Who has got what it takes to be a spy?

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Television -

When you’re watch­ing an es­pi­onage thriller, it can be easy to day­dream about how much more ex­cit­ing your life would be if you were a spy.

Some peo­ple may even come to the con­clu­sion that they would do a bet­ter job than James Bond, who, when he’s not giv­ing out his real name, hasa­ten­den­cyto draw at­ten­tion to him­self.

Over the past four weeks, Spies (Thurs­day, Chan­nel 4, 9pm) has given 15 or­di­nary men and women the chance to find out if they re­ally do have what it takes to join Britain’ s se­cret in­tel­li­gence ser­vices in their in­vis­i­ble war against a mul­ti­tude of hid­den threats.

Un­der the watch­ful gaze of a team of for­mer spies, known as Con­trol, who be­tween them have 45 years of ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing Bri­tish In­tel­li­gence, the wouldbe re­cruits have un­der­gone a se­ries of ex­er­cises based on the In­tel­li­gence Of­fi­cer New En­try Course.

From the very be­gin­ning, the as­pir­ing spies have been tested not just on their in­tel­li­gence, pow­ers of per­sua­sion and tal­ent for con­ceal­ment, but also their char­ac­ter, wit and val­ues.

Dur­ingth­e­series, they’ve had to fol­low a tar­get, ex­tract in­tel­li­gence from un­wit­ting strangers and ex­plore the moralam bi­gu­i­ties of their job. It’s beenas­tress­ful process, and the can­di­dates haven’t even­been­able to turn to each other for sup­port, as Con­trol not only placed a mole in the ranks dur­ing the first episode, but have more re­cently been en­cour­ag­ing some of the re­main­ing con­tes­tants to act as in­form­ers and re­veal who they think are the weak­est trainees.

The strain is def­i­nitely show­ing in this con­clud­ing episode, which starts with six trainees still on the course - but only four will be tak­ing part in the fi­nal chal­lenge, a mis­sion on for­eign soil that has been de­signed to recre­ate the con­di­tions for oper­at­ing as an in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer in a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment.

The fi­nal four are dis­patched to Mar­rakech, where they must each work alone us­ing lim­ited in­struc­tions. On ar­rival, they hand their pass­ports to an un­known con­tact be­fore us­ing their alias doc­u­men­ta­tion to check in to a nearby ho­tel - which has been se­cretly rigged with cam­eras by Con­trol, who will be mon­i­tor­ing how the trainees cope as they ratchet up the pres­sure and sus­pi­cion.

De­spite the ris­ing para­noia, the trainees do their best to act nat­u­rally, but for one can­di­date in par­tic­u­lar, it’s get­ting tough to main­tain their com­po­sure.

And the sit­u­a­tion only be­comes more fraught when the trainees put their anti-sur­veil­lance skills to the test and head out for a meet­ing with an agent.

The ex­er­cise takes a twist when they are ‘ar­rested’ and taken to a ware­house to face hos­tile in­ter­view­ing un­der­ex­treme con­di­tions.

With just three of the orig­i­nal 15 mak­ing it to this fi­nal stage, Con­trol must de­cide who has shown that they have the ca­pa­bil­i­ties to make it in the world of mod­ern es­pi­onage. Let’s just hope the win­ner is at least of­fered a dry mar­tini - shaken, not stirred - to cel­e­brate.

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