Five discs, ten episodes, one amazing show.
For those that are unaware, MI-5 (or Spooks, as it is called in the UK) is a popular spy series set in London. While some similarities will inevitably be drawn to ABC‘s Alias, MI-5 is an excellent show in its own right. I highly recommend that those that are new to the series start with Season One of the show and work their way up. Starting in the middle of a series cliffhanger is never a good idea, as I learned all-too-late. Of course,…the fact that I wondered in to the show in the middle of the action, with no background knowledge of the series, and was immediately hooked might also say something about the addictive nature of this show. Neverthless, the best place to begin is at the beginning.
While the aforementioned Alias will no doubt be the easiest parallel to draw to this show, it should be noted that there are actually quite a few differences between the two series. While much of the American show is easily accessible eye-candy, the UK counterpart makes the viewer work a little harder for their suspense, adding a bit more weight and psychological tension to the narrative. Both shows are equally entertaining, they just represent two different approaches to the same themes of secrets, security and crime fighting.
This 5.1 soundtrack is not too terribly impressing, with one very potent exception; unbelievable low end. When a explosion occurs, the room shakes appropriately. In fact, the bass is so powerful that it almost allows me to overlook a lot of other audio shortcomings.
Almost. For a 5.1 mix, there is very little action in the surrounds. While was hoping for a more enveloping soundtrack, the sound is still a giant leap forward from the regular broadcast audio. One other minor annoyance is that the dialog seems to be a bit low in the mix. This forces viewers to boost the main volume level to follow along. This is not a bad thing, but it could be an annoyance to neighbors, since once the volume is pumped up, the bass notes come through even more powerfully.
The BBC has never been widely known for superb audio or video broadcast quality. Nevertheless, this show does look better than most from the network. Handheld cameras are used extensively, which helps to directly involve the viewers in the action taking place on screen.
While grain is a part of film, there is such a thing as too much grain, and this show frequently approaches that line. While some shots are crystal clear, others almost appear to be projected directly onto a sandy beach. Colors are excellent, however, with flesh tones that are spot-on. Viewers also have nothing to worry about with regard to edge problems, blemishes or digital artifacts.
Finally, the show is presented in an anamorphic widescreen format. I was very surprised to see this, as not even every prime time drama in the US is filmed in widescreen. This is a great way to make this series feel more like a film, and less like a television program.
This set is absolutely packed with extras, including the best menus I have ever seen on a DVD of any genre, without question. I know menus are not normally classified as extras, but these are an exception. Upon inserting the disc, viewers see a figure stealthily break in to an office, and make his way to a desk. Once he arrives, audio cues and a mouse pointer appear, allowing the user to scroll over the screen and choose any number of items to access various features on the disc. Everything is done in full audio and video, with no stills except where absolutely prudent. Collectors should check out this set for the menus alone. I‘m not kidding, they’re really that cool.
As for more traditional extras, there are so many that the set comes with an organizational chart that allows viewers to more easily locate the features they wish to view. These features include trailers for this and other BBC shows available on DVD, commentaries on almost every episode and some select deleted scenes. Normally, I would make a bigger deal out of the fact that there are only deleted scenes included for one episode of the season, but somehow it doesn’t bother me as much when I realize that there are at least fifteen minutes of footage on each episode that has not been previously seen in North America. This little extra brings each episode‘s run time to a full hour in length.
As if that weren’t more than enough compared to the typical TV-on-DVD faire, this set also includes five major featurettes of at least 10 minutes in length, and sixteen minor featurettes that are a bit shorter in length. Furthermore, there are also a couple photo galleries and some DVD-ROM content thrown in for good measure.
This set is a bit pricey to only include ten episodes, but the extras more than make up for it. I must admit that I was dreading reviewing this show, because I suspected that I would like it. My fears have been confirmed… I am completely hooked on MI-5. If only I had found this series in time to have started with season one…
Special Features List
- Deleted Scenes
- 3 Exclusive Featurettes
- Photo Galleries
- Character Bios
- Episodes featuring new footage never before seen in North America
- DVD-ROM Content