channel hop

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 January, 2008, 12:00am

In the high-stakes world of government espionage, leaks from the upper echelons rank top on the list of worst-case scenarios. In the world of television drama, they make for great plotlines.

Spooks (BBC Entertainment; Tuesdays at 9pm) is back for a third season, beginning this week. For those unfamiliar with the series, it centres on agents and operations at Britain's MI5 intelligence agency, also known in the show as the Grid.

The show's 2002 debut in Britain caused a hiccup in real-life MI5 recruitment. In the second episode, the violent killing of character Helen Flynn, played by Lisa Faulkner, drew 154 complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Commission, reported BBC News.

This outcry did nothing to slow the pace of equal-opportunity death for male and female characters and in 2005, The Times published a story on how the deaths of female agents in Spooks had caused a slump in MI5 recruitment. In the article, the newspaper wrote: 'To try to beat this blurring of fact and fiction, and encourage more women to join MI5, the security service has taken out advertisements in She and Cosmopolitan [magazines].'

Spokespersons went on record to say: 'MI5 is not like Spooks. In Spooks everything is solved by half a dozen people who break laws to achieve results.' No broadcast marketing campaign could have done better than that.

On Tuesday, we welcome back agents Zoe Reynolds (Keeley Hawes) and Danny Hunter (David Oyelowo), and are introduced to new recruit Adam Carter (Rupert Penry-Jones), a former MI6 agent.

The reputation of Tom Quinn (Matthew Macfadyen), who shot his boss, Harry Pearce (Peter Firth), to escape arrest in the series two cliff-hanger, has been ripped to shreds. Reynolds and Hunter are of two minds on the matter, but eventually decide to help clear Quinn's name, even though he may be dead.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee attempts to capitalise on this weak link.

With the prime minister's backing, he plans to take over MI5 operations.

For intelligence of a less covert nature, join Charlie Luxton on an hour-long exploration of biomimetic architecture in Bionic Buildings (BBC World; Saturday at 4.10pm).

Having had 3.8 billion years of practice, nature has become the ultimate designer. Plants and animals have solved problems in order to flourish in some of the most extreme environments on Earth - spiders make thread as strong as steel, termites build intricate airways in dirt so they can survive in the searing sun.

In this programme, Luxton goes back to nature's drawing board to explore how architects, designers and engineers are beginning to create bionic buildings through biomimicry (the act of copying or mimicking biology).

He examines five areas where nature's lessons can be applied to architecture. Luxton visits buildings (including London's Swiss Re Tower, also known as The Gherkin; right) that prove architects are turning to nature to obtain the know-how necessary to build better and safer structures.

Luxton is an architectural designer who combines his work with writing and presenting television programmes. He is passionate about the environment and is able to communicate his enthusiasm for sustainable architecture and eco-friendly design well.