Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Spooks , the First Men in the Moon and Paul is dead

Irony of ironies, today I was going to listen to Simon Logan on BBC Radio Newcastle talk about life without electricity, but I nearly missed it as the power went. Secret Life of the National Grid starts tonight at 9 pm on BBC4. In the end not a bad thing as it gave me time to think of other things.

Last night's Spooks came to mind most. In it the forces of the Evil Empire want MI5 to switch over to the new US security computer grid. As the good guys agree to the request from Obamastan, Tariq has a fit and storms off to the loo. What can it be? Was he kept off the grid for being too Muslim? Did the Americans insist on having their own computer genius sort it out?  Nothing of the sort. Turns out some super hackers have broken into the mainframe of Thames House and the entire database of Her Majesty's Secret Service. Ruth of all people follows him into the ONLY rooms at MI5 not wired for cameras and sound. Point taken whoever  said even spies need to drain the lizard, have a slash , drop one etc... But isn't it also true that the vast majority of drops and exchanges in films are done in a selection of lavatories?  I'll not let myself be too bothered by this. It kept the story moving and that's vitally important if they were to get past the first five minutes.

MI5, now firmly on alert and aware of the fact that a group of miscreants are just lurking in the background waiting for the American courier with the start up codes. Seems they really are after the American database and are voyeuristicaly watching and listening through every computer terminal and camera. This is where I  got the heebee jeebees. Every time we are the net, especially those of us using those new fangled terminals that have everything built in. How do I know somebody isn't watching right now? Maybe I should put on a shirt? But which one? There's the Newcastle top that's still clean, or perhaps my Keep calm and Carry on t-shirt would be more appropriate... Damn I need to shave too. Any road, the fact that we are being monitored now even as we sit in our homes blogging, chatting to mates or looking up recipes, our machines are now and have been for a while, at risk of being hijacked by evil scum wanting to steal our money or turn our power off or stop our banking transactions and communications. Fewer than 10 people, it is alleged in the story are able to infiltrate, spy on and steal all the secrets of MI5 or destroy the capacity of every cash point to give out money or stop the debit card in your pocket from letting you spend your money. The E-economy is as revolutionary and radical as it is delicate. 30 years ago we paid with cash, now if I have a few coins in my pocket or paper money , it's to go to a public market or stall holder. Just yesterday i heard you can pay for a taxi now with debit cards thus removing the last obstacle to a totally cash free society.

So will Harry Pierce and company thwart the coalition of  Russians and Chinese super hackers? Well of course. But this is Spooks. We won't just track them down and take them out, we'll need to go on the brink of giving up our assets, possibly sacrificing battalions of spies to vengeful enemies, we may even have to be nasty to the Americans. The short answer is yes, they get there in the end, but not before I was pulled into a full on fit of nerves that the whole thing would go pear shaped and there would ne nothing left of MI5 but smouldering computers and dead spies everywhere.

Meanwhile back in the car carrying the codes and the computer genius girl who'll install them, Lucas is coming closer to the end of his story on Spooks. Dear readers, we're now one ep away from the finale and it's still not clear if Lucas will be sacrificed on the altar of great telly or be allowed to live, while Spooks kill off some random strangers to satisfy the grim reaper of spy drama. He spends most of the time on his mobile or ignoring texts, but that's as it should be. Only in our super connected world can a simple device like the mobile be such an instrument of evil. Will John Lucas sort himself out? will Ruth and Harry get to him in time? What is Albany??? and is it connected to the super spy ring from last series? Two eps left and I'm not counting on having every question answered, but I will enjoy the ride. My wife has indicated I should lay in a large supply of tissues for the night if they do kill off Lucas in a fortnight. Gripping telly regardless which story you were following.

I then delved into the iPlayer and watched Mark Gatiss's First Men in the Moon. A lovely little film with a small cast that tells the story of the first Moon landing long before 1969. It opens at a fair and a small boy waits for his father to return so they can all go home to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. Except of course Neil Armstrong isn't the first man on the moon, that man is sat in a tent waiting for the boy to tell his story of greed, hope and human folly. H.G. Well's book comes to life in a League of Gentlemen sort of way with Rory Kinnear and Mark Gatiss playing the two earth men who lift themselves off the Earth using cavorite, a substance that cancels out gravity. The conflicts that arise are classic and well dealt with. While it may not have the massive cast or laser weapons of Star Wars, the far more realistic story tells of the meeting of two species and the natural paranoia and innocence that infuses such meetings. Clearly the Moon men would be easy targets for man if we ever invaded, but are they any more justified in their potential responses? How Cavor and Bedford deal with this in the end is melancholic and illuminating. The first Men in the Moon is an example of how the words are in fact more important than any special effects. 

My own personal memories of the actual moon landings is of being sat on the edge of the bed watching telly in my pyjamas with my Mam and apparently taking a sick day or maybe we just skived, I'm not sure. But I know most of my class opted to stay at home to watch. I can still see the 14 inch telly perched on the dresser being our window on history.  It was my first ever "Live television event" that impacted me in the same way some people remember the end of the second war or the 1953 coronation. Mark Gatiss has done a good job of linking H.G.Wells and our collective memory of that day in a film that holds your interest for the full 90 minutes. If Mark Gatiss is the flavour of the month at the BBC, it means we'll be seeing a lot more of him and his stories. So far so good.

Closing thought for the day, It's been 6 years since the great John Peel has left us and of course we lost the massive intellect that was Paul the psychic Octopus, who died today at the Frankfurt Zoo. No doubt bumped off by William Hill in advance of the heavy betting on the outcomes of  Strictly. Paul will be laid to rest in a bed of sushi and guests are encouraged to eat him, so he can literally be a part of us all. Paul left several thousand squid in his will and in lieu of flowers, the family is requesting wasabi. . His final prediction was that England would win the right to hold the 2018 World Cup, so fingers crossed!

No comments: