Spooked at City University

I was watching Spooks last night and jumped up off the sofa, not at any cliff-hanging drama, but because the terrorist from ‘Azakstan’ who was after a deadly nerve agent that could kill everyone in London in a week, was walking up the stairs at the entrance of City University in Northampton Square. He wandered off down the long corridor towards the small snack bar in the direction of the lecture room in the Drysdale Building we used with Emily in the spring term!

Then the Section D cavalry charged in after him and the action had transferred to the Tait building where I’d had my Intermediate Fiction class with Heidi James in summer 2009. A shootout then followed around the long corridors that we had to walk around to find the toilets when we turned up on alternate Saturdays between January and March this year for our workshops with Alison. In fact, in one scene Sophia Myles looks like she’s about to burst through the door of the gents, which would have been interesting. The bad guy eventually finds the scientist he’s looking for in the actual room where we had our tutorials — or at least an identical one on a lower floor!

City University provided a good 5 or 10 minutes of locations for the programme, including a number of sinister looking stairwells and fire escapes (that are normally used to access the library!). In the end the suspect climbs out on to the university roof.  It was quite a novel experience to see such familiar surroundings used in a plot that involved Russians, chemical weapons, separatists and as much else as is normally crammed in. It can be seen on the iPlayer for the time being. The City University locations appear at just over 22 minutes in.

It underlines the point in an earlier post that fast-paced editing can make almost any location appear intriguing or exciting.

I thought the episode used a few devices which were the wrong side of implausible. The power of the resident computer geek to rescue the plot from impractical dead-ends and to keep it speeding along has often been pretty unbelievable but a separatist from a ex-Soviet state got off a Eurostar unnoticed (of course French intelligence were far too slow off the mark) and all Tariq needed to do find him in central London was to run some sort of ‘probabilty algorithm’ and then some face-recognition software against hundreds of live CCTV cameras to locate him within a few seconds.

This begs the question that if it’s so easy to identify and locate the bad guys then why do they keep popping up and threatening world civilisation in episode after episode — surely they could run a few algorithms and feed a few intelligence photos into their face recognition software and they’d be able to pick them all of the streets at will?

I doubt whether there’s enough computing power in the world to carry out the identification that tracked down the suspect immediately to Charing Cross tube station — which apparently has 6 platforms. I thought this was an error because it only two lines serve the station (Bakerloo and Northern) but I forgot about the disused Jubilee Line that terminated there until the extension was routed via Westminster in 2000. However, seeing as they’re closed off from the public (and you’d guess from Azakstani terrorists too) then it seems likely that this line in the script was probably just thrown in from a tube reference book without much thought.

According to Wikipedia these very platforms are likely to have been the ones used in this episode for filming the tube train scenes (quite handy as they wouldn’t have even needed to alter the signs!).

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