Volume Two
(Region 1 Edition)

Starring: Matthew Macfadyen, Keely Hawes, David Oyelowo and Peter Firth
BBC Video/Warner Bros
RRP: $79.98
Certificate: Not Rated
Available 11 January 2005

The threat to national security increases and the need to thwart the activities of terrorists operating within the UK becomes urgent. Tom and the team find themselves in the heart of the action and must deal with the psychological fallout of leading such dangerous double-lives...

Volume Two of MI-5, or Spooks as the series is known in the UK, builds well on the first series. This time around the BBC has upped the number of episodes from six to ten. America is the only country to have changed the show title to MI-5 - all other countries use the original Spooks title. And to complicate maters even further they also decided to change most of the episode titles. A huge bonus for American fans though, is the fact that this region 1 edition DVD box set includes the original 59 minute cut of each episode - they were cut down to 44 minutes for broadcast in the USA

The second series starts with what is possibly its weakest episode. Legitimate Targets picks up where series one left off. Tom's family are trapped in their house with a bomb about to detonate. What I didn't understand about this was the fact that even though his family survive, they are hardly ever heard from again... so, why didn't the writers just have them killed in the first place? This would also help to explain Tom's rather irrational and antiestablishment attitude as the series progresses. But, once we've discovered that Tom's family are fine, we are whisked off to deal with a rather dull threat from a Serbian warlord. It is only really from episode two onwards, that things start to get interesting.

The Nest of Angels stars Alexander Siddig (Who Trek fans will recognise as Doctor Bashir in Deep Space Nine) in a controversial episode about extremist fundamentalists in the Muslim community. Siddig is amazing in his role - totally believable as he tries to infiltrate the Mosque. Quarie Marshall is also chillingly convincing as the head of the Mosque.

Blood and Money is the only episode in series two that sees David Oyelowo at the centre of the action - something which should have happened a lot sooner - as he takes on the role of a market trader. His mission to uncover any information about a missing trader, who MI-5 know is dead and had swindled his employers out of a huge amount of money.

I Spy Apocalypse is interesting as the whole episode is set inside the MI-5 building. Has there really been an attack on London with millions of people killed? Or is this a training exercise? When people start to get ill and die it is obvious to those involved that this is for real.

Strike Force sees a possible threat to national security when word reaches MI-5 that a maverick Major is planning to get the army to strike for better working and pay conditions. This episode brings an old familiar face back to our TV screens. The role of Major Curtis is played by Reece Dinsdale who played Matthew Willows opposite John Thaw in the 1980s sitcom Home to Roost. This is a great episode which keeps you guessing as to whether Curtis really is up to no good, or has been misjudged.

Smoke and Mirrors, the final episode of series two, is all a bit of a shock to the system. Obviously, not wanting to spoil anything, I'll say no more, but nothing is what it seems. It was also great to see Mac McDonald (Red Dwarf's captain) appear briefly as a member of the CIA.

There are heaps of extras including Controversy (an 11 minute featurette on the controversial episode The Nest of Angels); The Martyr's Shroud (an eight minute look at the creation of the music for The Nest of Angels)... In fact, to save you reading this list - which will just go on and on... there are over 30 extras and each disc has one main (10 minutes plus) featurette and then a collection of extras specific to the episodes on that disc. These include interviews with cast and crew, audio commentaries, and a featurette on each episode.

However, the first disc does slightly spoil something from the final episode... it's nothing major and shouldn't spoil your enjoyment, but it was still something that the DVD producers should have picked up on.

I also really loved the interactive menus for this collection. Each disc starts with a mysterious intruder breaking into the MI-5 building and searching a desk. By moving the cursor around the screen, you can click on certain objects - the phone allows you to change the audio settings, files allow you to access the extras and a pile of discs lets you watch the episodes. While this is a little confusing to begin with, if you listen to the voice-over on the main menu it soon becomes apparent how to access all of the sub-menus. However, by the time you get to the third disc, it does become a little annoying when all you want to do is watch the episodes.

Not only is this a fantastic show, but the BBC have given fans one of the best DVD packages I've seen in a long time. This is awesome.

Nick Smithson

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