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Showing 1-10 of 157 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 282 reviews
TOP 500 REVIEWERon December 22, 2011
Let's just say it and get it out the way: MI-5 is simply one of the greatest dramatic television series ever made. I know that's a ridiculously grandiose statement that is an easy target of criticism, but if you'll just browse down the titles of the 100+ reviews of MI-5 Season One here on Amazon, you'll be able to get some independent verification of that statement. It's quite true: once you get into this series, it is hard to think otherwise. It might take up through to the beginning of Season Two to be fully convinced, but after that, chances are you'll agree, and you'll want to watch the series all the way through.

MI-5 is smart, dramatic, intelligent, exciting, thought provoking, well written and directed, beautifully filmed, and wonderfully acted. It's a crown jewel in the BBC's tiara, and will remain difficult to surpass for a very long time indeed.

"MI-5" (Military Intelligence, Section 5) is that part of the British security service that focuses on internal security and threats (as opposed to MI-6, which deals with extra- and international threats to the UK). This means that the service deals with any potential internal threat, including crime, terrorism, domestic economic threats, and counter-espionage. Its headquarters is in Thames House in London. The show MI-5 focuses on a variety of domestic threats arising from both domestic and international sources, and is based on the Section D Team within MI-5, which focuses on counter-terrorism, and is led by Harry Pearce (Peter Firth, in the role of his career). Although different issues and challenges arise in each show, and it is certainly possible to watch shows at random, the series is best enjoyed and appreciated when viewed in episode order due to the manner in which dramatic themes are built and extended across episodes. This is a show that rewards the viewer for effort put into watching the series in order.

Season One does not get off to the best of starts. Most shows, particularly those as complicated and as wide reaching as MI-5, experience similar issues with the pilot episode, and MI-5 does not fully escape that fate. That's too bad, because some might see that first episode and decide the show is not quite their cup of tea. In my own mind, the first episode of Season One suffers from a contrived script on a too-obvious story (and, unfortunately, contains some needless violence that is thankfully not seen elsewhere in the series), but it should not really be missed if you wish to work through the show because of the cast introductions and orientations to the show that occur in this episode. We can easily say that Episode One of Season was more for the benefit of the writers, cast, crew, and directors of the show rather than the viewers, but they all learned fast, and they learned well. As Season One progresses, we start feeling we are watching a well-oiled and precision racing machine that is gaining increasing momentum as the episodes unfold, and by the time we reach the cliff-hanging ending of Season One, we can easily see that this is an amazing show.

Some of the Seasons have been hideously expensive to purchase on DVD, but some of that may be reduced at this point (late 2011). Each season normally contains either eight or ten episodes. However, when one considers that most of these episodes are more like mini-movies than television shows, the price becomes much more understandable. Unfortunately, no Blu-ray versions currently exist (to my knowledge). But the DVD quality is superb. Gorgeous filming and excellent sound make these episodes among the best you'll ever see from television.

Is it allowable to give a seven out of five stars ranking? If so, that's how I would rate this show, particularly as we get into Seasons Two onward.

Note ...
To much agonizing around the world, MI-5 was finally ended by the BBC in late 2011 (Season Ten). As of December 2011, there is no word of the North American DVD release date, but most assume it to be either first or second quarter of 2012. The discussion boards and blogs were filled with sadness about the end of the show, but the BBC felt that this was the best place to tie off the show, probably for financial as well as artistic reasons. There is some talk of an American spin off. I am skeptical of that, because, although anyone can easily enjoy this show, it is quintessentially a British show, and that's really part of its appeal.
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on August 12, 2013
I am charmed by Matthew Macfadyen's style--cool self-possession broken by moments of utter ingenuousness. He could make me believe almost anything, even the unlikely rigors of Tom Quinn, a man leading the unglamorous, on-demand life of a British spy while doing everything in his power to shelter his fledgling family. We know from watching countless spy shows that this will never work. National crises take precedence and often prevent him from attending important moments of family life. Worse, he must shut his dear ones out, giving them a false excuse or no excuse--and who would believe the true importance of his work, even if he could divulge it? "Sorry dear, I was saving the prime minister from assassination just now. Oh that, it's just a nick." And of course one day an insidious baddie may suss out his home address...a spy with attachments is vulnerable. Do we forgive him for following the dictates of his heart, or do we condemn him for being selfish and placing his loved ones at risk? With Macfadyen in the role, we are inclined to forgive. This is only the tip of the iceberg and the underlying heart-plot for the first two seasons of MI-5. Get ready for kidnappers, bombs, terrorists, thugs, international crime rings, and all manner of mayhem as the MI-5 team stymies threats to national security. Great ensemble cast, fast-paced, well-written. Exciting guest appearances. Violence is occasional and non-gratuitous.
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on February 27, 2012
Thought it might be interesting to share my thoughts on Season one of MI-5 as I slide into watching Season Seven.
For the MI-5 newbie, Season 1 is only slightly above average and yes, the first couple episodes aren't worthy of 5 stars. Don't make the mistake I almost made and discontinue this series after scrutinizing the first couple of episodes. If you're not totally enthralled mid-2nd Season, don't bother continuing.
MI-5 might very well be one of the best written, best edited, most intriguing series that I've ever watched. Sorry to all the "24" fans, but MI-5 is ten-fold superior and the plot and storylines make a mockery of writers of "24". (Yes, I enjoyed "24")
Case in point (regarding the majority of US Series);
US series
-same actors/heroes will never die because producers need them back to carry on the series (unrealistic)
- US series (minus advertisements) are usually around 20 to 36 minutes.
-bad guys always lose (unrealistic)
-actors appear to all be Clooney or Alba clones (unrealistic)
-character development is not generally a strong suite for so many US series writers due to budget and production time-tables.
BBC Series
-No one actor is bigger than the series itself. Anyone is capable of being removed by death, captured, corruption, torture, traumatized or even completely wrong in decision making. This creates realistic appeal and what makes this MI-5 so darn believable.
- each episode is approximately 50 to 60 minutes
- Bad guys and bad countries win often, just like in real life
- actors are uniformly qualified as US actors (debatably even more-so), but all actors appeal to look like average people we all know and work with, no glitz pure acting
-plot, character development, and mystery are, and have been, a strong suite for the British for quite sometime now.

This is, as stated, by so many others, a edgy, dark, thinking person's series not a special effects, wild-west exploding shoot-out series.
Get through, don't skip, Season One because MI-5 only continues to out-do itself with each passing season.
...the only three negatives regarding MI-5 are 1) the DVD menus (which has been stated) are tedious to graft but improve with each passing season, 2) MI-5 is the most addictive series I've ever watched (including Lost, 24, Dexter, The Sopranos, West Wing, True Blood, etc.), 3) I just purchased Season 10 (2/27/12) and this is MI-5's final season!
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on April 9, 2015
Other than George Smiley, I'm not really crazy about spies so I don't know why I got this. It was okay, though, until there was a brutal murder scene, completely unexpected although I don't know why since the victim was being held over a vat of boiling oil. They didn't even pull the camera away to leave the horror to the imagination. I understand viewers in Britain called the station to complain about it.

There were some other unbelievable things going on, unbelievable as in "Where's your common sense, people?!"

So, not crazy about it.
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on November 30, 2016
Good stories. Fast paced. Good ensemble actors. What's not to like -- the menu format that is, at first, mystifying, and, then, simply annoying. What's wrong with a simple, straight forward text based menu -- "play all," "episode selection," and "special features." Instead, there's a gimmicky system of selecting features in a video. Five stars for the TV shows, but a one star penalty for the menu.
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on September 3, 2016
One of the best shows to come from the BBC, and that says much. The cast is excellent, although I was very disappointed about the changes. The writing, directing and cinematography were all excellent. I found this program very addicting.
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on August 23, 2007
MI-5 [or Spooks as it known everywhere it seems but here in the States] is a great combination of 24/Alias/James Bond with a brutal streak that might make some queasy. There is a scene in the 2nd episode that became one of the most controversial scenes in British television history, and with good reason. It is a visceral, indellible shocker that makes you want to reach for the antacid. If you can stomach it, the show is exciting, smart and engaging. The real problem - as someone already pointed out in another review - is the DVD menu. You almost have to be a Spook to figure out how to traverse the complicated menu universe you enter in MI-5. I was apparently too stupid to figure it all out the first few times because I ended up starting the 1st episode over and over until I finally figured out that I was in the wrong 'dosier'. Dumb me. While it is clever, I still would prefer not to have to have government clearance to skip to the next episode. I like the SHOW to make me think and challenge me, not the MENU.
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on June 21, 2016
I started watching this series beginning with season 7 and loved every episode through the end. I wanted to go back to the beginning and watch seasons 1-6 to complete the entire series. Unfortunately, I thought season 1 was boring compared to the later seasons until the last episode which began to resemble what I was used to seeing. Will now continue 2-6 and expect all to be 5 stars.
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on September 20, 2016
Not really a review, just a user tip. The initial sequence showing a break-in is not the start of an episode -- it's a kinda weird mechanism for episode selection. Works fine once you figure that out.
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on January 17, 2004
Like many in the States I became a fan of MI-5 when it aired on A&E. I had heard there were some concerns about the ratings of the show on the network so I was surprised but extremely glad to find out that the show was going to be released on dvd. I preordered my copy and couldn't wait to receive it. I hope that A&E imports the 3rd season of the show b/c they cannot leave us with that season cliffhanger!
A number of reviews have explained the show, briefly it's about British domestic intelligence and the situations they face in keeping Britain secure and the effect such work has on it's agents. Though I very much enjoy MI-5, I won't trash American shows in praising it because I would assume American and Britsh sensibilites are somewhat different and that influences the content and presentation of their tv shows. I certainly have no issue with MI-5's occasional negative remarks about the U.S. b/c our shows/films make similar comments about the British.
MI-5 is interesting because it is methodical in showing what these intelligence agents have to do to perform their jobs yet is not plodding or boring in it's presentation. The characters are multi dimensional, especially that of Tom Quinn. They are allowed to show their darker sides in response to the stresses that accompany their work. The scripts are intelligent and the actors are excellent. The only major difference I have found from MI-5 and it's american "counterparts" is that there seems to be less "action" in MI-5, i.e. less gunplay and explosions and scenes of people running round desperately. But that does not make the show any less gripping or intense. When action happens on the show it is significant, not just there to pump up the viewers' adrenaline.
As for the dvds themselves, from my estimation the picture and sound quality of the dvds are excellent. The scene selection menu only gives "sector" numbers, no corresponding photo from the scene which I am used to and actually prefer. Have only been able to view the 1st disc, but so far the extras are very good. I was disappointed to realize only the 1st 6 episodes were included but from what I have heard they are the full length, original British tv versions so that's a bonus for us American viewers. I am eagerly awaiting release of the second season!
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