Spooks / M.I.5

Directed by Bharat Nalluri, produced by Ollie Madden for Shine Pictures.

"When charismatic terrorist Adam Qasim (Elyes Gabel) escapes from MI5 custody during a high profile handover, the legendary Harry Pearce (Peter Firth), Head of Counter-terrorism, is blamed. Disgraced and forced to resign, no-one’s surprised when Harry disappears one night off a bridge into the Thames…

Click below to watch the trailer...

With MI5 on its knees in the wake of the Qasim debacle and facing controversial reform, former agent Will Holloway (Kit Harington) is brought back from Moscow to uncover the truth they feared – Harry’s still alive. He’s gone rogue, and needs Will’s help.

As Qasim prepares his devastating attack on the heart of MI5 in London, Will must decide whether to turn Harry in - or risk everything by trusting the damaged, dangerous master spy who has already betrayed him once before…"

"The main set in the film is the Subcommand Centre in central London. I wanted it to feel as though the office is deep underground. To achieve this I designed a set with a very low 8ft (2.4m) high ceiling which in turn worked very well with the widescreen 1:2.35 shooting ratio."

Above - Bowles designed the set using 3D software to be able to demonstrate camera angles and how the space will work for specific scripted action.

Below - "It was important to put some softness into this very angular setting such as curved desks, curved conference room table and concrete wall structures. To throw light onto these repeating architectural statements around the walls I inserted a lighting slot just above to enhance their depth and detail."


3D visuals were used to demonstrate the high gloss floor and ceiling, designed to add to the technology overload within the bunker.

Visual with dressing and cast members added...

The set built and dressed for comparison to the visual...

The colour pallet for the Subcommand set was to be strictly monochrome with just apple green and blood red accents, avoiding standard office beige. This scheme was rolled out across all the graphics such as identity badges and computer graphics, see below.

To explain the space further a card model was built illustrating the central focus of the room, the large rear projection screen.

Six pods surrounded the central bullpen area housing kit store, audio surveillance, data analysis, media monitoring, mapping and surveillance. 

The finished sets feature bespoke furnishings and fittings such pantone selected chair upholstery and desks constructed using laser-cut metal and glass. The steelwork and glass walls were created by a specialist contractor whilst the cast concrete wall panels were fabricated by the plaster shop at Shepperton studios. 


Contrasting curves and angles were evident throughout the set representing old-school spying mixing with the hi-tech modern digital surveillance. 

The set had over one hundred monitors and screens, each with different graphic content but all using the same specially designed operating system colour theme. I wanted to demonstrate the huge amounts of visual and numeric data that this office processes every day in a kind of controlled chaos. To enhance this Bowles made the ceiling and floor like mirrors with highly reflective paintwork to basically quadruple the amount of screens.

The set was dotted with red accent objects such as the red scrambled telephones on each desk and the scrolling data panels above the main screen.

Moments in the Subcommand.

There were scenes in a secure rear entrance through a nearby underground car park.

Interrogation rooms where key characters are questioned.

Set build for secret underground entrance the MI5 building.

Terrorists bomb making factory set in East London warehouse.


Sets depicting a disused bowling alley in America and an underground car park in Berlin. The walls were painted orange to continue the German orange colour theme.

London apartment set for a young female MI5 agent.

Interior MI5 secure prisoner transport truck set.

Berlin bank vault set.

Abandoned German Hotel set.

Click below to watch the making-of documentary on the production design featuring Simon Bowles...