin off series from the popular BBC Spooks drama supposedly about MI5 Security Service officers in action.

The first two episodes were transmitted back to back, and are currently available online from the programme's website (for the next few days)

Aimed at the 16 to 25 "yoof" audience on digital TV channel BBC 3, this is a spin off from the stylish and successful mainstream BBC 1 / 2 / 3 series "Spooks", which might account for the violence, swearing and sex.

The motto for the series appears to be "For Queen, For Country, For Kicks"

The series is set a few years into the future in 2013, in the Orwellian Police State which has emerged after a (small) nuclear bomb attack on London.

Supposedly the casualties cased by this single bomb incident are such that the rest of the UK carries on, with refugee camps etc., people trying to find their dead or missing relatives, and an Orwellian Police State, with pervasive CCTV surveillance, phone taps, secret concentration camps, compulsory ID cards, a black market in ID cards and radiation sickness drugs etc.

The tentacles of state repression includes the series protagonists, who are supposed to be a Field Operations team of young, inexperienced MI5 officers, working in one of the distributed offices of MI5, Field Office 19, somewhere vaguely in Northern England e.g, the County Arcade in Leeds appears as a location.

The two episodes so far have been stylistically less glossy than "Spooks", but just as full of technical howlers. This series also seems to be full of actual current New Labour
government policies e.g.

"we know what we have to do, get out into the communities, and target the young"

Most of the scenes which do not involve any actual surveillance or investigation work or the use technology, seem to be reasonably well acted.

There have been some violent episodes of the original Spooks series, but these usually involved a decent plot build up, and came with a dramatic shock.

Some details of the technical plot errors in the first two episodes - not sure if these will spoil your enjoyment or add to it:

[spooks] code 9 just started off with pointless violence e.g. two simultaneous surveillance operations resulted in both the suspects under surveillance detecting that something was suspicious, and pulling guns on the MI5 operatives. Both teams ended up escaping only after physically assaulting the suspects and their henchmen, and then running away.

One of the suspects (an arms dealer) was then trivially taken into custody later from a massage parlour, and then tortured by the MI5 team, to confirm that he had supplied an implausible "AK 47 take down sniper rifle". Rob Sullivan the former medical student member of the MI5 team happily shoots off the arms dealer's big toe, and he and his partner threaten to shoot off other bits of his anatomy.

Jez Cook, having bullied an informant on the street (no money, just a slap on the head), the MI5 team discover that their suspected sniper assassin is very particular about the burgers he eats - organic meat, no sesame seeds on the bun etc. They magically track down, simply via the telephone, where such unusual burgers are being delivered. The sniper shoots and kills their slightly more experienced MI5 boss Hannah, instead of the visiting Prime Minister, who they thought would be the target. They manage to chase the assassin until he falls to his death from a roof top.

There was an interesting touch in the use of a 15 year old "hoodie" as the top mercenary assassin sniper (Hannah says "the age of the finger that pulls the trigger makes little difference to the impact of a high velocity bullet").

A bottle of Kylie Ronan 's supposedly anti-radiation sickness pills seems to be labeled with a standard yellow and black trefoil radiation warning symbol - surely these pills should not themselves be radioactive ?

There were lots of shots of, and images taken from CCTV surveillance cameras, which, as by magic, the MI5 team could access with pinpoint accuracy, within a few seconds, something which is a Police State Fantasy, rather than close to reality.

A telling moment was the self satisfied smirk of the MI5 apparatchik Charlie Green, who had left his Compulsory ID Card at home, but when he then had just a single fingerprint checked against his name, at the Police checkpoint, he was identified as an MI5 operative, and the Policeman apologised , calling him "Sir".

This is what can be expected from the Labour Government's ID Card and centralised biometric database National Identity Register scheme. However, even this unrealistic scenario, shows that checking the fingerprints of everyone in the ID card queue is totally impractical.

Having deduced that their only other lead, the other surveillance suspect, a middleman fixer, might be injured, and using a dead security guard's ID card to book into a hospital, two of the team, Rob Sullivan and Rachel Harris casually dress up as a doctor and nurse, and drug and kidnap him, from a hospital bed, to threaten him, so that he takes a mobile phone (obviously with a built in tracking device, rather less well done visually than in the "Spooks" series), to lead the MI5 unit to the person who supposedly hired the assassin,

He turns out to be the former MI5 operative now working in the private sector, who had had been trying to recruit the MI5 team leader before she was killed. Why could they not simply have tracked down the phone number which had been stored in the phone, from the Communications Traffic and Location Data ? Why were they not listening in to the middleman's phone conversations ?

As they close in on the ex MI5 man, he phones someone for "an intervention unit", which, unseen, manages to stab him to death, before the surrounding MI5 team get quite close enough to capture him.

On returning to base, their remaining lead, the middle man, is reported as having committed suicide.

Charlie Green the new leader of the MI5 team, promoted from within the ranks, is mysteriously handed a USB media player / memory device by a stranger, who claims it is from his now dead boss Hannah

The second episode starts of with some sex scenes between MI5 agent Jez Cook and his supposed informant, who then turns out to be the person who they are trying to hunt down, for illegally broadcasting evidence of deaths in a secret concentration camp, onto the Orwellian public TV screens at a local University, but also out to the internet.

Instead of refusing to support such a policy of repression, and exposing the Government cover up, they end up blackmailing an army officer to reveal the names of the dead people shown on the video, so that they can track down potential friends and relatives of the victims, to see if one of them is the person who dared to broadcast this video evidence to the public.

"You're telling us that our chief suspect is one of our informants ?"


"Well do we know where she could have got the encryption code that's enabled her to hack into the alert system ?"


"Did she ever have access to our phones or laptops ? They run the same encryption software as the Alert system."


"Well, Tech are working on changing the encryption codes, but it's going to be a couple of days before they can stop her hacking in.

Aaaaagh ! This is utter, utter IT Security incompetence ! Surely one of the technical advisors to the Spooks series could have pointed the scriptwriter and directors towards the fundamental Kerkhoffs Principle - "a cryptosystem should be secure even if everything about the system, except the key, is public knowledge".

"What if she's connected to a Civil Liberties Group ? They're using far more aggressive tactics nowadays ?"

With fascist / communist style secret police apparatchik torturers like MI5 Field Office 19 helping to destroy our fundamental freedoms and liberties, that is surely something to be welcomed !

The depiction of what should be the obvious dangers to the public of setting up an SMS text message terrorist alert / Evacuate Now type warning system, which would inevitably lead to innocent deaths, when, not if, false alarms have been injected into the system.

The plot device of cloning an MI5 agent's Personal Digital Assistant, which somehow would then allow a student to have access to the supposedly encrypted SMS alert system, is nonsense.

The inability of the supposed mathematician Charlie Green to use anything more than some manual password guessing, to access a video clip from his assassinated former boss, handed to him after her death, on a USB media player / memory device is laughable - the password turns out to be his own name !

The Government spin TV broadcast by the Head of MI5, Saeed Khan, who "confirms the existence" of the concentration Camp Winsmere "all detainees are being held lawfully under the authority of the Britannia Act", but who claims that the video of the dead bodies there is a fake, is sickeningly plausible, given the propaganda lies and media spin by the current Labour Government.

How the lone student hacker and MI5 agent seducer, magically manages to gets hold of explosives and a detonator, is simply glossed over, but since the MI5 team end up shooting her dead, that is not ever likely to be revealed.

Obviously they never even thought that the electronic detonator circuit could easily have been be fitted with a "dead man's switch, just like the principle of a hand grenade, which would have blown up the bomb, up even when the person holding the detonator had been shot ?

At the end of two episodes, almost everyone that the team of MI5 agents has come into contact with during their "investigation" has been killed, or tortured or threatened or blackmailed or bullied.

This is a death squad, not an effective team of counter-terrorism investigators.

The third episode preview, appears to feature a council estate which is a hot bed of illegal black market (anti-radiation) drugs activity, where all the CCTV cameras have been vandalised , something which is plausible. However, there is also meant to be a secret, untested, sonic crowd control weapon which can magically incapacitate a crowd of, presumably, rioters, and which the local people, are supposedly not cunning enough or intelligent enough to have either detected or subverted.

About this blog

This blog is discusses and analyses the new book Spook Country by cyberpunk author William Gibson, published in August 2007.

This will be primarily from a United Kingdom perspective, as some of the themes of espionage and surveillance and hidden forces really do resonate in our endemic Surveillance Society.

This blog has been described, quite fairly, as "otaku-worthy immersion"

Email Contact

email: blog @ SpookCountry [dot] co [dot] uk

Here is our PGP public encryption key or download it via a PGP Keyserver.

Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers

Please take the appropriate precautions if you are planning to blow the whistle on shadowy and powerful people in Government or commerce, and their dubious policies. The mainstream media and bloggers also need to take simple precautions to help preserve the anonymity of their sources e.g.

Spook Country Links

William Gibson Books discussion bulletin board Spook Country *NO SPOILERS* forum

William Gibson Books discussion bulletin board Spook Country - *SPOILERS OK* forum

William Gibson video about "Spook Country" on YouTube and on the official website.

William Gibson Links

William Gibson blog - written by the author himself, on which he has test marketed fragments of his novel Spook Country whilst writing it.

William Gibson Books discussion bulletin board - William Gibson book promtion website in Germany

William Gibson aleph - lots of resources about William Gibson's works.

The Cyberpunk Project - some online texts of some of William Gibson's writings hosted in Russia.

Wikipedia Links

Wikipedia entry for "Spook Country"

Wikipedia "Spook Country" page edit history RSS feed or Atom feed

The character "Hubertus Bigend" has his own fictional Wikipedia entry in "Spook Country", which has now become now a real one.

Node Magazine

  • Node Magazine - a fictional magazine which "seems to be actively preventing the kind of buzz that magazines normally cultivate before they begin to exist" mentioned in the hints given about the Spook Country book, which has already been created online by a fan (patternboy), before the book has been published.
  • - Node Magazine is publishing 2 Chapter Summaries and Quotations each day in the 42 day countdown to the official publication of Spook Country
  • Spook Country blog's "cloud of hyperlinks" in numerical chapter order - commentary and annotations on the annotations to Spook Country.

Fictional British TV Spooks

James Bond 007

Stylish, if somewhat far fetched, BBC TV drama based on MI5 the Security Service - Spooks

BBC children's TV series M.I.High

2008 spin off TV series from Spooks [spooks] code 9 , set a few years into the future in 2013, in the Orwellian Police State which has emerged after a nuclear bomb attack on London.

Fictional Spooks

The Spy Wise Blog by Wesley Britton

Real Spooks

MI5 - the Security Service - counter-espionage, counter-terrorism, domestic surveilance

GCHQ - the Government Communications Head Quarters - intercepting and deciphering enemy communications, and protecting UK ones.

MI6 - SIS - the Secret Intelligence Service - mostly foreign intelligence - not quite like depicted in James Bond films.

Ex - Spooks - Richard Tomlinson - still being harassed by his former employer MI6. There are also links to Cryptome's archives of articles and alleged, unproven, lists of names of former or mcurrent MI6 agents (including, improbably, some UK Ambassadors), which caused lots of controversy. Tomlinson denies publishing anything not already in the public domain.

Martin Ingram, Welcome To The Dark Side - former British Army Intelligence operative in Northern Ireland.

Operation Billiards - Mitrokhin or Oshchenko ? Michael John Smith - seeking to overturn his Official Secrets Act conviction in the GEC case.

The Dirty Secrets of MI5 & MI6 - Tony Holland, Michael John Smith and John Symond - stories and chronologies.

Naked Spygirl - Olivia Frank

Spooky Info - including various spooky documents which some Government agencies would prefer not to be online.

Alan Turnbull's - "An entertaining guide to using Internet-based research tools – Ordnance Survey's maps, Getmapping's aerial photos and Google Earth! to reveal the UK's "hidden" MoD facilities and military sites"

Eye Spy Magazine - " The world's leading newsstand magazine on intelligence and espionage" - photos, articles, book reviews, private sector surveillance equipment and services adverts etc. N.B. Sometimes uncritical articles on various anti-terrorism and espionage topics, presumably in order to keep in favour with their anonymous sources.

Historical Spooks

Science Museum, London - Science of Spying Exhibition - for Spy Kids of all ages until September 2007.

Bletchley Park - "Historic site of secret British codebreaking activities during WWII and birthplace of the modern computer."

Imperial War Museum. London

Spooky CyberPunks and CyberGoths

The Dose is a "free, downloadable PDF zine ranging from industrial and gothic music to indie game development, Japanese visual kei, eyecandy, cyberpunkness" produced in Hungary.The three (so far annual) issues so far, with another promised in July 2007 contain plenty of CyberPunk and CyberGoth images and reviews, with the occasional reference back to William Gibson or other cyberpunk fiction authors.

Spy / Surveillance Art Projects

Spy Box - "A digital camera inside a parcel looks out through a small hole and captures images of its journey through the postal system. The Spy Box was sent from my studio to the gallery taking an image every 10 seconds recording a total of 6994 images these were then edited together to create an animated slideshow." - by artist Tim Knowles

Benjamin Males - "Face Targeting and Analysis System (2008) - Software designed to find and analyse faces in a video stream. First stage in an ongoing project looking at the potential misuse of technology"

London CyberPunk Tourist Guide

As part of the preparations for William Gibson book signing and lecture event promoting Spook Country in London, during August 2007, this "local knowledge" guide to places of interest to cyberpunk fans was compiled, and has been subsequently expanded.

London CyberPunk Tourist Guide -

Please feel free to add comments or send emails, to keep it up to date.

Zero History


Zero History blog - - discussion and hyper link cloud enhanced literary criticism of William Gibson's forthcoming novel, entitled Zero History, which is due to be published on 7th September 2010.

See the Fragments of a Hologram Bill thread on the William Gibson Books discussion forum for the snippets of writing which have been released for discussion to the public so far.

Syndicate this site (XML):

Zero History


Zero History blog - - discussion and hyper link cloud enhanced literary criticism of William Gibson's forthcoming novel, entitled Zero History, which is due to be published on 7th September 2010.

See the Fragments of a Hologram Bill thread on the William Gibson Books discussion forum for the snippets of writing which have been released for discussion to the public so far.

Cover Artwork

US cover art (the design we prefer):

UK cover art:

See how the cover artwork designs have changed slightly over time in the Cover Artwork category archive

"Spook Country" hyperlink cloud annotation

Our "Spook Country" hyperlink cloud annotation - re-orderd into numerical Chapter sequence

The Node Magazine, which this was a collaborative online contribution to, was online even before the official publication date of the first hardback edition of the book in August 2007.

This has been commented on by the author William Gibson, and described by Emeritus Professor of English Literature John Sutherland as "the future of literary crticism"

Campaign Buttons

Campaign for the Freedom of Information

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Free Gary McKinnon, who lives in London, is accused of hacking in to over 90 US military computer systems, and is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

FreeFarid_150.jpg - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Watching Them, Watching Us, UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
Spy Blog - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Open Rights Group
Open Rights Group

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves." The project makes use of Tor as part of their anonymity infrastructure.

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

January 2020

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
      1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31