Somewhere on the Internet, I’m sure, debate rages long and hard as to how true to the real thing was Spooks, the BBC spy drama that ended for good last weekend.
With no expertise whatsoever in such matters, I wouldn’t dream of joining in any further than to venture that I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if the melancholy that lay behind all the action and high-tech skullduggery was indeed art imitating life.
Peter Firth (left), as section head Harry Pearce, captured it brilliantly, from the first series to the last. Whatever the triumph, whatever 11th hour disaster came to naught, Pearce seemed incapable of any emotion more boisterous than quiet relief.
The cares of the western world permanently on his shoulders, his was cynicism that had mutated into a sorrow that could only ever be briefly swatted away and the more I saw of his pained resignation to that fact, the more I began to suspect that his character might be portraying the toll taken by this line of work to a tee.
For while you can derive huge satisfaction from sparing hundreds of lives as a result of your work for the intelligence services, how much collateral damage must you yourself sustain when your working life revolves around trusting no-one, looking repeatedly over your shoulder and having to deal with a heavily blurred line separating your friends from your enemies?
Even if the shoot-outs and car chases are little thinner on the ground when you work for the real MI5, I can easily imagine some people on its payroll being genuinely damaged emotionally by a career that has a one-word mission statement. Suspicion.
They work on battles that never end, that have no rules and that care nothing for whomever gets trampled in their wake. Day, after day, after day. That must exact a price, surely?
It certainly has in my case. After Firth’s tour de force, I may never watch a James Bond film again.