Hack­ers kept hush- hush

Dan Spiel­man and Ash­ley Zuk­er­man ex­pose a dark se­cret in The Code

Geelong Advertiser - TV Guide - - FRONT PAGE -

As far as lo­ca­tions go, the new ABC minis­eries The Code takes in both the harsh but spec­tac­u­lar ex­panse of the Out­back and the cor­ri­dors of power in Can­berra.

But there’s another lo­ca­tion that in­ter­ests The Code: the new fron­tier of cy­berspace, where in­for­ma­tion that could top­ple power struc­tures and even end lives hur­tles along elec­tronic su­per­high­ways.

It’s this in­for­ma­tion that is dis­cov­ered by two very dif­fer­ent brothers – jour­nal­ist Ned ( Off­spring’s Dan Spiel­man) and com­puter hacker Jesse ( The Slap’s Ash­ley Zuk­er­man). Their quest to dig deeper and bring in­jus­tice and con­spir­acy to light will draw them into a sin­is­ter web of se­crecy and ma­nip­u­la­tion that af­fects ev­ery­one.

The story be­gins when Ned re­ceives a video file of a car ac­ci­dent in the Out­back, one that left two kids se­ri­ously in­jured but has seem­ingly gone un­no­ticed and un­re­ported.

Un­able to view the dam­aged footage, Ned turns to his brother Jesse, whose back­ground in hack­ing has re­sulted in a strict good- be­hav­iour bond.

Birse: “The dig­i­tal fron­tier is a whole new world.”

With Jesse’s help, the video’s shock­ing images are re­vealed. And when Ned posts the video on­line, it places both him­self and his brother in the fir­ing line.

The footage re­veals in­for­ma­tion about a top- se­cret in­ter­na­tional re­search project be­ing kept very hush- hush ... and the gov­ern­ment wants to keep it that way. But just how far are the pow­ers that be will­ing to go?

For The Code cre­ator Shel­ley Birse, whose cred­its in­clude Wild­side, Rush and Miss

Fisher’s Mur­der Mys­ter­ies, the minis­eries’ story was sparked by a trip to Is­rael with her hus­band and new baby.

“The Arab Spring was start­ing to cook next door, and I knew about two Aus­tralians who were in­volved in us­ing tech­nol­ogy to get the story out to the world,” she said.

“So that was in­spir­ing on one hand, and on the other hand this was also around the time fur­ther charges were stack­ing up against Ju­lian As­sange, another Aus­tralian us­ing his skills with tech­nol­ogy to spread a story that might have gone un­heard oth­er­wise.”

Birse was fired up by the no­tion of Aus­tralians “chang­ing the world” by chal­leng­ing es­tab­lished modes of dis­pens­ing in­for­ma­tion, of­ten in­for­ma­tion that peo­ple in power would be happy to have kept un­der wraps.

“It felt like a story with le­git­i­mate in­ter­na­tional legs,” she said.

“The dig­i­tal fron­tier is a whole new world, and that was some­thing that in­trigued me – that there were Aus­tralians mov­ing for­ward in this new fron­tier, and right along­side them there is this in­cred­i­ble

clamp­ing- down – or at­tempted clamp­ing- down – of those voices.”

The story of The Code was also suf­fi­ciently in­trigu­ing that it at­tracted some top- shelf lo­cal act­ing tal­ent, with the likes of David Wen­ham, Lucy Law­less, Adam Gar­cia, Aaron Ped­er­sen and Rec­tify’s Aden Young tak­ing on key sup­port­ing roles in the six- hour pro­duc­tion.

“It was a great can­vas, a huge idea, but we never wanted to lose sight of the fact there are peo­ple at its heart,” Birse said.

“Po­lit­i­cal thrillers are es­sen­tially about peo­ple, and we wanted to have view­ers watch­ing this with­out feel­ing like they were be­ing lec­tured to or see­ing peo­ple they didn’t re­late to. From the word go, we en­vi­sioned it as a po­lit­i­cal thriller but also as a fam­ily story.”

In­deed, the char­ac­ter­i­sa­tions in The Code run deep, and there’s great work from Law­less, Wen­ham and Young that en­hances th­ese char­ac­ters beyond mere black- and- white.

But the tal­ented Spiel­man and Zuk­er­man give The Code its heart, their mov­ing, gen­uine de­pic­tion of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween brothers Ned and Jesse the core of the minis­eries.

“Th­ese two brothers are liv­ing to­gether prob­a­bly well after you would imag­ine them still shar­ing that space,” Birse said.

“Their fa­ther left the fam­ily when the boys were quite young, and that cre­ated a great deal of stress. And on top of that Jesse has what we call ‘ some kinks in the men­tal wiring’.

“That’s the way I like to phrase it – there’s been a lot of talk about Asperger’s and the autism spec­trum when it comes to Jesse but it felt im­por­tant to us that we didn’t la­bel him any par­tic­u­lar way. The make- up of our brains and be­hav­iour is as in­di­vid­ual as we are.

“And Jesse has a set of be­hav­iours out­side the box, so I wanted to look at a com­plex re­la­tion­ship be­tween brothers where one adult is car­ing for another.

“In ad­di­tion to ev­ery­thing else that hap­pens through­out the course of the story, The Code also ex­plores whether th­ese two can sep­a­rate and pos­si­bly have a more healthy re­la­tion­ship.”

So while it’s a sprawl­ing saga that takes “three over­lap­ping cir­cles” of Can­berra- based cy­ber- se­cu­rity, the new world of on­line jour­nal­ism and the mys­tery of the out­back ac­ci­dent, says Birse, “it is the in­volve­ment of th­ese two brothers that brings th­ese three worlds to­gether”.

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